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The Minnetonka Center for the Arts featured a number of tapestries in March from Shorewood fiber artist Arden Harrison-Bushnell.
“It is my hope to bring joy to those who view it,” Bushnell said.
Bushnell is a self-taught fiber artist who has been creating vibrant wall hangings for the past seven years. Her tapestries are made with natural fibers, including cotton, linen, pique and silk. She then layers her wall hangings with different beads, shells, stones and Swarovski crystal beads.
“Its hard to give dimension to fiber art but these things help make the art scintillating,” she said.
Bushnell says she uses a 15-step technique that she developed to lay out her fabrics and objects she uses for her piece. She folds, manipulates and twists her fabric to create unique layers in each of her pieces.
“I don’t know where things are going,” she said. “I just go with it and let it kind of happen.”
She also precisely places each crystal, bead and shell based on size to create perspective in her wall hanging. Upon completion her tapestries, unframed, weigh nearly 50 pounds.
“As I create my art, my wish is to allow for freedom of expression with pure imagination,” Bushnell said. “While still in keeping with technique I’ve developed throughout the years, which has remained ‘tried and true.’”
Bushnell says that she doesn’t sketch her quilts before she make it, but rather imagines it. “I’m dreaming up my next piece,” she said.
Some of her common themes and subjects for her pieces include children, global cultures, music and animals.
Bushnell taught herself quilting 30 years ago when she made a wall-hanging for a friend featuring merry-go-round horses.
In the 1980s, Bushnell and her husband Bob worked together as a singing, songwriting and composing duo.
“This was not my first career,” she said. “My first one is music.”
Bushnell can play the piano and guitar, and she writers her own songs. She said she has hope of possibly one day composing a rock opera.
Another one of Bushnell’s many trades was creating large acyclic paintings. Unfortunately she had to retire after a debilitating accident.
In 1987, Bushnell and her husband were hit by car that affected her motor skills. She spent several years receiving neurological surgeries, speech therapy and motor skills rehabilitation at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Golden Valley.
Unable to paint, Bushnell turned to sewing to practice her motor skills.
“The art itself was a therapy. The art I create today is symbolic of my efforts to ‘begin again’, in a positive way,” Bushnell said. “At first starting with small panels decades ago to my most current piece, ‘Fabric of Life,’ which is approximately five-feet by six-feet in size. There is no question that music and art ‘in concert’ constitute some of the passion in my life. And my wish to want to ‘make something beautiful,’ even during the most trying times, is a wish I hope can continue to come true.”
For years, Bushnell continued enhancing her skills and techniques with making tapestries.
In 2009, Bushnell’s friend commissioned a piece called “Dog Park.” Her friend convinced a reluctant Bushnell to enter the piece at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts competition where she won the People’s Choice (Kid’s Choice) Award.
Since then, Bushnell has won the 2015 Arts in Harmony International Competition Award for “Jubilation!”; third place for the 2014 Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Competition for “Joyful Garden”; and Best Fiber or Batlik Award in the 2014 Arts in Harmony International Competition for “Painting Caterpillar,” among other awards.
Bushnell has said that her success has motivated her to fully devote her time to making wall-hangings.
“I’m doing this because it’s in my soul. This is what I do,” Bushnell. “But most of all, I get a lot of joy seeing people enjoy it, and it really brightens people’s lives.”
Since the 1990s, Bushnell has been donating her paintings and wall-hangings to charities including Gillette’s Hospitals, Make a Wish, Children’s Hospital Minnesota and the Ronald McDonald House. She said that she has been inspired to share her artwork with parents and children since her own son was hospitalized due to complications with Type 1 diabetes.
“My work speaks to children, but it’s also giving parents a chance to share something with their kids and to take their mind off everything they are going through,” she said.
Although Bushnell’s exhibit at Wayzata’s Minnetonka Center for the Arts has ended, her work will be on display again at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis from June 18 thru Oct. 16.
The exhibit will be “Dynamic Quilting in the 21st Century” and she will debut a new wall-hanging at the opening.
Contact Paige Kieffer at [email protected]