Fabric artist Janet Hutchings creates vibrant, unique landscapes and cartoon-style fabric pieces by stitching together a myriad of hand-painted and commercial fabrics.
“I’ve always been a maker and a sewer,” she said. “My sewing evolved from one thing to another.”
Hutchings’ art has been featured by Trail’s End Art Association. Her work is housed at West Coast Artisans Gallery, which Hutchings opened in 2019. The gallery features 15 other Pacific Northwest artists.
Hutchings is designing tote bags with landscapes printed on them, as well as embroidered teddy bears and an octopus fabric piece for a wall hanging.
“I always have a bunch of pieces I’m working on,” she said.
Before moving to the North Coast in 2016, Hutchings lived in San Diego. She grew up with an appreciation of fabric, namely from learning how to sew with her grandmother at a young age. Since then, Hutchings said she was always working on some sort of fabric piece, giving her practice to be able to make the fabric art she crafts now.
Within the last 15 years, Hutchings’ work has evolved from sewing projects into creating full fabric art pieces. She changed her focus once her children were grown.
Hutching’s pieces are largely inspired by photos, she said. Hutchings finds inspiration from stock photos on the internet, photos her friends take and send to her and images she captures with her camera.
“My pieces are often a simplified version of whatever the photo was,” she said.
One of Hutching’s favorite pieces she’s created is known as “Don’s City.” Measuring 59 inches by 59 inches, the wall quilt is made from hand-painted fabrics based on a painting by her longtime friend, Don Knapp. Hutchings said she has translated many of his paintings to fabric pieces over the years.
Once Hutchings has found a photo that has inspired a fabric piece, she’ll blow the photo up and work with that rather than sketching an outline to follow. From there, she weaves together fabrics with a mixture of shapes and patterns to mimic the photo she is working from. Often, these pieces become quilts.
Hutchings paints the fabric she uses in her projects. She decided to paint fabric because she couldn’t always find commercial fabric that fit her vision for her projects.
“I’ll use fabric paints and muslin, white muslin, so I’m starting with a good, solid background,” Hutchings said. “It’s a watercolor technique. The fabric paints can be diluted just like watercolors and you work wet-on-wet just like a watercolor would too.”
By combining commercial fabrics with her own creations, Hutchings has a wide range of patterns to work with.
Since fabric art is a rare trade, she said she has learned skills from online classes given by other fabric artists.
“There are a lot of excellent fabric artists out there who teach classes so I’ve taken a bunch of those,” Hutchings said. “In the fabric world, (the skill) almost has to be self-taught since there is no degree in fabric art.”