A tribute to women’s handicrafts

Artist Anne Mavor (Artist #60) recently interviewed fellow artist Beth Yazhari (Artist #96)

Imbedded in the dense, layered, and intricate images in Beth Yazhari’s fabric paintings is the story of women’s relationship to craft, domestic work, and creativity. The mandala-like pieces are filled with fabrics, beads, doilies, table clothes, saris, from all over the world in order to bring cultures together. One contains pieces from Norway, Dubai, India, Pakistan, Germany, Africa. The elements come from family, friends, and vintage stores. In addition, she also includes images gleaned from photos printed on fabric.

Beth was inspired by her maternal grandmother, who created beauty all around her home but didn’t see that domestic work as artistic or important. In fact, one goal of Beth’s artwork is to help viewers to acknowledge women’s handicrafts as fine art. The separation of craft and fine art seems arbitrary to her. She also considers her artwork to be collaborations with those anonymous workers.

Her Mountain Park studio is in the downstairs of her house and is covered with pieces in progress and some of her vast collection of colorful and intriguing materials. Her favorite part of the process is preparing the canvas. She starts out by building up a velvety, textured surface using acrylic paint. The resulting image feels and looks like fabric. She then then lays out fabrics and other interesting pieces of women’s domestic history. The hardest and most labor intensive part is sewing all the pieces to the background. It reminds her of the long and invisible hours women have worked doing housework and keeping families together.

Her main reason for being involved in Portland Open studios is to network with other artists and build community in order to encourage each other. When her children were younger, the feeling of isolation as both a mother and artists was acute so she knows the value of support and community