Mandy Besek is a textile artist from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. When I came across her amazing work on etsy, I contacted her straight away for an interview.
“I’ve always been fascinated with ancient culture and nature, and I’ve never stopped creating art about it, trying to show people small glimmers of things in the natural world that I thought were important.
“As a child, I wasn’t easy to deal with. On any given day I would be roaming the woods behind the backyard. I would be out until sunset, armed with my trusty bucket and giant goldfish net, catching everything from baby birds to trout in the random neighbor’s pond. It was kind of embaressing actually, I would run into someone’s front lawn to catch a butterfly and steal from people’s gardens to study different parts of the plant. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop, I had the strongest instinct to explore the natural world and the things that inhabit it.
“That instinct has given me the “talent” if you will, to envision flora and fauna beyond our history, our planet. When I create art I feel like I am emotionally connecting to the natural world as it is currently, but also its past and its future. I still walk through the woods with a fluttery heart like a child, wondering if I will come across an ancient Native American tribe. I know it is silly, but I still get excited about it just as I had when I was a child.
“I actually used to be a painter, because growing up in the public school system, I had no idea that there were so many possibilities in fiber art. I had this phase in high school where I literally spent four years painting dolphins. On a family vacation, I even took one of those “be a dolphin trainer for a day” programs, which was hell for me. One of the baby dolphins was swimming around the pool when the trainers wanted it to stay away from me, and of course it didn’t. I guess they were afraid it was going to bite my legs off. Maybe it was simply not obeying their commands to do a trick. Either way they punished the poor thing by making it stay in a 5 foot “time out” area. My heart just sunk. At that moment I realized that it didn’t matter that I had fun making it do tricks earlier. It was a lonely prisoner that will never have the freedom to explore the natural world like I did when I was a child.
“That moment opened my eyes to specifically HOW I wanted to portray nature in my art and WHY it was important. My art simply explores all of those beautiful small moments I had as a child exploring nature, studying it, tasting it, digging, smelling, and all of those other strange things that kids do. I like to zoom in on parts of an animal, even down to cell structures, as a way of saying “Hey, check this out. Isn’t it beautiful? Interesting? I want to know how it evolves, changes, migrates, adapts… it is important. We should protect it, even though we do not fully understand what importance it plays in the big picture.”
“Yes, my art is inspired by natural history, but there is always a slap of “Wow, that is so strange how she combined all of those different materials”. I’ve been obsessed with using mixed media to support my fiber artwork, such as colored pencils, crayons, paint and ink. I like the surprise element of it. I love nature because you can always find a bizarre cominbation of textures and colors, and I am inspired by that in my art. The more you explore my work, and the closer that you inspect it, the more that it changes.
“I wasn’t smart enough for a degree in natural history, but I did get sucked into a bachelors degree from Kutztown University in Art Education, with a minor in Crafts. Thankfully, I was able to learn a great deal of fiber techniques from it, but I have no intention of ever becoming an art teacher. I need space to breath, relax, and be calm to be able to reflect on what inspires me. Generally, teaching is too fast paced for that, at least for me. I would end up putting up all the “bad” kids in time out, like at the dolphinarium. After all, we are all animals. I’ve always thought it was weird how we were the only species to “put ourselves in captivity” in a sense.
” hope to inspire people to enjoy nature and keep a sense of curiosity, and have the courage to explore it. We learn that nature is dangerous, that it is everywhere, that we need to “control” it and that we know pretty much everything about it. I think it is more than that, something I can’t even fully explain.
Although I use a variety of fiber techniques, my work will always incorporate some aspect of textiles because, like nature, I feel as though it is this vast beautiful realm that I am only beginning to touch on. The fact that working with fiber is at one of the basic levels of the survival of humans through the ages intrigues me even more. When I sew with a needle, I wonder about who has sewn things before me, hundreds, even thousands, of years ago. In a sense, textiles helped us survive to where we are today, and I beleive they will help us from destroying the world, little by little, as I am doing by shedding a little light on what is important, beautiful, intrinsic to our culture. In a way, when I am sewing, I am sewing with the same thread of my ancestors, and my children and their children will continue to sew with textiles. In essence, sewing is mending, sealing, healing a wound. The world is suffering, and I am healing it in my own little way.”
I really like Mandy’s work. She uses a great range of techniques and blends them together to create some really exciting pieces. Stitching on paper, applique work, fibre jewellery; the breath of her creative output is most impressive. Mandy’s raw talent exudes throughout her work, and it’s great to observe her creative journey and see how it evolves.
Visit her etsy store to buy her art and to gaze at her fantastic work.
The Cutting & Stitching Edge is brought to you in association with PUSH: Stitchery, the must-have embroidered art book by Mr X Stitch !