Sacramento’s art scene is a veritable tapestry of interwoven stories that coalesce into a grander vision of what it means to have a viable and thriving community of artists. These creatives are not only challenging what the notion of art is, but they’re inspiring a new crop of artists to dig deep into their creative coffers to invent new ways of interacting with the world through art.
For Roxanne Young, her stories are literally woven into her pieces of art. Dealing primarily with cotton rope and twine, her artistic journey began with a simple dream—move to Mexico and sell her handcrafted, crocheted bikinis on the beach. And while she instead landed on the beaches of Isleton, a sleepy town in the Delta, she’s turning her passion for fiber into a creative endeavor that she hopes will turn into a self-sustaining business venture.
“There’s something rich about it, being able to use your hands and it’s accessible,” Young explains regarding the inspiration behind the handmade fiber art and fashion she creates as Roxanne Roxanne Young Designs. “I sort of got obsessed with crocheting a long time ago and I did it for a while and then I stopped for a while, and I’ll always remember my sister asking me, because I’m always trying to figure out what am I going to do with my life, ‘What would you want to do?’ and I was like, well I’d love to crochet but I couldn’t ever do that for a living.”
Young isn’t alone in weaving her way into fashion with fiber arts: The fashion house Altuzarra debuted a collection in 2014 that was inspired by fiber artist Sheila Hicks featuring chunky knit pieces and where thick, handwoven garments were transformed into airy, digital prints. Vogue magazine also featured Angelina Jolie on one of its covers sporting what looked like a hand-knit sweater, that didn’t come off as one of your grandmother’s hand-me-downs, but as a fresh, fashion forward, if not avant garde piece.
Whether for fashion or fun, artists are picking up needles and delving into the art of knitting and all things DIY. Along with crocheting and other fiber work, it’s becoming big business, both in fashion and crafting. For Young, it was also an opportunity to take her passion for experimentation and imprint it onto a new medium that speaks to her interest in the tactile and primal world.
“After I had my son I got back into crocheting and then I just sort of started experimenting,” Young says. “I started doing this embroidery and I just kept experimenting with different modes of fiber art. I’ve always liked jewelry and necklaces, and being able to create. It was [also] something for me to do while Jimmy was napping or the downtime of having a baby. It sort of became this obsession and I don’t want to stop, like I can’t imagine going back to teaching or waiting tables or anything else now. I just want to do this.”
Young’s pieces are free-flowing extensions of her creative spirit. The blossoming fiber artist is also an accomplished percussionist who enjoyed a previous existence of pounding out beats with her bands: Pillars of Silence, a pop rock band called Brilliant Colors and an all-girl trio, The Sandwitches. The artist also draws on this experience in her work in her new creative outlet.
“There’s definitely something about drumming that’s visceral and, I hope some drummers don’t get offended, but you don’t necessarily use your brain so much, but you use your body and your feeling,” she explains.
“At least that’s what I did when I drummed, and I guess I can sort of see it being the same thing where I don’t necessarily sit and draw something out and think about it too much, I just sort of go with my gut, I guess.”
While Young’s bold necklaces are something of her calling card, the artist also creates dainty blouses emblazoned with striations of color created with embroidery and vibrant hues of cotton rope as well as pillows, dresses and earrings that boast a rustic yet wholly modern sensibility.
“A woman recently said that it looks old, and I take that as a compliment because it has this worn, vintage vibe,” Young explains of one of her necklaces. “It’s all cotton rope and twine, and I [hand] dyed the rope and the twine. What I do is sew the rope together and then it’s kind of an embroidery, I embroider the design on it.”
Embracing the ethos of the DIY sensibility that seems to be influencing just about everyone these days, Young’s work is like poetry in motion—which makes perfect sense since the artist graduated with a master’s degree in poetry. From the thick cords of rope and twine that cleave into necklaces reminiscent of rainbows and bird migrations, her pieces are not only inspired by the natural world but are intricate pieces that are constructed out of natural materials that are elegant, free form experimentations that are bursting with life and power.
“I like to say that the psyche will have its way because I don’t plan it out,” she says. “I sort of try to have an idea because a lot of the time it will go bad if I don’t have some kind of idea, at least with color schemes or some kind of general idea of what the design is going to look like, but I just do it and see what comes from that.”
Roxanne Young and dozens of other makers of handmade crafts will be showcasing their wares at this year’s R Street Block Party and Makers Mart, May 21 at 3 p.m. at the WAL Public Market, 1104 R Street Sacramento. The event will also feature tons of live music, food, a kid’s zone, and much, much more. Find out more at Walpublicmarket.com.