Pictured above: Mimi Damrauer with her large fabric collection.
Possessing an innate flair for both fabric and art, Phoenix artist Marian “Mimi” Damrauer has been indulging her love of textiles for the past 30 years. As a full-time fabric artist, Mimi creates imaginative and intricate art that is bold, colorful and exotic. Each piece evokes a different sensation, such as her pieces that mimic primitive folk art. “I love these because they are fun, childish and whimsical,” says Mimi. Her bold multi-colored geometric patterns are a stark contrast and embody a contemporary style. “I see inspiration everywhere,” says Mimi; from beach stones in Italy, to cracks in the sidewalk, or even bricks. Mimi’s fetching textile collages have been showcased at fine art shows and festivals across the country.
First-time visitors to Mimi’s Phoenix studio may experience “visual overload” as they scan the potpourri of 300 colors of thread on the wall and her huge collection of fabric – 40 shades of every color imaginable to be exact. “I hand cut all the material for my designs, and always use hand-dyed fabric for my backgrounds,” explains Mimi, who delights in using fabrics from all over the world. Examples are saris from India, scarves from Thailand, and molas from Panama; all various patterns and designs that are awe-inspiring in their complexity as well as aesthetic appeal. Her studio is not only her creative “think tank,” but a gallery as well; walls showcase an eclectic array of art created by friends, as well as purchased by Mimi.
Always anxious to discover unusual and beguiling fabrics, Mimi travels the globe to enhance her collection. Some traditional pieces came from India, which is known for endemic weaves, stitches and embroideries. “I was very inspired by the colors, textiles, and hand stitching (called Kantha) used in the saris and fabrics,” explains Mimi. In fact, she was so taken with the stitching, she decided to use them as a design element, and hand-dyes all her threads, which imbues them with a primitive feel.
Not surprisingly, Mimi started down the artistic path early in life, sewing in fourth grade, and eventually taking art classes in college. “My mom sewed a lot, and seemingly by osmosis, we picked it up,” she relates. “Eventually one of my sisters got interested in quilting, and before long, so did my sisters and myself. I took off with it, though, and learned how to dye fabric and be more artistic and contemporary. I started with bedspreads and then started to make framed art pieces.”
Even though Mimi is passionate about her creations, she recently realized the intrinsic beauty of hand-stitching comes at a cost – it is very labor intensive. Desiring a new and less taxing outlet, Mimi took a year to experiment with various mediums, and as she tapped into deeper dimensions of creativity, she discovered the joys of multi-media art. Her current focus is on layering diverse mediums such as paper, acrylics, fabric and drawing with colored pencils. Many of her new pieces include playful folk-art style birds, flowers and nature scenes. During her experimenting, two long lost loves have reentered her life: painting and drawing. “I still love fabric though, and sometimes incorporate it into my new mixed-media work,” says Mimi.
In addition to paint, a camera is another “tool of the trade” for her work. Mimi frequently has it by her side to capture a spontaneous moment that would be lost without a click of the shutter. Locations such as the dramatic and colorful tulip fields in Skagit Valley, WA, provide ideal inspiration for her paintings, as she recreates them, adding her own distinctive touches. Emulating the style of iconic masters is another style of art Mimi has been happily indulging in. Artists such as Rothco and Klee inspire her “abstract master mash-up” paintings.
For now, Mimi keeps exploring and experimenting with diverse art forms and techniques. “One of my Chicago customers told me looking at the art she bought makes her happy every day,” says Mimi. The art should bring them joy since it gives me joy. I hope that feeling transfers to the customer.”
For more information, visit mimidesignsart.com.