Julie Floersch showing off a pair of used jeans she’s wrestled away from someone in the neighborhood. (image via flickr.com/hragv)

Editor’s note: Some of you might recognize Julie Floersch from our Greenpoint Open Studios post a few weeks ago. We found her story about how she procures material for her art so interesting that we asked her to write her story. Thankfully, she agreed.

Lately, I’ve been staring a lot at men’s crotches. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I’ve been on a hunt for people who wear their jeans until they are completely un-wearable. This hunt has led me to construction workers, squatter punks, and hipsters, all of which so far are men. I’ve been saving these masterpieces from the trash heap by collecting them from their makers and am stitching them into patchwork wall hangings or meshing them with icons of popular culture. Which brings me back to the crotch staring. This process involves some serious assessment, as I have to make sure the weathering is authentic, not factory made.

Jeans weathered by Lasglo, a Hungarian construction worker in the process of working on building 410 24th Street in Manhattan. (photo by the author)

Asking people for their worn out old clothes is uncomfortable. No, I’m not a creepy, voodoo doll making pervert. Yes, I want your nastiest, dirtiest, caked in plaster & paint, stinky, unwashed shiz. The gnarlier the better. Don’t donate until you are absolutely ready to throw away. Don’t give me anything that would make an acceptable donation to Salvation Army. Construction workers think I’m hilarious … and crazy. Hipsters are embarrassed. Squatter punks totally get it, but good luck getting them to part with it within the next decade.

I thought that offering to pay by the piece would keep things professional, and offer an incentive for people to pick up the phone and call, rather than throw away. Surprisingly, no one wants money for their goods. Some people understand the environmental concern and are happy to reduce their carbon footprint, others barter — donating some pieces, but asking for ones with life left in them to be patched and returned. And then there’s those who want to take me out for dinner or be introduced to my friends, after all, they have needs too.

The process of obtaining these pieces has been slow. Of the numerous business cards I’ve handed out, I’ve only received a few phone calls. Which, to be fair, was to be expected. Natural weathering & breaking down of sentimental attachment takes time. However, the clothing I have collected so far is amazing, and the stories behind them, even better. I’ve developed my own attachments to them, which makes me reluctant to use them until I have an idea worthy enough. So, I’m photographing each piece before I deconstruct them, stitch by stitch at the seams, and posting them on my blog with short biographies of their makers.

The front (left) and back (right) of Julie Floersch’s “Lasglo 1” (2010), 25” x 33”, constructed of found denim, wool, and spandex. The abstract patchwork is created from a drawing of particle board. The patchwork is left unquilted and stretched like canvas. (click to enlarge)

One of the contributors includes squatter punk on hiatus, Jojo the Monkey, who wore only a few different outfits over the course of a decade as he train hopped around the country and slept in abandoned buildings. The all black pieces were never washed and are so caked in dirt, sweat, and oil that they developed a matte, oily finish termed “vegan leather.” Other contributors include Greenpoint artist Ted Stanke, who makes sculptural masterpieces out of loose change. My Uncle Bob, who borders on hoarding in his meticulous collecting and storing of things that were being thrown out so he can give them to people he knows who might need them. And Lasglo, a young Hungarian immigrant working construction who dreams of owning his own contracting company one day.

“LTD J-Flo’s” (2010), women’s size 9 made of found denim, wool, spandex, and found Nike Air Max rubber soles. (click to enlarge)

This project was inspired by Japanese “Boro” folk textiles and it started as a means to an end in getting naturally weathered denim and reducing my impact on the environment, blah blah blah. But in the process I’ve learned a few things.

First, that people who, in essence, wear the same clothes day in and day out tend to be incredibly interesting characters — hence the accompanying biographies.

Second, the giving up of these garments is incredibly personal. Like letting someone read your diary entries, it makes people feel exposed.

Third, where are all my trend-resisting ladies?

Julie Floersch is an artist who is interested in the transformative power of quilting. Be it the transformation of an otherwise “superficial” object into one with soul and depth when quilted together...

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