published Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Jewelry and fiber artists use the human body as a canvas

During December, the River Gallery is showcasing jewelry by Deb Karash along with handmade silk and bamboo apparel and accessories constructed by Jen Swearington. Their exhibition, "Wearable Art," illustrates the idea that the human body can be the perfect canvas.

Karash combines copper, silver, brass and colored pencil into wearable works of art. She begins by applying layers of colored pencil to a textured copper surface and then suspends the copper over cooled sterling silver. For her, surface, color and texture are as important as the forms themselves.

Karash says that there is something personal about wearing handmade jewelry.

"Throughout history, humans have adorned themselves in a variety of ways," the North Carolina artist says in her statement. "I feel a part of that history, if in a very small way."

Swearington, also from North Carolina, hand-dyes or hand-prints each piece of fabric with imagery from her sketchbook or original hand-cut stencils.

"My silk wearables aren't just versatile and stylish; there are stories layered among the stitches," she said.

The artist constructs each silk wearable from white silk that she dyes according to placement of pattern on the garment and figure. Sometimes, she uses the Japanese shibori dyeing process to add color and design, along with her imagery from stencils and sketchbook drawings. Scraps left over from clothing construction become scarves with individual strips from many different items of apparel collaged together.

All of her creations are preshrunk, dye-set, hand-washable and are meant to be "lived in."

"Wearable Art" continues through Dec. 31.

River Gallery, corner of Bluff View and High streets, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday and by appointment. Call 265-5033 for more information.

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