Cascade resident Maureen McDermott has come a long way — both geographically and as an artist — since she first began sewing as a girl growing up in Australia.
The multi-media artist likes working with fabric, fibers and nature, and she has converged all three into eco-printing, a technique where she applies plant shapes such as flowers and leaves to fabric.
Her artworks are 100% chemical-free and she uses only natural fabrics like silk, wool, linen and cotton. Her unique and original artwork is on display at the Carnegie-Stout Public library in Dubuque, where the “Art @ your Library” opening reception was Aug. 2. The exhibit is free to the public and runs through Monday, Sept. 23.
McDermott said of her artistic journey, “I started sewing, and when I came to America I got into quilting. I then went into art quilts, that don’t follow a pattern. The artist makes up the pattern.”
McDermott said she was interested in learning how to color her own fabric, but was still apprehensive because of the chemicals involved. She found her answer and eventual muse in a fellow Australian, artist India Flint.
“She was the originator of eco-printing with natural things,” explained McDermott, who was able to take a class with her in 2016 in New Mexico, and in 2018 in Maui, Hawaii.
The process, according to McDermott, involves gathering whatever leaves, grasses or pieces of foliage that are native to the area, and putting them on natural fabrics. The fabric is then rolled up tightly with a copper pipe, as contact is essential to the transfer of the shapes to the fabric. After everything is wrapped, it is then placed in boiling water for a couple of hours. “Then you would have these most fantastic prints on fabric,” McDermott said.
She said some artists want to get the entire outline of the leaf on the fabric. “I like the surprise or mystery of what you’re going to get.”
McDermott said it is inexpensive since she gets much of her fabric from thrift stores, then she heavily stitches everything by hand. While it costs very little for what she puts into each piece, she feels very rich from the satisfaction of what she’s created.
“What I get out of it is a calming feeling. I can be anywhere and take it with me. It’s also given me an even greater appreciation of nature.”
It’s that connection with nature that seems to be a lifelong thread in McDermott’s life. “I was always drawn to nature,” she said. “I was outside all the time and inquisitive about flowers and the love birds. To me, it seems like I’ve kind of come full circle, back to what I liked to do as a kid.”