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Mary Pal Designs

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Mary Pal Designs

Mary Pal Designs





In my early childhood, I succumbed to the lure of fabric and thread, but at school Home Ec discouraged me … until I learned that what I didn’t enjoy was following someone else’s pattern.  That discovery freed me to use my sewing machine as a tool permitting me to play with texture, colour and design.

Today all fabrics vie for my attention, my current favourites being hand-dyed cottons, silk, organza, burlap, linen, and especially cheesecloth.   My accomplishments include a permanent installation at the Glebe Community Centre in Ottawa, where I created a collage spanning 50 feet, depicting a neighbourhood of fibre art houses.

My current work consists of portraiture sculpted in wet cheesecloth.  I find that through that process, and in the act of creation, I develop a relationship to the figure as I work on the features and contemplate the line of a mouth, a raised eyebrow, creases around the eyes. The positive and negative space created by light and shadow– and how these can be depicted through the contrast of cheesecloth over a dark background–intrigue me.


Mary Pal in studio.

Mary Pal in studio.


on Mary Pal Designs.
  1. |

    Your work is incredible! Do you have any shows coming up in the Ottawa area? I’m not far from the city.

  2. |

    I have tried this type of work once before but have had problems finding suitable images. Do you have any suggestions where to find them online. I live in Australia. Thanks if you can help. love making these types of sculptures and would love to do more of them

    • |

      Yes, I always make a point of getting the photographer’s permission before beginning a new portrait. The easiest sources though are copyright-free ones like PaintMyPhoto.com or Pixabay or Pexels. Have fun! And maybe one day a guild in Australia will invite me to teach there and you can take my workshop in person! Cheers, Mary

  3. |

    Your work is fabulous and so innovative. Do you make a preliminary drawing on the background first?

    • |

      Hi, Jenny,

      I start with a sketch in my sketchbook to figure out the composition, based on a photograph I have permission to use as a reference. I print out an outline version of the photo so I get the precise placement of facial features and begin sculpting the cheesecloth.

  4. |

    Amazing what you are doing with such a ‘lowly’ fabric like cheesecloth! IT just goes to prove that there is no ‘lowly’ fabric – it’s all good in the hands of an artist. I love the way you do your pieces… with thought, ingenuity and skill… Just amazing…

    • |

      Thank you, Tema! I really appreciate your kind comments. These pieces really are a labor of love so it is nice to hear that there are viewers who enjoy my efforts. 🙂

  5. |

    Mary: Love your work. Am really inspired! At this time, due to back surgery, I am not able to attend a workshop. Do you have any books available that would tell me what PVA adhesive you use, and what clear plastic wrap do you use? I have a picture of my father in law, who recently passed away, at 102, that I want to do as a quilt for my husband. I am anxious to play!. Linda

    • |

      Thanks, Linda,
      No book or online class yet, but thinking about it. I use regular white glue and Dura-lar. Not sure where you live, but I am teaching in Florida at Focus on Fiber Florida-style at the end of March 2016.

  6. |

    Your work is awesome! I have sculpted dolls in clay and cloth more then15 years ago. I had not touch any art or cloth in 15 years until I went toa quilt display last summer. At that display I like the colors but not the no creativity. What you’re doing is my goal to not be the normal quilt artist. I have to quations, I can’t tell that you stitched anywhere How is the hair and aging lines done?
    Thanks in advance!

    • |

      Hi, Barbara,

      I wet my cheesecloth with glue and push the fibers into the facial lines or strands of hair. When it’s dry, I stitch it with monofilament to a background fabric. Thanks for your interest in my work!

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