Handmade: Textile artist channels passion to her work

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

As a textile artist, Laura Jane Hatcher is driven by her passion for creating works of art that make a statement, much of which show her commitment to the changes she hopes to someday see in the world.

As a quilter, she said, "Almost all my pieces deal with women's issues and empowering women of color, making sure that we're being seen as complete human beings. Women's art and our handicrafts have been invisible so long."

And, as a cloth doll artist "coming from a multi-racial, multi-cultural family," she uses her doll-making skills to reflect cultural diversity by creating with various skintone fabrics and hair textures. "I first began making them when my now adult daughter was a baby. At that time there was a lack of dolls of color available commercially." 

Fiber artist Laura Hatcher, of Detroit, displays a kimono in her home studio, January 7, 2020.

She uses many different fabrics when creating her fiber art, including silk, velvet, bark cloth, batiks, leather, lace, and cotton. But no matter the fiber, she prefers repurposing pieces and remnants with a past, some of which are given to her from other "creatives."

"Nothing makes me happier than when I'm entrusted with remnants -- stray buttons, bark cloth, draperies, etc. It's a joy to give them a new life where they will be treasured. I feel the presence of the foremothers when I'm sewing. I'm just the tool. I feel it's sacred when I'm doing these pieces," said the Detroit artist, who often spends 10-12 hours a day "immersed" in a project in her home studio. 

"A large component of my work is centered on using as many upcycled and repurposed materials as possible, without compromising the stability of the piece. I find beauty in the forgotten. I re-use scraps and pieces of the past to create a new and unique artwork," continued Hatcher.

A collection of some of the handmade dolls by Fiber artist Laura Hatcher, of Detroit, January 7, 2020.

"Reflected in my craft and handiwork is the unique beauty and diversity of the city which has both nurtured me and been the forge which refined and strengthened me. My art embodies the juxtaposition of those rural roots and tradition of 'making do, or do without,' as well as the scarred beauty of our city, the elegance of our city's rich architecture, and the disarray and political chaos following the 1967 uprising which permeated the early 1970's of my girlhood in both Highland Park and the Six Mile-Woodward corridor, where I grew to womanhood."

Born to a family of quilters and other artists, Hatcher began her journey into the world of fiber art 30 years ago by teaching herself how to make primitive rag dolls through trial and error. After years of honing her skills, she said, "I've continued creating multi-cultural dolls for both children and adult collectors since that time -- each one unique to the recipient. My grandmother was an enthusiastic quilter who would create beautiful pieces from any and all cloth available.

"My art quilts, portrait dolls, memorial dolls, altar cloths and wearable art are another matter. They are personal pieces, often dealing with issues of feminism, spirituality, racial inequality, labor history, empowerment, political topics, honoring the ancestors, etc. Each is unique, and even when in a series, each is different as the fabrics and trims are varied. I never make the same piece twice. However, I am happy to have limited edition prints made available of the completed pieces so they can be enjoyed by a broader audience."

A hand-stitched fiber art piece created by Fiber artist Laura Hatcher, of Detroit, on display in her home studio, January 7, 2020.

Hatcher, 50, also works her magic creating (fabric) jewelry embellished with beadwork, hats, purses, crazy quilts, art quilts, portrait quilts, and colorful "kimono-inspired" jackets that appear to tell a story. Her quilts and "more political pieces" are sold under her name, while other items are available as designs created by "Lucky Needleworks."

Most of Hatcher's pieces range from $25-$35 for a simple doll or mermaid up to $300 for a small portrait quilt done as a wall hanging. However, one of her commissioned kimonos is usually in the $300 to $500 range.

Hatcher is scheduled to do a pop-up shop and trunk show March 7-8 at Stef-n-Ty Boutique & Coffee Shop, 9425 John R., in Detroit. 

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Lucky Needleworks at (313) 989-2242, or on Facebook. Email: retromojo@hotmail.com.