By Heather Dawn, Visual Arts Specialist

Each week for the past seven months, Lauren has met with Friends Life Community Visual Arts Specialist Heather Dawn for one-on-one art coaching. During this creativity-focused time, Lauren discovered that true self-empowerment is all about trying something new. We interviewed Lauren about her experience. 

Lauren, you created two beautiful pieces. Tell us a little about them. 

I wanted to try something new and different, something that would be a challenge. Working with Heather, I have created two large fabric pieces that will hang on the wall like two fabric paintings. 

One is calm and relaxed and mostly green. I have named it Turtle because it creates a calm atmosphere. The other one is named Bee, but I mostly call it “Wild Thing,” because it was just too crazy sometimes. It didn’t like to cooperate too much. The colors for Bee are bright, loud and passionate, with lots of orange, pink and yellow. I feel like it wanted to give us a run for our money. 

Both pieces are kind of like my babies. I would admire them each week and watch them change and grow. They are both precious to me. 

What was the process of creating Bee and Turtle? 

The process started with a lot of circles and triangles, just like my works on paper. I like to work with geometric shapes, but the fabric helped my work become more organic and feel softer and feminine. I began by picking out fabric with patterns and colors I like. Then I drew different sizes of small and large circles and triangle shapes to be cut out. Once they were cut, I pinned the triangles and circles together to make a lot of different pieces. There was a lot of pinning that had to happen before I started using the sewing machine for the very first time. 

This was the exciting part — learning all the ins and outs of using a sewing machine. I went very slow at first as I was learning, and over time got better and better at it with Heather’s help. 

After all the circles and triangles were sewn together, I was ready to prepare the background for them. I took two large raw canvas rectangles and hand-painted them with watercolors. When the watercolors were dry, I added the big and small circles. 

Then came the fun part. Using the sewing machine and different colors of thread, I “drew” huge circles of inside and outside bands that can trick the eye. I started with one color and then moved on to another color. It’s fun to go back and look for specific colors like it’s a puzzle.

To finish the pieces, I decided on a marbled border and put it all together with a marbled trim and backing. I added a title piece to the back and added a sleeve for hanging. The very last final touch was to add gold thread hidden inside each one. 

How has this project helped you grow as an artist? 

It really took me out of my comfort zone. I had never even tried sewing before, or worked on a project that took this long. I stunned myself and a lot of my friends and family with the final pieces. 

It made me realize that there are other ways to do art than just on paper. The most exciting part is that this project allowed me to create a new kind of art. It was an awesome experience. I have never done anything like this before. 

It also helped me to feel closer and more connected to my Grandma and my Aunt Paula. My Grandma always wanted me to knit, but I think this is the next best thing. I learned about different sewing techniques that I could talk about with her. I really surprised her and myself with this one. I respect my grandmother’s opinion because she sews clothes and dresses. I think I stumped her with this project, because she has never seen anything like it. Her feedback was very positive, and I was happy about that. 


How would you summarize the overall experience? 

Amazing. Beautiful. I’ve accomplished something big. I’ve blown myself away. 

I’m really proud of myself. 

I got to try something new. I got to draw with a sewing machine instead of a colored pencil, and now I am really excited to do more sewing. This is only the beginning. 

Lauren’s fabric pieces Bee and Turtle will be featured in Friends Life Community’s Spring Art Show, “A Place To Belong, at Belmont’s Leu Foyer Gallery in May 2022.

Friends Life Community is committed to creating opportunities for adults with disabilities to develop socially, grow personally, and enjoy community as they experience life together. 

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By Heather Dawn, Visual Arts Specialist

As FLC’s Visual Arts Specialist, Heather oversees the Visual Arts Program leading Advocacy Through the Arts classes like Open Studio and Art Appreciation. She provides one-on-one studio time for our in-house artists and coordinates opportunities for Friends to sell their original artwork. 

Heather joined Friends Life Community in 2016. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Watkins College of Art, Design & Film, specializing in printmaking, performance, fiber art and sculpture.

Heather grew up in East Tennessee in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, but has lived in Nashville for more than 15 years. She is also a trained classical pianist, and has performed original music in Nashville and surrounding cities in various capacities for the past 20 years.

Phone: (615) 730-9370