Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chatham Artist Revels in the Color and Fabric of an Eclectic Life

Fiber artist Christie Minchew ( says, “I have the good fortune of living in an area that is rich with talented artists.” She now has added her own artistic vision and skills to those of members on the Chatham Artists Guild, and will open her studio the first two weekends in December at the 20th Annual Chatham Studio Tour. Visitors to Minchew’s studio will enjoy her unique soft sculptural creations. “I thrive on creativity - mine and others', she notes. “For my own art, I tend to be drawn to media and objects that allow me to build with my hands.” Minchew currently is using wool and silk fiber, cloth, yarns, thread, wire, paper and other things in processes including wet-felting, dyeing, weaving, stitching, and anything else she can find useful.

Christie Minchew in her Chatham County Studio
Christie Minchew comes to her eclectic adaptability genetically. “I was a Navy brat, and moved a lot until I was nine,” she reflects. “My mom was frugal and creative, she reminisces. “If she wanted something for the house or for us, she’d figure out how to make it herself.”  Christie joined in her mother’s projects, and developed skills for working with her hands at an early age. “I didn’t really ever play with dolls, she recalls. “I made rooms in which they could live in style.” Already drawn to color, Minchew brightly painted the inside of her closets. She constructed purses from cardboard, and her mother taught her to sew.

Later living in the DC area, her father stationed at the Pentagon, Christie enrolled in the School of Architecture at Virginia Tech. For an architecture statement project, she partially designed and constructed a weaver’s loom – It took her five years – It now lives in her Chatham studio.

She graduated with a specialization in Landscape Architecture, and for about a year and a half worked as a landscape architect in Richmond. In the 1980s, a downturn in the economy prompted a significant change in Christie’s life path. She talked herself into a job as a System Engineer at IBM, providing technical sales support. After several years, she moved to sales, capitalizing on her natural skills in relationship marketing of “big computers”. Her over 20 year career associated with IBM found her living in California, and finally in Raleigh. In 2001, she left the corporate life.

Fiber art inspired by microscopic photo of mahogany structure
framed in mahogany
She craved a less corporate personal look, and designed and hand made a purse. Friends encouraged her to make more. She started participating in craft shows. She recalls, “One day in a fabric store, the proprietor noticed one of my hand made purses and asked if I could make patterns.”  This launched a new business, “Sweetbriar Studio”, a sewing pattern business that continues today.

 Minchew’s latest transformation resulted from her desire to transition from fine craft to works more creatively artistic. “In about 2008, I wanted to start making table runners, but was looking for a way to make them not only decorative, but more free-form,” she states. “While on vacation, I was thumbing through a magazine and noticed an advertisement for a "wet-felted" garment. When I got home, I taught myself to wet-felt.” As a result of getting back into sewing and then working with felting, Christie’s latent addiction to all things fiber was reignited.

Sculptural fiber art inspired by galactic image
Minchew’s unique fabric creations are characterized by dimensionality, pattern and texture, and often inspired by the microscopic and telescopic patterns in the natural world. It is, as she puts it, “organicy looking”. “I like this counterpoint to the technical control of the corporate world, or even the pattern business.” The wet felting process is exciting to her. “The material transforms before your eyes,” she emotes. “There is this wonderful balance between artistic control and serendipity.”

Christie Minchew is one of the many regionally and nationally recognized artists and fine crafts people who will open their studios the first two weekends in December at the 20th Annual Chatham Studio Tour ( Visitors from all around enjoy Chatham’s rural beauty and share with the members of the Chatham Artists Guild in the creative process. It is a holiday tradition, and an opportunity to purchase unique original art.

1 comment:

Trudy Thomson said...

Hey Christie. Love your work, and this article so nicely explains your background and interests. I too am a fiber artist (doing very different things than you) but was also corporate before I settled down to the lifestyle of making art. Let's meet up one of these days, I am close by in Orange County.