Marty Jonas

“I wish I had more hours in the day to devote to my art.”, textile artist, Marty Jonas says when asked about the development of her work. “With everything I see, I think: I could try this or I could try that.” Jonas’ work varies greatly in material and techniques. Jonas describes herself as a formalist. She was raised by a strict German father. The youngest of three sisters, Jonas says they were not allowed to express emotions.

The most important aspect of her art is the form – the way it is made and its visual effect – not the narrative content. With her work, Jonas creates images that standout from a distance, but look entirely different close up, due to the minutes stitches that make up the details. A leaf, stem or pistil can often be recognized from afar, but up close, an intriguing variety of shapes, lines and structures unfold. This is where her insatiable hunger for the creative process manifests itself.

Marty Jonas is a 79-year-old fiber artist from the San Francisco Bay area. Her mother taught her to knit, crochet, and sew. Her father taught her to hammer, saw and drill – and in those days – that was man’s work. She recalls knitting a matching yellow dress and hat for herself and her daughter in 1969, for her son’s first birthday. In the 1990s, she attended an exhibition of fiber and textile art, at Mills College in Oakland, which showed her the amazing things that could be done with threads. Jonas immediately signed up for a class at a local sewing store and then several classes in England.

The City and Guilds Institute of London was just starting an 8-year embroidery class by correspondence and she was the first student from the United States. She completed Part 1 and Part 2 embroidery degree in a record years She then continued her education in embroidery at Middlesex College in London.

The tactile quality of fiber and thread, combined with the opportunity to speak visually, that which Jonas cannot express in words. FIBER IS AN EXTENSION OF MY VOICE.

She is only concerned with form, shape, line, color, and technique. If you ask Jonas to describe an item she created, she will answer with a description. She does not consider emotions in her work. When she considers a new piece of work, she selects the material or the techniques first and then thinks about what she can do with those two aspects.

Jonas says, “I take it to a higher level with many, many hours of research and design. Jonas elaborates,” I do not like to make things that I have seen by other artists. It is hard to constantly push into the new.

But Jonas’s best advice is “take on the mantra: I Could”. I could – add a piece. I could – lengthen the stitch. I could – change the color. I could – cut holes into in. I could tie it into a knot. I could squeeze it, stretch it, wrinkle it, distress it, paint it, layer it, etc., etc. I could! I could! I could! The list never ends. Jonas feels she is ahead of the masses, finding similar things created years after she developed them. Jonas is always seeking to pursue new ideas in art and pushing the envelope with techniques.

Jonas encourages others to have fun making art. “It doesn’t matter how well you do. The act of doing is learning. But Jonas’s best advice is “take on the mantra, “I could”. I could – add a piece. I could – lengthen the stitch. I could – change the color. I could – cut holes into it. I could – tie it into a knot. I could squeeze it, stretch it, wrinkle it, distress it, paint it, etc. I could, I count, I could. The list never ends. Each piece you make leads you to another one. ‘My father taught me, “If you make something and it was not hard to do, then it was a waste of your time, make something better.”

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