Weaving Is Alive and Well
So Proclaims One Local Fabric Artist
Not every artist can put this on her resume: artist in residence at the San Francisco dump. But for Oakland-born weaver Sandy Drobny, the waste stream is a treasure trove of material. Her muse of the past few years: the humble plastic bag.
“This seemingly useless object, so easily discarded, can be transformed, through weaving, into a vibrant piece of cloth,”
And transform the bags she does. Drobny is regularly commissioned to create wearable art, including wedding gowns from plastic bags and evening dresses from recycled materials.
“It’s a challenge to make a pile of junky individual items into a cohesive, well-crafted, wearable garment, but I love it,” she says.
Drobny fell in love with weaving in the summer of 1982, while pursuing a degree in design from University of California, Davis, where she learned to dye her own yarns and create her own fabrics using interesting weave structures. This year, she celebrates the 30th anniversary of her first weaving class and a prolific career as a textile artist. She has been a member of the Golden Gate Weavers Guild since 1987 and has done art residences at the San Francisco dump and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County. As an art teacher to kindergarten through fifth grade students at The Academy School in Berkeley, she imparts the value of resourceful reuse and recycling to her students.
“They learn, as I have, to look at the garbage pile as a new source of artistic materials and endless possibilities,” she says.
When she isn’t scouring thrift shops, flea markets and the dumps or hand weaving from her El Cerrito home, Drobny often works from Redux Studios & Gallery in Alameda, where she rents studio space. She exhibits often, and an East Bay Municipal Utility District summer show, “Weaving on the Wall: Recycled and New Fibers,” featured five of her art-wear aprons. The aprons, both functional and symbolic, Drobny says, are colorful representations of women’s work put forth in a humorous way.
“If I had to choose one favorite piece from the show, I guess I’d have to pick my Mexican-themed apron titled Corazon Tejido or Woven Heart. This was the first apron I made while I was an artist in residence at the San Francisco dump in 2004,” Drobny says. “… It also speaks colorfully to my Latino heritage. I wove the fabric for the apron using plastic bags, caution tape and hand-dyed corn husks.”
According to Drobny, weaving is not just a medieval or colonial art of the past, but an art form that’s alive and well, and she is definitely living proof.