Interview by Maker Space
Maker Space is excited to be teaming up with We Denton Do It each month to feature a maker from the community. Our first interview is with Sarah Westrup, fiber artists and educator. Sarah’s work is beautiful and tends to conjure up the peaceful feeling one might get while exploring a remote West Texas desert. Read on to learn about her process and why a creative community is essential to her work.
What kind of work do you make?
Primarily I work as a fibers artist, which means I utilize textile making and embellishment processes into my art work and combine them into sculptural objects. Currently, my favorite process is natural dyes. Natural dyeing is an interesting way to incorporate symbol and narrative into something as abstract as color.
What drew you to that form of art?
I was drawn to fibers because of the textures. I took up knitting, embroidery, and sewing at 16 and from them on I was hooked to the feel, look, and meditative qualities of fiber work.
From where do you draw inspiration for your creative process?
My inspiration comes from exploring the symbolic meanings of plants that are native to my South Texas heritage, environment, and diet such as black beans, avocado pits, prickly pear, and hibiscus flowers for color inspiration. My work strives to explore my own sentiments about the Rio Grande Valley region and my Mexican- American identity.
What brought you to Denton?
I came to Denton so I could go to school at the University of North Texas. I saw an undergrad’s artwork featured in Fiber Arts magazine and thought to myself that I should totally go to school here. UNT is also only one of two universities in the Texas that has a Fibers Department.
Has living in Denton influenced your work?
The folks of Denton are very supportive and nurturing to what I do. Many collaborations and workshops have came out of knowing other great artists that are living here. I don’t think my art work would be the same without living in Denton.
What is your studio space like?
Haha, my studio space looks like my living room. I utilize my small coffee table and the floor as my workspace as well as the kitchen for dyeing. Oil and Cotton also serves as my community studio space. I am able to recycle many of their donated fabrics and leathers for my own work. Oil and Cotton also was sweet to donate a small table loom to my home studio.
What are the most important tools that you use in your making process?
My most important tools are pots, strainers, plant materials, stoves, fabric, needles, thread, and hammers plus so many more things.
Tell us about Sunbeam Operations. What it is and what made you start that business?
Sunbeam Operations is my small business, which puts on workshops and demonstrations on natural dyes. I started the business because I saw a desire for natural dye education that wasn’t being fulfilled. I had only been experimenting with natural dyes for about a year, but I thought that at least I could share what I know with others and start from there. I have led demonstrations at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Perot, the Denton Community Market, Oil and Cotton, and Cardo’s Farm Project. My hope is that people are inspired by the colors they see and want to adopt the process for their own art and craft works. I always try to get other artists to think about leading their own workshops, because it’s important to share ideas and processes. It’s not about how much you know, it’s about being organized and generous about what you do know.
What interests you about incorporating education into what you do creatively?
In 2009 I went to the Penland School of Crafts for my first time and since then have been fascinated with community workshop based learning. The type of environment where folks work together and share their art making experience really fosters creativity, collaboration, and artistic self-confidence. Incorporating education into my own art functions as a way for others to experience something new and take it into their own hands.
Maker Space is a forthcoming collaborative creative space started by Heather Gregory and Tristan Bynum in the heart of Denton. Maker Space works to bring together artists and creatives from different backgrounds and mediums by providing access to the space, tools, resources and creative community they need in order to thrive in Denton.