Mixed-Media Artist Jamie Fingal: Unzipped

cate pratozipper quilt houseWhen I think of mixed-media fiber artist Jamie Fingal, several images come to mind.

1. Whimsical houses, because they are a favorite quilt motif of hers (and mine).

2. Funky black eyeglass frames, part of her personal signature style.

3. Gourmet food. Not that she's ever had me over (we live 3,000 miles apart) but every weekend when she posts her menu on Facebook (e.g. "What's for Dinner? Filet Mignon, a medley of caramelized onions, asparagus, and mushrooms, 1/2 baked potato and red wine. How about you?") I wish she would; I'm usually having a turkey sandwich.

4. Zippers. Jamie first started using zippers in her fabric art in 2007 as the legs of a shrine in an art quilt titled "Make Time for Art." (The quilt is in her book Embellished Mini Quilts.)

Since then she has been using these toothsome wonders in mixed-media art quilts, wearable art, and accessories. By using zippers in her art, she conveys the wit, humor, and ingenuity that are also her trademarks.

zipper metal apronSo, what's behind this zippy theme of hers that is oh-so-trendy now? I asked, and she answered.

CP: Zippers are being used a lot in art and fashion in unusual ways now, but you were one of the first to see the alternative design potential. What kind of reaction did you get at first from other fabric artists?

The most common comment is "very clever." I also hear: "Look at the zippers!"  and "I've never been able to sew on a zipper on anything, so I really admire your work."   

CP: What attracts you to zippers?

I have had a fascination with zippers as long as I can remember. The aluminum teeth are shiny, fun, and they appeal to my sense of adventure, to strive to be different in my work, both abstract and whimsical. Plus the fact that I can use a separating zipper to zip and unzip sections together on any quilt, making it easier to sew. Now it has become one of my signature styles. 
CP: Do you have a favorite brand or type of zipper you like to work with?

fingal zipper quiltJF: YKK separating zippers with black trim and #5 aluminum teeth are my favorites, as well as zipper trim by the bolt. I have also used American & Efrid plastic zippers to create bright, fun, and whimsical quilts, like in one of the segments on "Quilting Arts TV" Series 700. 

CP: Where do you get them from?

JF: YKK zippers come from Zipperstop.com in New York City. They have been in business since 1941. I order my zippers over the phone, and they have the nicest customer service department. I can order any size that I want.

CP: What's the biggest challenge in working with them? 

JK: My goal is to not have much of the black trim showing and then of course, not to have my sewing machine needle hit the teeth and break midstream. Glad that I wear glasses! I've only broken two needles over the years.
metal measures zipper quiltCP: What's the wackiest way you've ever used a zipper? 

"Metal Measures," made for the Alliance for American Quilts "New from Old" contest. It might not be my wackiest, but it was the most ambitious, and bordered on madness–it is the most time-consuming piece that I have ever made. 

It's a 16' x 16' log cabin quilt made with measuring tape fabric and vintage zippers with aluminum teeth. The fabric was fused to the zipper trim, hand sewn into place, and then free-motion zigzagged. It won the Grand Prize and now hangs on the wall in the lobby of HandiQuilter, Inc., in Utah.
fingal quilting arts tvCP: What's your most fun project? 

JF: Making a three-dimensional whimsical house, where the sides of the house actually unzip, so that the house can lay flat for travel.

CP: If money, time, and space were no object, what is your most outrageous zipper art fantasy?

JF: I would love to do a huge housing landscape of zippy gardens and flowers, zippered trees, zipper whimsical houses, and a swirling zipper sky. Imagine the possibilities!

Now that is a piece of art I would like to see, not just imagine. Preferably over dinner prepared by Jamie!

To learn the ins and outs of using zippers creatively in your art, plus a ton of other fiber art and mixed-media tips, tricks, and projects by experts, check out "QATV" Series 700, now on DVD.

P.S. Have you been making art with zippers? Share your ideas, tips, and links to your projects in the comments section below.


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