Homer artist inspired by works of others
For as long as she can remember, local fiber artist Linda Skelton has been creating fun and functional works of art.
Inspired by her great-grandmother, who was a seamstress who sewed draperies and made all of her own clothes, and her mom who sewed the children's clothes, Skelton herself has always enjoyed sewing.
"I watched over my mom's shoulder as she took classes from Stretch & Sew and I learned a lot," she said.
In junior high, she crocheted a poncho and made her first maxi dress. Inspired by nature, colors, patterns and beading, she also embroidered a tiger on the back of a jean jacket, which she later cut out and created a new garment from; crocheted a sundress from the plastic, yellow bags that newspapers are delivered in,: and using a prom dress and a wetsuit, along with lots of hand painting and shells for adornment, created a piece she called Neptune's Bride.
"Over the years, I've had a lot of pieces crocheted before I really even knew what I was doing with them," she said. "My boyfriend Russ will ask if I know what I am making yet and I will answer with 'no, but it's coming along fabulously'."
In the 1980s, she attended her first Wearable Arts show in Homer, an event created by local fiber artists, Nancy Wise and Lynn Burt.
"The whole show was over-the-top inspirational and I knew I wanted to be a part of it every year," she said.
The Wearable Arts show evolved into the local Fiber Arts Collective, and over the years, Skelton has created several pieces for the annual show. This year, she created a piece using labels from old garments.
"I've been cutting labels from garments forever, usually because they itched," she said. "This year, the artist in residence at Bunnell encouraged us to get out stashes of things that had been hanging around too long or that we had too much of, so I started sorting all the labels I had collected into little piles. I made columns of labels and started sewing the strips together."
The piece became a woman's bustier she called No Labels, inspired by her belief in the need to embrace diversity and how hurtful labeling others can be.
Over the years, Skelton has also been showing her work in both solo and collaborative exhibits, creating everything from fairies to Escher-like models, using recycled materials including rayon ribbons, fishing line, furs, garment labels,and more.
Since the 1990s, she has been creating handmade hats, using locally purchased yarn and hand-spun and hand-dyed wool and natural fibers.
"I choose a color or colors that appeal to me and just start knitting," she said. "Often, I call them water colors, as the yarns are blended to change shading as the hat grows and each is one-of-a-kind."
For a number of years, she also created teddy bears, and sold her hats and bears at Ptarmigan Arts. Her bears were made from recycled furs, and her first big teddy bear project was recycling a muskrat coat that belonged to a local woman's mother.
"It was a full-length coat and I made 13 teddy bears from it that were distributed among their large family," she said.
She has also worked with an Alzheimer'?Foundation in California, with the organization sending her fur coats that she would transform into teddy bears that were then auctioned at an Alzheimer's fundraiser.
"Each coat and each bear was a unique puzzle and how to best utilize the fur was the challenge," she said.
Several years ago, Skelton switched her focus from creating her fur teddy bears to recycling T-shirts into bags.
"My aunt, Jean Steele, encouraged me to participate in the local farmer's market, but I thought that since fur was not farmer's materials, I needed to come up with another idea, and I came up with the T-bags," she said.
Always looking for fun and interesting T-shirts she can recycle, Skelton sells her bags year-round at Ptarmigan Arts and seasonally at the Homer Farmers Market and the Nutcracker Faire. She welcomes commissions and has mailed commissioned bags all over the United States.
Skelton spends her summer months selling fishing charters and adventures at Inlet Charters on the Homer Spit, and her winter months nurturing her creativity.
She said she and her partner, Russ Tomlinson, have been happily unmarried for 33 years. The couple recently moved into the house they have been building for the last three years. Now that the house is closer to being completed, Linda is eager to spend more time in her studio, which is a 20-by-10-foot garage shop separated from the house.
For Skelton, who moved to Homer in 1984, life at the end of the road provides endless opportunities for creativity.
"It's very inspirational here - people, place, art," she said. "Art is necessary, and is one year-round thing that goes on here and we're really lucky to be able to tap into it so easily and accessibly."
Meet Linda and learn how to make your very own Green T-Bag during a workshop from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday at Alice's, upstairs. For more information or to register, call 435-7969.