Upcycling with Sonya Yong James

If you haven’t already noticed, we’re all about sustainability here at Alternative. From fiber to finish, we strive to stay true to our promise of social & environmental responsibility.

We’re proud to say that the art in our stores is no different, thanks to Atlanta-based textile artist Sonya Yong James. Sonya is upcycling our extra trim (think drawcords, waistbands, paper hangtags, etc.) into textile art that will be displayed in our store windows. We sat down with her to learn a little more about her inspiration.

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What inspires you?

Although the source of my creativity is fueled by many things such as nature, books, travel, and textiles, I find my deepest source of inspiration in the “process” of creating something out of nothing. I rely on my intuition to guide my work. I’m also inspired by risk – starting something I have no idea how to finish, challenges and excites me.

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Where/when do you feel the most creative? Tell us about your creative process.

A project always begins with an intuition, a hunch. These direct the research and through the questioning part of the process, the projects and the ideas form – from trying to understand this searching. Making is the only place where I feel the most present, most able to give something useful.

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Out of all of your designs, is there a particular item or installation that has been your favorite to create or that you feel embodies you the most accurately?

I have to say that every project that I do means something to me. The most recent rope installation meant a lot to me simply because of the challenge of using a material that I do not use often. The project was almost 50 feet in length, and I had the help of almost 12 people so we could complete the project in 2 months.

I finished a 13 foot long horsehair sculpture last year as well that was the beginning of a new body of work that I am currently researching. That is an exploration that I have been wanting to do for years.

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What sets your work apart from other similar artists?

I use textiles and fiber in my work, but I use these materials in more sculptural ways. I also like to use non traditional materials that I haven’t seen before, such as horsehair.

What excited you most about this project?

I loved the idea of taking textile remnants and using them in an unexpected way. I’m using the drawstring to create large nets and webs with knots. Knots and nets are two of humankind’s basic tools. For centuries, people have utilized knots and nets for survival as well as ceremony and ritual.

My work was discovered online through the internet – I find the parallel of using these ancient techniques and the fact technology and the modern web brought us together fascinating.

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How do you hope to see your work grow in the near future? What’s next for you?

I’m in the process of developing a new body of work as well as researching the tales of Persephone. I’m interested in how fables and myths have shaped our understanding of the world, and I want to explore these stories and continue to make sculptures utilizing textiles, fiber and thread.

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