WV Artist on Display: For Warriors & The Bold

Meet Tenley Shewmake, a fiber artist in Lewisburg. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC, Tenley is a founding member of the first President of Artworks gallery in W-S, a successful co-op gallery for more than 30 years. She creates clothing and everyday carry such as handbags and purses. She has a line of upcycled boro denim coats and vests, and a line of kimono inspired jackets and robes in cotton, silk, linen, and mixed fibers. The garments are gender neutral. Tenely says, “they are for warriors and the bold, as well as anyone who values one a kind handmade wearable” A 106-word story accompanies every garment Tenley creates.

How do you describe your palette?

I cannot think of a color I dislike, but unfortunate color combinations abound! With fabric there are additional considerations of weight, lighting, texture, pattern (built in color combinations), and drape which also influence perception. Friends have gifted me with fabric in colors and patterns I might never have purchased. It’s exciting when a bit of fabric I initially sneered at becomes central to the theme of a garment.

What’s your greatest accomplishment?

Relationships. Times when I act with enthusiasm for the success of others individually or as a group.

What obstacles do you need to overcome to find your creative space/muse?

Fear. Disrespect of self. Getting caught up in things that are urgent but are not important.

How do you find your inspiration?

Currently, I am inspired by Japanese boro fabric – peasant fabric out of necessity patched and maintained over generations and layered with the stories of the family. I see that our culture is obsessed with used/seemingly used denim to the point where a person will spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of pants torn and stained by machines on the orders of a committee. We are desperate for authenticity and for our stories to matter. My current inspiration is to tell a story in each piece, a story forged from the events of the day, the specific fabrics on hand, something timeless but also rooted in the here and now. In my denim pieces I deconstruct garments and make new use of their parts, a seam, a patch, a rivet, zipper, topstitching, the fades and wear. My kimono coats incorporate the castoffs and misfits from other artists’ projects. I feel inspired to give new life and purpose to my materials. I am also inspired by thinking about how people display themselves in the world, and what I am putting into an article of clothing that they can use to tell their own story. Is there an element of protection, or ceremony, or delicateness or utility and function that resides in the piece?

What advice do you have for other artists?

Make time and space for your work and treat your efforts with respect. Stay connected with people who support you. Don’t take it personally if others push back on you. Embrace failure.

What is your favorite piece(s) of art you’ve made and why?

2 recent favorites are the kimono style jackets which spurred me to write the stories “Carrier of Water” and “Landslide”. In each case I felt driven until the garment and story together expressed something of a timeless experience.

How can our readers purchase your pieces?

I display my work at the Lewisburg Farmer’s Market on Saturdays 8:30 -1pm. People can see my garments and try them on, some are one size fits many, others can be altered, and I can do custom work.

What is the best way for our readers to contact you?

Outside of the Farmer’s Market tenley@alterra-wv.com or 304-992-9601.

– HashtagWV #102. June 2018

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