As you may know, photography, and especially photography of vintage and new textiles is an obsession of mine. I am always on the lookout for creatives who are also inspired by the colors, prints, textures and patterns of these textiles. Which is how I came across the work of Alabama artist, Kathryn Cooper. Kathryn works on a variety of media, including fabric, and her art largely captures the scenes she comes across in her local community as well as on her travels. But she also has a selection of work that is inspired by the gaily patterned Otomi textiles. Otomi textiles, as you know, are hand-embroidered textiles created by the indigenous Otomi people of Mexico. Think beautiful, prancing woodland animals set against the local foliage- the entire scene may be embroidered in one color like blue, green or red or a mix of colors, usually set against a white background. The textiles are used as bed coverlets, table cloth or runners or as art. They make a bold, graphic statement while portraying a childlike-sense of wonder and awe inspired by nature. I asked Kathryn to share the story of her journey as a creative, and her advice to budding artists.
” Ever since I can remember, I have had an unquenchable urge to create. As a child, I was obsessed with coloring books, stickers, paper dolls, beads, and everything Lisa Frank and Hello Kitty. Having zero interest in electronics as a kid, I spent my time turning trash into treasures. I would find junk around the house and make jewelry and accessories, or force my mom to take me to the fabric store so I could collect free samples to sew into quilts. I will always owe a great deal of my creativity to my childhood and the freedom to create that my mom instilled in me.
When I went to college at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, I studied Fine Arts and concentrated in Painting. Studying art is one of the best decisions I have made. I was lucky enough to be in a cohort of painting students who were incredibly driven and talented, and every one of them has found success as an artist in some capacity. These people continue to inspire me to make art every day. Since I graduated, I have been making art and participating in solo and group shows in Alabama. My work is carried in a funky Birmingham gallery, Naked Art Gallery, and Fieldworks Projects Gallery in Auburn, Alabama.
Currently I am in graduate school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham getting my Masters in Arts Education. This chapter of my life has been amazing, and has really forced me out of my comfort zone. I have been experimenting with materials that are new to me: gouache, embroidery, and textiles. I’m in the middle of exploring a series of gouache paintings inspired by the ancient art of Otomi embroidery. The works feature bright, colorful patterns made up of foliage, flowers, and animals. No matter what medium I work in, color will always be a huge part of the work.
I find inspiration in everything around me, especially when I travel. Recently I have traveled to Paris, LA, New Mexico, and Chicago, and always feel invigorated by seeing the local art, nature, people, and culture of new places. The artists I will always love are Henri Matisse and David Hockney, and my favorite contemporary artist is Kristin Texiera. I would buy everything she makes if I could! My advice to artists who are starting out is this: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Take risks, approach galleries, do local shows, and get your name out there. Also, be open, and say yes to everything (within reason). That’s the best way to get to know yourself and to grow.” – Kathryn Cooper
“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Take risks, approach galleries, do local shows, and get your name out there. Also, be open, and say yes to everything (within reason). That’s the best way to get to know yourself and to grow.” – Kathryn Cooper
Find Kathryn at her website to see more of her work that is inspired by every day scenes as well as her mixed media work that uses embroidery. Thanks for sharing your story, Kathryn! – Priya
Image credits: Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper