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Necktie Obsession

Necktie Obsession

My first encounter with neckties was with my father, who generally wore khakis for his work, but would dress in a suit and tie for Rotary or fancy dinners. Always at a loss on what to get him for Father’s Day, Christmas or his birthday, I resorted to neckties. He appeared to like him as he wore them and I don’t think it was in order please me. I think he really loved my tie selections.


Later on, his girlfriend had all of his ties made into a quilt, a true time capsule as you can see what was in style each year for decades. Wide width, garish prints, stripes and polka dots. A tie could be subdued and subtle or an outlandish statement. Neckties added a wild splash of color in an otherwise drab suit. I can picture some of my father’s ties. One tie of my father’s in particular that I remember had a leaf pattern on it. Various brown and green leaves on a dark brown color field. On the background, some of the leaves were serrated, some not. Some leaves with a central vein, some not. Most of my father’s ties were polyester as I didn’t know much about silk as those ties were way beyond my budget.


I love that polyester is referred to as virgin polyester or international polyester.  You never know about polyester. As I got older, I ceased giving my father ties, but they always remained in the back of my mind, and I appreciated all the colors, patterns, and textures—they are absolutely beautiful.


My love of neckties has grown over time and I have made discoveries of the many uses of neckties beyond their conventional function in my art practice. When I deconstruct a tie, especially a woven one, I have discovered the back of the tie is as beautiful as the front—the colors change. The interfacing in the tie can be different and each tie label is a work of art unique in itself.


As an art teacher at St. Joseph’s School in Fort Collins, Colorado, I was always getting odd donations with the remark, “I thought you might be able to use this for your art classes.”  When I couldn’t think of an immediate use, I just kept the items. Some of those donations are still with me today, and I am just waiting for inspiration on how to use them.


I had a parent drop off a boxes full of neckties and I was instantly intrigued by the kaleidoscope of colors, patterns and shapes—especially the wide end of the tie and how ties narrowed—they looked like deflated snakes.

Snakes on Planes

Snakes on Planes

I don’t know when the idea occurred to me, but the way the wide end of the the ties narrowed reminded me of snakes. An art class idea! Snakes from neckties. A soft sculpture. My St. Joseph Elementary School art students picked out which tie they wanted, put a wire hanger through the tie, and then stuffed the tie. Voila! A snake sculpture. Once the wide end was stuffed, button eyes added, and if they wanted a tongue, they all had the appearance of cobras.


I displayed them by hanging them on the ceiling in the hallway outside the art room. The effect could have something out of Raiders of the Lost Arkor Snakes on Planes.


Although the snake sculpture became a part of my lesson plans every year, I did amass a large quantity of neckties. When I left teaching, of course, the ties went with me and were relegated to storage along with the other materials the school told me I could take “what I could find use for”.  As an aside, I usually find uses for all the things I have collected, although some ideas for use do take longer than others.


I started my own studio/gallery and called myself a Reclamation Engineer/Recycle Artist. I also started collecting wool sweaters—mountains and mountains of them.


First stop for neckties was an embellishment for the hats I made from fulled/felted sweaters.  The necktie embellished hats sold like gangbusters and were very popular at the Recycle Arts Festival at Santa Fe.  Eventually, I wanted to move on and come up with new ideas. The ties went back into storage and and the hats morphed into something else. So did the ties.

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