TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List | Mary Pal Designs

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. |

    Mary Pal: You have been unknown to me until now. I have provided private accommodation in my lake front home in Haliburton for several years. All of a sudden I receive accommodation requests from repeat and new guests who want to enroll in your course. I viewed your portfolio and your work is amazing. I sew and my first thoughts were, “what wonderful work you produce when using cheese cloth”. My very best wishes for a successful program at Haliburton School of Art and Design.

    • |

      Thank you so much, Nancy! Teaching in Haliburton has become my favourite summer activity! Gorgeous scenery, artists, musicians, in a beautiful facility, all in one magical location. I am teaching two different week-long workshops there this summer, so maybe you will drop in during the Walkabout and introduce yourself. July 16-20 for cheesecloth and August 6-10 for creating textile art inspired by photos. Or maybe you will consider signing up for one! Suitable for beginners to fibre art and essential for anyone who loves working with fabric. Hope we bump into one another!

  2. |

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

  3. |

    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

  4. |

    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.

  5. |

    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. 🙂

  6. |

    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.

  7. |

    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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