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Bead artist Carla Fox
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I'm Carla S. Fox, a wearable art designer from the state of Oregon, USA. I find inspiration in the mostly unlikely of places: in the lacy pattern of a spider web across a dirty window, in the shapes and textures of crumpled papers that have missed the wastebasket, in a tattered and discarded wedding dress, pulled from a thrift shop bin.

All these things, and more, inspire me to move toward and explore new ways of combining materials, textures and colors. Of course, the usual inspirations are not lost on me either; spring blooming trees and flowers offer endless ideas for neckpieces and collars.

Wearable art by Carla Fox
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The ever-changing Oregon skies, endless cloudscapes and their nuances of whites entice me to create neckpieces in bridal laces and satins. I have always been passionate about color, be it in my wardrobe, or my walls, or in the art that I create. The love of color has been my signature in my professional work as an interior designer, as well as my work as an artist and jewelry maker.

After gaining a degree in interior design, I have worked in that field for over 20 years. I loved the profession (it was a calling, actually), but I began to feel restricted in my artistic expression by things beyond my control (budgets, clients' needs and desires, time constraints and the like).

Wearable art by Carla Fox
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As I moved away from the design profession, I kept many fabric samples from my design library that I knew someday I'd "do something with", although I never thought I'd be incorporating them into jewelry designs. The rich brocades, tapestries and printed cottons offered a wealth of colors and patterns that have since been used in creating the mixed media textile cuffs and collars that I now make.

As I was weaning myself away from the interior design profession, I began to make beaded jewelry for myself, from beads and findings I had picked up on my travels, and from flea markets and gem shows I'd attended over the years. I had quite a "stash" of items, many of them vintage and antique pieces passed on from my grandmother. At first, my necklaces were of the more traditional type: a pendant with symmetrical glass and gemstone beads surrounding it.

Wearable art by Carla Fox
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This style quickly became redundant to me, so I started experimenting with asymmetrical designs, combining different shapes and sizes of beads, pearls and findings, and adding a broken vintage brooch or earring to the design. That's when the jewelry making really started taking off for me. Each piece was so unique, and of course would never be able to be reproduced, since the main element was an old piece of jewelry, made into something new.

About 5 years ago, I pulled out some of the old fabric samples I'd been keeping for 20 years or so, and started playing around with making collars out of them. I'd start with the color and design of the fabric, adding to it other snippets of fabric (sometimes made into rosettes), ribbons, trims, beads, jewelry parts, and anything I could sew onto the fabric. I was really not thinking these "collage collars" as I called them, would be wearable.

Wearable art by Carla Fox
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I put them into shadow box frames, to be hung on the wall. I debuted them in a gallery showing I had, which featured my other artwork (collage, paintings and encaustic works) along with my jewelry pieces. They were a hit with gallery patrons, and I sold several of them. Someone asked, "Are they wearable? Can I take it out of the frame and put it back after wearing it?" Well... here was an idea that hadn't occurred to me. Why not? So that's what I did.

That's where the old and tattered wedding came into play. The dress I found at the thrift shop was from the 1980's, (remember Princess Di and her over-the-top dress?) which was made from yards and yards of satin and lace, bows tacked everywhere possible, and fabric rosettes scattered about.

Wearable art by Carla Fox
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I tore the dress apart, ripped apart strips of lace, and generally destroyed the dress, using everything in it in a new and different way. I hand dyed some of the fabric to see what colors would result. This old dress became new creations: "bridal collars", cuffs and headpieces, all one of a kind.

I started sewing seed beads (which I had never worked with before) over and around the floral elements, and loved the result. Now I incorporate the bead embroidery on many of my textile pieces. The rainbow of colors and sizes of seed beads add another dimension not attainable from any other source.

Wearable art by Carla Fox
click to see gallery

I am entirely self-taught in this type of beading, so many of my "experiments" (and mistakes) lead me down paths I never would have discovered had I been schooled in traditional beading and embroidery methods. And in my opinion, there can never really be "mistakes" in the creative process... just new ways of looking at things, and new techniques to try.

Lately, I have been working in a more monochromatic color palette, creating neckpieces in only one color, allowing the fabrics and other elements to take center stage. Right now, spring is inspiring me to work in shades of green, pink and coral. I have many pieces waiting to be photographed and listed in my Etsy shop, but like so many artists, anything that takes me away from my studio (and work) is a task easily put off. I wish I had an assistant!

I love what I do, and even though most of the textile-based pieces take many, many hours to complete, each minute is a meditation and delight. There is really nothing I'd rather be doing.

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Carla Fox, Oregon, USA
Facebook Page:Art and Adornment by Carla S. Fox

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