Cause & Effect +
Art & Environment
Fiber-Artist Turns eBay Collections into
Works of Art
Mental Contagion: You've said that
you like to use materials that have had "previous lives," such
as recycled clothing and collections you find on eBay. What do you
enjoy about making sculptures and tapestries out of stuff
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette: I think
I like making art out of items with previous lives because I am
sentimental at heart. As a child, my family moved around a lot.
Items given to me by my grandparents and other people special to
me brought me comfort when I was in new situations. I also like
for viewers of my work to rethink how they use and dispose of items
they use everyday.
"Keeping Tabs " | Aluminum pull tabs and wire
"Blister" | Plastic
blister packaging and glue; 20" x 40" x 3"
Mental Contagion: What insights
have you gained into America's collection compulsion after making
these pieces? Are we a pack rat society, or is there something
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette: I guess
the biggest insight is that everyone collects things for different
I talked to a woman who was cleaning out her Mother's house. She said she asked
her Mom, "Mom, why have you kept all of this stuff for so long?" Her
Mother replied, "To show I was here." That was pretty interesting,
a physical symbol for a mental void.
Another insight was into the culture of eBay. At the beginning of this series
of work, I purchased items exclusively on eBay. Many of the people bought lots
from estate sales and then sold them intact to me. Some sold to send their l
kids to private schools. Several who were disabled and eBay was a good way to
make a living. For others it was just a hobby. Either way, eBay is a virtual
community complete with etiquette and rules to help the society run.
"This Side Toward Screen" | Slides
and cotton twine woven on a cotton warp; 33" x 40" x 2"
"O 2 (Oxygen)" | Woven wall
hanging made from white plastic curtain rings, white cotton fabric
and cotton twine; 33" x 24"
Mental Contagion: Do you collect
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette: I collect
Fisher Price Little people. When I was a kid, I collected hotel soap,
sugar packets, buttons, and stamps.
"Aquatic" | Crocheted lace;
Mental Contagion: You've used
collections of everything from hair curlers to toy soldiers to
bottle caps. How do you decide what to buy? What catches your eye
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette:There are
several factors I put into choosing a collection. The first is cumulative
weight. The first piece I did in the series was called "Made
in China." It was created using McDonalds Happy Meal toys woven
on a 40" x 35" tapestry. When the piece was done it weighed
close to 50 lbs and I could hardly lift it!! I also consider the
palette. I don't alter the colors of the objects I find, so the colors
have to work together for me in some kind of harmony. I also choose
relatively small elements, and this gives more variety on the textures
of the piece. But, essentially any mass quantity of items is fair
game to put into one of my pieces.
"Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice"
| Woven fabric, cotton string and plastic hair clips 33" x 40"
Mental Contagion: What are some
of the stranger collections you've come across?
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette: I have
a collection of old toothbrushes someone brought into my studio.
I also have a collection of IV tubes someone cleaned out and brought
The most unusual story I can tell you about the collections is about
Dennis. My studio is in a Community Center. This is a great fit for
me, because my work is inspired by the community I live in. In our
community there is an Autistic man named Dennis. Dennis is about
45 years old and he visits me every afternoon. When he visits, he
doesn't talk to me, he talks about me. He says things like, "Elizabeth
Morisette uses things like this for her weavings. Someday she will
make this into a great creation." Then he leaves a bag full
of items such as trophies or twist ties. All items I can and do use
in my work. It is really an unusual but wonderful way my work has
touched another soul.
Digest series | 30 sculptures created
using old textbook pages, thread, staples and wax. Each sculpture
is modeled after 'villi' the fingerlike inner lining of our intestines
that help us digest food.
Mental Contagion: What do you
suppose it means that people not only collect seemingly insignificant
items, such as twist ties or safety pins, but then are willing to
put them up for sale?
Elizabeth Lundberg Morissette: I think
people are responding to an impulse. Maybe an impulse to not generate
so much trash, maybe a wish to be a part of something bigger than
themselves. In the case of my work, I find people see my work and
use it as a teaching tool to children in their life. To teach them
to look at my work and think of ways they could make art out of recycled
materials. I also find that the more people know about my work, the
less I have to actually purchase. People deliver a lot of items right
to my studio that I can use for art. They come back later and say, "Hey,
I think that is my button!" It is pretty cool to have the ability
to bring that much joy.
About the Artist
Maryland-based fiber artist and educator Elizabeth Lundberg Morisette
uses objects that have a history in her artwork. From people ’s
old clothing to collections found on eBay, she weaves tapestries
and sculptures that interplay with memory and emotion.
“These pieces each have many stories to tell,” she says. “This
series explores the human need to collect, and explores what our
collections say about us.” Elizabeth is a 1994 graduate of
North Carolina State University School of Design.
To learn more about Elizabeth’s
art, visit her flickr profile