A Common Thread: Guest Artist Kim Caldwell

by Bella Erakko

What constitutes a common thread between a 60,000 square foot showroom filled with luxury-level interior decor and textiles—and a multi-layered six-inch fiber art creation? Meet Kim Caldwell, Alliance Art Gallery’s featured Second Saturday May 11th artist: a textile representative by day, intimately familiar with high-end fibers from Europe and the U.K.—and fiber artist by night. With 25 years of working full-time with fibers and a degree in Fine Arts from Maryville University, Kim has an intuitive feel and love for fiber. But the “thread” really begins in childhood, as Kim watched her mother make quilts. By her twenties, Kim Caldwell took on her mother’s passion for quilting. But as her career got busier, she left quilting behind. Meanwhile her mother retired and REALLY began quilting.

Explaining her return to working with fiber as an artist, she admits, “Sometimes things just happen.” She continues, “When my mother passed in 2013, I inherited her studio, her cabinets of fabric—and her Bernina. I was stuck with all this stuff … and I started playing around.

Her mother’s sewing machine became the free-form stitching catalyst as she shifted from gluing layers together to using fusible interfacing and adding spray basting adhesive. It allowed her to join paper to cloth to felt and other fibers, solving the big problem of fabric slipping, moving, wrinkling, and buckling. With a solid technique now in place, she was free to explore the artistic possibilities.

“I start pulling colors out, putting stacks from the bins onto my desk,” she explains the intuitive process. The results become jewels of uniqueness: abstractions that invite the viewer into a magical world of texture and color. “Right now, I am adding a lot of hand embroidery. I will be showing them for the first time at the Alliance Gallery.” Through the thread running through Kim Caldwell’s life—from mother to Bernina, from art degree to interior design, from warehouse-sized options to miniature worlds of color and design—Kim Caldwell lives within the tactile world of possibilities.

An opening reception will be held on Saturday, May 11 from 5 until 8 pm.