Artist: Sandra Cardew
Location: Sandra’s studio
Breakfast: Green tea
Are all fiber artists basically introverts at heart? If you take Sandra Cardew and I as your sample set, then yes. And when two basically introverted people find that they both share a love of fabric, multi-media art, and sewing, well, we get along like a little introverted house on fire. We spent so much time chatting in the kitchen, there was barely time to make it out her backyard studio. I’m glad I did, though—the building alone is an original Arts & Crafts masterpiece, designed and built from scratch by a friend of Sandra’s, with her participation and input on details such as the woven wood slat ceiling of the entryway, and a screened front door panel that slides open for cross-ventilation. The interior layout is like a pocket-sized Case-Study House. Just gorgeous.
No surprise, then, that in this gorgeous space, Sandra produces some astonishingly poignant and beautiful multimedia works. She works her process-intensive hand-stictched pieces figurative pieces on the wall, or on the large work table that dominates the space. Her paintings-in-progress sit already framed on the easel, with Sandra working back and forth, incorporating collage elements that she creates on the table. The techniques that she has developed to absolutely shatter the disciplines would lead you to think she’s been at it forever, but in fact, visual arts represents an entire second creative arc to a career that began for Sandra with dance and choreography.
The break came at a time when Sandra was dancing, raising two small children with her husband, working on a fashion line of dance-warmup-inspired clothing for a friend’s boutique, and returning to school for fashion illustration to support that enterprise—she was leveled by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that permanently compromised her ability to dance, and continues, decades later, to limit her productivity (although frankly, not so you’d notice). This comes as a timely reminder to myself that those candles which burn most brightly, burn out fast. I see a lot of myself in the impulse to expand creatively in all directors…remember, Rosie, a constantly expanding universe will suffer heat death eventually. To that end, I should probably not look ANY FURTHER AT ALL at this link to Alabama Chanin, which Sandra brought to my attention. She’s DIY-ed a couple of the labor-intensive projects that are laid out on the website, diminishing her efforts with what I see is some kind of default nonchalance that sets in on the subject of her extreme virtuosity with needle and thread.
I’m just not sure what to do with Sandra Cardew…pitch Dwell? I think an architectural feature on her studio wouldn’t be a bad start. Her place, her work, and herself are all just too lovely to let languish in luxury of introversion…tempting as it is to try to keep her for myself…