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JANE NORDBERG

On Fiber Art Show 2020:

“A Patterned Life”

“A Patterned Life” tells the story of my father’s lifelong work as an automotive wood pattern maker. Though this work is highly personal with the use of photographs and memorabilia, it is meant to represent the thousands of British immigrants to Detroit who, like my father, responded to advertisements The Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) placed in British and European newspapers.

British wood pattern makers endured a rigorous training program. After leaving the equivalent of the American high school at age 14, they began a seven-year apprenticeship under a master pattern maker, receiving a certificate of status. This made them highly sought after by the Big Three and, coupled with a housing shortage in Britain, led to a significant wave of British emigration to the Detroit area ca. mid-1950s to the early 1970s. My 26-year-old father was among them in 1968, with my mother and I in tow.

The wood pattern maker used either sugar pine or mahogany, held together with a strong grey epoxy, to create a mold for the casting of automotive components. My childhood visits to my father’s workplace consist of the strong odors of glue and wood, loud rock music, men measuring and planing wood, and always wood shavings and sawdust on the floor. These ideas formed the basis for this piece through the use of fabric collage. My father’s immigration photo is placed in the middle of the “tree” as that is where his journey begins. It ends with his passport photo that was taken mere months before his death in 1996 at age 54. His 28-year membership with the Pattern Makers League of North America is shown through his union cards from the Detroit area and in California as a pattern maker in the aircraft industry.

 

Techniques used: Raw edge appliqué, tea dyeing, couched thread, photo transfer

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