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Mandie Lucas

Mixed Media / Ventress, LA / Master Craftsman

Artist Statement

I work with various textiles and fibers, found or purchased materials and dried herbs to create my cloth sculptures I call “Bayou Souls”. A native of Louisiana, the bayous and waterways are my favorite spots. I love the people and the stories they love to tell. Louisiana is a gumbo of ideas, personalities, stories, songs and traditions that provide a rich palette. Some of my souls are accompanied by original tales, giving me, as an amateur writer, a chance to provide a background to the sculpture. While they are not truly voodoo dolls, Bayou Souls come from the same tradition.
The sculptures are created from my own drawings and imagination, but I do background research when it is a historical or folkloric caricature. I do both stump and articulated figures, so in beginning the drawing process, this is the first decision.
After drawing, I must make the decision of what textiles will go into the piece. The nature of the character and the mood I’m attempting to create will weigh heavily in this selection. If clothing or fur is to be suggested next to skin or something else, then different textiles will need to be pieced together. Embellishments and fibers are chosen and sometimes sewed onto the fabrics prior to cutting into the figure parts.
From the drawings, I create templates of each part. These are used to transfer the drawing of each part onto the chosen fabric. Each limb or part is sewn partially closed by machine, then filled will a combination of polyfill and dried herbs and flowers. Once stuffed, the pieces are needle sculpted to form facial features and body contours. The sculptures merely suggest features and personality as they are not meant to depict physical beings. Each piece is closed by hand stitching.
The individual pieces are either hand-sewn on or joined by wire, ribbon or cord. If it is an articulated figure, I begin with the lower limbs, The cord is pulled first through the limb on one side, then the torso and through the limb on the other side. It is then pulled again through the torso and up through each upper limb. The cord is then pulled through the neck and the head is attached. While I often have an idea of what I want them to look like; at the end of the process, the figures seem to have a life of their own and often dictate the result. Once the figure is joined, I embellish them with various fibers, beads and materials as dictated by the subject matter. This is done by hand sewing, needle-felting, wiring and adhesives.
When the figures are completed most are placed on bases. I create some of the bases from found materials such as driftwood, seashells, etc. I also use bamboo bases which I create and design from my own bamboo. I dry the bamboo, construct the base and use shellac to seal. Some bases are from purchased items which have been altered. They are meant merely for stabilization and not as part of the figure.

Biography

From a young age, I have been fascinated with the construction of textile figures. From suturing stuffed animals to making costumes out of facial tissues, I taught myself how to sew. With school, career and family, I wasn’t able to pursue my fascination with textile work. After l I had been practicing law for almost 10 years, I learned to quilt and that opened a whole new world. Through traditional quilting methods, I learned the technical skills I needed to make the non-traditional quilts I love. The nature of the legal profession has allowed me to get to know a lot of the people of Louisiana, sometimes in the most absurd situations. This combined with my love of history and stories began my creation of fabric sculptures depicting those special souls, real and imaginary, whom I have been blessed to know.