Transforming Textiles into Art

Local artist Heidi Faessel is repurposing secondhand clothes and other materials into a series of sculptures

By Maggie Dresser
Artist Heidi Marie Faessel with her sculpture work in her Whitefish studio on Oct. 28, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Last year when Whitefish-based artist Heidi Faessel participated in KALICO Art Center’s Downtown Stories exhibition, she collaborated with Montana Modern Fine Art in Kalispell to make a colorful life-size sculpture, experimenting in a different art medium than she’s done traditionally. 

This triggered an inspiration to create more sculptures and she now dedicates her studio to building a series of three-dimensional works of art. 

“When I got matched up with Montana Modern Fine Art and created a sculpture, which I hadn’t really done before, it got me excited and I thought, ‘Why aren’t I making more sculptures?’ Because it’s so fun,” Faessel said. “I had the studio and the time and space and it came off of that really good experience.” 

With a background in the textile industry, where Faessel designed home furnishing products in New York City, she’s created various sculptures that are mostly made with repurposed t-shirts, pantyhose, and other clothing items she picked up secondhand. 

Sculpture work by artist Heidi Marie Faessel in her Whitefish studio on Oct. 28, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Faessel revolves much of her work around the ideas of transformation and repurposing, using old clothes, journal pages and other recycled material to create art. 

While repurposing textiles speaks to overconsumption and finding alternative ways to reroute textiles from landfills, Faessel also imagines the old shirts hold the energy of the people who wore them, combining that energy into a new form. 

“That’s the whole drive of what I do,” Faessel said. “It’s basically the creative drive to make something out of nothing because it feels fantastic to take something that would end up in a landfill and make something interesting out of it.” 

Much of Faessel’s work also reflects the current mood of the pandemic. She chose a natural palette for her three-dimensional art, avoiding bright colors, to reflect the somber time but also to draw more attention to the shapes and patterns instead of focusing on colors. 

One piece is a roughly three-foot tall black sculpture using old journal pages that she made into paper pulp to create a rough texture with a large hole, representing a mysterious void. The sculpture is the relationship between the pandemic and loss of life, with the form representing a body being left behind, she said.

Sculpture work by artist Heidi Marie Faessel in her Whitefish studio on Oct. 28, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

“I feel like the forms speak differently than paintings do,” Faessel said. “I think it’s because we are three-dimensional, and they are three-dimensional and there’s a relationship between the two. It’s a way for me to communicate in a different way.”

While Faessel doesn’t have immediate plans to show her sculptures, which she is still working on, she hopes to show them in an exhibit at some point. 

Faessel recently collaborated with KALICO to design a digital collage of scanned watercolor flowers, ink drawings, photos and pressed flowers for a wrap that covered one of the various electrical boxes around Kalispell. 

She also just finished a residency with Open AIR, a nonprofit program that connects artists through collaborative partnerships and she’ll potentially show a piece in a traveling exhibit.

“This feels like what I want to do because it’s super challenging and really gratifying,” Faessel said. “I’ve met even more wonderful people in the art community and I’m excited about being able to do this.”

For more information, visit www.heidimariefaessel.com