GJ Artist Spotlight: Fiber artist Mary Hertert repurposes materials for artistic inspiration | PostIndependent.com

GJ Artist Spotlight: Fiber artist Mary Hertert repurposes materials for artistic inspiration

Grand Junction fiber artist Mary Hertert with a garment she created from non-traditional materials.
Caitlin Row / crow@gjfreepress.com | Free Press


Local fiber artist Mary Hertert will have her artistic creations on display in a “Wearable Art Fashion Show.” Set for Friday, Oct. 4, at Grand Junction’s Art Center (1803 N. Seventh St.), Hertert’s work will be shown along with wearable art created by Sally Converse-Douchette and Amy Kuper. This event is free and it’s part of the First Friday Art Walk.

For more information, visit http://www.gjartcenter.org.

Editor’s note: The “Artist Spotlight” will be a monthly series, featuring Grand Valley artists, their work and creative process. Want to nominate a local artist who’s creating some really exciting art? Email crow@gjfreepress.com.

Grand Valley artist and Colorado Mesa University fiber arts instructor Mary Hertert once lived her life quite differently. In fact, she spent 15 years teaching computer education in Alaska before turning her attention, by happenstance, to fiber arts as a career in 1997.

“I’ve always been interested in color and fabrics,” Hertert, 61, said. “I was working in the computer industry, and I got really bored. I knew I needed to quit, and I thought I would go to school for social work.”

At the same time, Hertert was also quilting in her free time but her creations weren’t living up to her creative vision.

“So, I started experimenting” with quilts, Hertert explained, “and I invited my friends to share the experience.”

And when she caught sight of her colleagues happily painting fabric on the floor at one of the fun fiber gatherings, the thought struck her that this could be her next career.

“I asked them, ‘Would you pay to do this?’ And they said ‘yes,’ so in September 1997 my shop opened.”

Through Hertert’s studio — aptly named Color Creek Fiber Art — she found her medium in fabrics of all kinds and created an environment of sharing, education and collaboration.

And when Hertert moved to Fruita from Anchorage with her husband, Doug Van Etten, in 2011, she picked up right where she left off by establishing her business in the Grand Valley and teaching CMU students about her passion.

Color Creek Fiber Art recently moved to its current spot at 1150 N. 25th St., right off North Avenue. A grand-opening celebration is set for Saturday, Oct. 12, and it’s open to the public.

“We’re creating an art community here,” Hertert added, “I rent out space to other artists, and I can rent it to teachers needing space. I teach. I love having kids in here. It’s a multi-functional workspace, and it’s an environment in which creativity can happen.”

Now that Hertert has a new studio near North Avenue, she’s also hoping to cultivate an expanded artists’ community outside of her shop. That includes turning the old Pandora’s Piercings location next door to Color Creek into an art gallery, Hertert said, though plans for that are currently in its infancy.

Plus, other creative people have offices near her location — Grand Valley Magazine, Legendary Art & Design, Native Ink and Neon Desert Design, to name a few. Hertert hopes more like-minded people will choose to have shops near Color Creek, too.

“I have an open door for artists wanting a place to work,” she said. “Without that collective energy, I find that my own creativity goes quiet. I adore the sharing.”


Having dual uses for her workspace also lends itself to Hertert’s overall artistic vision.

“Fiber is not just knitting, spinning, weaving and quilting,” she said. “It’s taking any type of material and creating a sense of domestic. Making a garment of non-traditional material (like phone books, for instance) is still fiber art.”

She additionally stresses reuse when creating both wearable art, like scarves and shirts, and display pieces (she created a display backdrop for the Ice Age exhibit in Fruita’s Dinosaur Journey Museum, for example).

“I do think we recycle fashions, but we don’t often think about recycling our clothes. And oftentimes we have art pieces that we don’t know what to do with. If it’s not useful, then make something from it.”

When she teaches fiber arts to her CMU students twice a week as an adjunct instructor, Hertert stresses reinvention and experimentation with fiber as well.

Her semester-long theme is “creating the surface,” and college students are given tools to knit, crochet or weave a surface of their choice.

Then, “they take it apart and remake the surface, reusing colors,” Hertert said. She teaches them “not to get attached” to a project. Rather, her students “create, destroy, deconstruct in color and piece, and then reconstruct something new.”

Hertert, unsurprisingly, upholds these artistic principles in her personal artwork; she often works with silk painting, dying fibers (old clothing, wool, yarn, etc.), fabricating garments (both wearable and for display), and sculpting with fabric.

And scarves, which she sells at the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade, are a functional favorite for Hertert.

“Scarves can be put on the wall or you wear it on your neck. Then you throw it on a couch, and then hang it on the wall again. I like that dual purpose.”

For more information about Color Creek Fiber Art and all that it offers, visit http://www.colorcreekfiberart.com or call 970-778-5985.

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