Surrounded by the steady chirp of birdsong, Laverne Zabielski, an artist and writer, wraps a pole with fabric and string at her house in the wavy green hills of Wayne County.
Later she will apply dye — inspired by a combination of color theory and walks in the foothills surrounding her home, which is miles from Monticello. It will form a pattern on the fabric while drying.
Then the fabric will be unspooled, a process Zabielski compares to unwrapping a gift: She never knows exactly what she'll unfurl. That's what makes Zabielski's shibori dyeing unique. Her hand-crafted process includes scouring the fabric to prepare it, dying it, deciding what kind of garment to make from the fabric, then sewing the fabric into that piece of clothing.
Zabielski wears a sleeveless jumper she made. Its colors are peachy rust and cream and deep yellow. The palette looks as if the warm humid day outside has taken up residence on Zabielski herself.
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That's the way Zabielski, 66, wants her wearable art to look — in tune with the seasons.
Zabielski studied Japanese shibori silk dyeing with renowned fabric artist Arturo Alonzo Sandoval at the University of Kentucky. In 1998 a friend suggested that she learn to dye silk so she could make the handmade books from which she read during performance readings.
Zabielski decided to focus her artistic talent on the silk dyeing when she was waiting in the hospital after her 26-year-old son had a paralyzing accident.
"I had to simplify what I was to learn; there were so many colors, so many techniques," she said. "I made another decision: to focus on one technique. One palette. I chose arashi shibori, a palette of shades, and created, not silk covers for my books, but also wearable art for my performances."
Arashi means storm in Japanese, and the palette yields fabric patterns that look as if they have been lashed with color. She uses three colors — for example, rust, red and purple — "because that's how I get depth and movement."
Zabielski shares her Wayne County cabin with her husband, musician Larry Vogt. Before returning to Kentucky in 2008, the couple had lived in Texas, where she had been the editor and publisher of the Motley County Tribune. Between them, the couple have 11 children.
The Zabielski-Vogt household is a mix of art, equipment for dyeing, sewing machines and musical instruments. A pot of chicken soup simmers on the stove. Two dogs, big and slow and sweet-tempered, seek pats on their heads.
"We don't know if we live in our studio or work in our home," Zabielski said. "I'm always working and never working. ... It's not a lot of work. It's not like I'm huffing and puffing."
But it is a lot of tactile manipulation of the fabric, zipping up and down the stairs of the three-level cabin.
The three shades of green she will get by mixing a dark yellow with a little black will yield a wearable jacket. Zabielski likes her designs to flow, which is not possible if an item is too closely fitted. Size-specific items are difficult to sell for a craftsman who keeps a limited inventory, and space is at a premium in the cabin.
Zabielski is not worried about having her designs copied, she said. Each of her items is unique and handmade.
The wearable art business pays for itself and yields some extra money, she said. She and Vogt try to lead a simple life.
In the cabin's sleeping loft, which includes sewing machines and a rack of garments, a jacket flutters in the breeze. It is green with a strand of light rust and is cut at the bottom into individual strips of fabric that seem to whisper as they move.
And while it's not a canvas or a sculpture, you would be hard-pressed to deny that it is art.
"It's very simple, and it's very tribal," Zabielski said of her design process.
WHERE TO SEE IT
Follow Laverne Zabielski's art and writing at Trulywearableart.blogspot.com.
Her website is Lavernez.com and she is on Facebook at Facebook.com/laverne.zabielski.
Search for her videos on color, music and mindful living on YouTube.
Zabielski also has a small presence on the craft site Etsy. Her creations are also available at Appalachian Fireside Gallery, Berea; Kentucky Artisan Center, Berea; Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville; Janjobe Gallery, Louisville; Koi Gallery, Galt House, Louisville; Main Cross Gallery, Lexington; MS Rezny Studio Gallery, Lexington; Bellagio, Asheville, N.C.; Great Artist Collective, New Orleans, La.; Lorien Powers Studio Gallery, Truckee, Calif.; Craft(s) Gallery, Louisville.
She will have a show Nov. 15 at MS Rezny Studio Gallery, 903 Manchester St., Lexington in conjunction with Gallery Hop.
Zabielski also will also show her designs Sept. 13 in the Lexington Fashion Collaborative Future of Fashion Show at the Lyric Theatre.