Nancy Cook Smith

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Textiles ’74

I was born deaf. I did not have the same means of communication as other kids, so the creation of something physical and visual became my voice. I had an innate affinity with the tactile nature of things and a fine sense of color; these lead me to start working with fabrics. I began sewing when I was ten.

After graduating from RISD, I began my career in fashion creating hand-woven textiles, which became the basis for the fine art fabric collages I make today. I combine anything that works, store-bought fabric or materials I find in the alley on my daily walks; it doesn’t make a difference to me. In the end it’s all thread, each special in its own way. Every fabric and material carries its own history. I appreciate them for their unique traits. I use their individual characteristics to create my world, combining old and new to tell my story.

When I was designing fashion, the actress Anne Bancroft was my client. She told me “Talk in a deep voice…they will listen.” She was referring to my physical voice but this speaks to my artistic voice as well, which I stitch deep with layers and deep in reflection. The act of making art and the process of putting together each piece has the deepest personal meaning to me that I do not have the words to describe.