Not all artists work with paint and canvas, and yet when we consider ‘art’ those are the materials the majority of us think of. I love art in the broader, more inclusive sense, one that involves expression in all kinds of materials, from ink to fabric.
I encountered Malka Dubrawsky through a snippet on the news pages of a patchwork magazine I wrote for recently. Her use of colour and bold shapes immediately caught my attention.
Malka has been working with and making textiles for the past 20 or so years, but she started out with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art with a focus on printmaking.
“I’m not so sure I wanted to be an artist as much as I wanted to be a maker,” she says. “I have always loved making things, drawings, collages, knitted and sewn items, and photographs.”
These passions led her towards textiles after she finished her formal art education. “I felt like a lot of my drawings reminded me of quilts – I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was drawn to re-imagine them in fabric,” Malka explains. “From there I wanted to create the kind of fabric I felt inspired to work with and so I learned how to pattern and dye fabric, specifically cotton, in various ways.”
This artistic vision combined with a practical nature has led to Malka having her work included in prestitious shows, as well as finding her way towards making more functional fabrics, designing for Moda Fabrics, teaching and lecturing, and, writing the books Color Your Cloth: A Quilter’s Guide to Dyeing and Patterning Fabric and Fresh Quilting: Fearless Color, Design, and Inspiration.
When I ask Malka if she can remember the first piece of art she made that she was proud of, she gives a fervent yes. “Not only can I remember it, I still own it!” she exclaims. “I was in middle school, about 13 years old, and taking the first art class in my life. I actually only signed up for the class to get out of taking Physical Education, but I got lucky and had an amazing teacher, Kay Stapleton. What does that say about a teacher and a class that 30 years later I still remember her name?
“Anyway, we were learning how to work with tempera paints and making nature-inspired paintings. I still have that painting. It is framed and hanging in my house. It may be my most treasured possession.”
Typically pragmatic about her work, Malka says she rarely waits for inspiraton. “If I only worked or thought about working when I’m inspired, I wouldn’t be getting very much done,” she points out. “If I’m feeling sluggish I start doing something mundane in my studio, ironing a piece of fabric or pattern dye cloth in a familiar way, and I find that the inspiration or desire to create and explore often follows.”
Looking at Malka’s creations, it’s no surprise that colours have an impact on her work. “I love seeing two intense colours sitting side-by-side in a garden or in a city street and thinking, ‘wow those would look great pieced together in a quilt.’”
Malka is also influenced by textiles from other cultures, including “African Kente and Kuba cloths, East Indian embroideries, and Kilim rugs. I definitely have a soft spot for the textiles of the Bauhaus movement, works by German-American textile artist Anni Albers and Jewish-French artist Sonia Delauney. But I can be deeply moved by patterning in nature or architecture as well.”
“My initial interest in designing fabrics came with a sense, 20 years ago, that I couldn’t find the kind of intensely coloured but graphic fabrics I was looking to work with,” she says.
Malka recently filmed a video class that she’ll be offering as part of The Sewing Party, on 8 November, while gearing up for the release of her newest line for Moda Fabrics, Poems from Pebbles (great name – I can’t wait to see it!). “That will premier at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas, in late October. I’m also prepping to teach an online Improvisational Piecing class for CreativeLive in early October and steadily working through designing yet another line of fabrics, L.O.V.E., to premier in the Spring of 2015.” Busy, creative times ahead, then!
“I think that every time you explore a process or an idea it helps you grow as an artist, even if, and maybe especially if, that idea doesn’t succeed,” Malka says. “Making art is a process, an ongoing search. If you’re learning, you’re growing.”
Find Malka at www.stitchindye.com.
Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Give me a shout at judy(at)socketcreative.com.