Fusing fashion and environmentalism, Jacob Olmedo describes his art as subtle activism – probing the intersection of creativity, sustainability, and the exploration of his queer/Latino identity. In addition to techniques such as crocheting, knitting, beading, tufting, Jacob has used hydroponics to create garments that are wearable gardens. He earned his MFA in Textiles at Parsons School of Design.
- My name is Jacob Olmedo.
I go to Parsons School of Design,
and I'm in the inaugural MFA Textiles program.
I decided to work with textiles
kind of from the beginning of just the creative process.
I worked a lot with clothemaking and garment construction
and fashion and then decided to come to New York City
to study at Parsons.
To be able to touch something and assemble something,
every stitch, every action
reflects the person who's making it,
and I think that's truly important.
Everyone in the world uses textiles.
The clothes you're wearing, the rug you walk on,
the towel that you dry yourself with.
A lot of the work that I make hones in on
how do we care for something?
How do we care for one another?
How do we care for our environment?
And then when you bring that through
the art of making textiles,
you also think about how do you care for this textile
and how does that relate to everything else?
It's a reflection on the world, it's a reflection of myself,
but sometimes it's also a reflection
on the making process itself.
I'm using nature a lot in my work.
Whether that be in hydroponics or these like seed beads
and the work I'm working on right now is, you know,
looking at nature on its own as a privilege,
but it also looks at it as the ultimate commonality
between all people.
We can't live in a shared environment
if we all don't take a part in taking care of it.
The materials that I use come in different forms.
I use a lot of wool in my work just because
it's a biodegradable material that is so amazing
in terms of fluctuation of its own self.
It could be yarn, it could be felted,
it could be spun super tight, it could be spun super loose.
So all of the seeds are
seeds that are supposed to be for perennial prairies,
which actually creates healthy soil.
Because of growing and tilling and all of these things
is so much of our soil is actually turning into dirt.
It doesn't have any nutrients anymore.
It's not gonna be able to sustain us.
So what are we gonna do with it?
Through this garment of wearing on a body like myself,
who is a minority,
who's intersectional, who's a hybrid human,
to be able to hold the power of these seeds
that will be able to repair these lands
is a huge part of that process.
The color palette itself is beige, white, ecru.
The work that I make is extremely tactile.
There's a lot of technique that goes
into every single object.
And for me, using the same color palette
lets the viewer concentrate on those attributes of the work
instead of what the color is.
I came into the program with a lot of knowledge
in hand knitting.
It was something that was taught when I was a child.
I went back to a technique that my mom would do
when I was a kid.
I did a lot of paper mache,
reminiscent of my mom making pinatas.
I started creating these like paper mache bodies
that would host a lot of the garments that I was making,
a version of casting oneself into a physical space.
I also played with different shades.
Like I wanted the bodies to be my skin tone.
I didn't want them to be just a cream skin tone.
So I played a lot with different papers
to get that skin tone in there.
The pieces themselves
were a compilation of layered materials
that would be able to sustain the plant themselves.
One of the biggest things I learned from that project
was the lesson that nothing lasts forever.
I would make these garments
that are growing these like beautiful green grasses,
and people said, well, how long does it last?
And it was like, it lasts up to two weeks
if it's in the right conditions.
And then I let them dry out
and then they become beautiful browns.
I think it's important to say this work isn't forever.
This work is temporary.
This work changes.
It's ever-evolving and that's okay.
I feel like I've really thought about that a lot
in my textile making of maybe we design
for change over time.
Language is, at the moment, very prominent in my work.
I think it's important to ask questions,
and so how do those questions that we ask make others think?
Making those poems letters, manifestos,
and then translate them into textiles.
"Dear Earth," I made it into a carpet
and it's kind of a letter asking Earth will you forgive us?
The other poem is titled "Dear World,"
and that one I made out of a knit with beads
and kind of like use that as more of a self portrait
asking these questions of are my ideas valid?
Is my love respected?
Questions that I think will follow me
throughout my entire life
that I will constantly be reflecting on.
I would hope that my work would be able to speak to people
to think about care differently,
to talk to someone they would never talk to,
to hear their own perspective.
I call it like subtle activism.
A heavy carpet, a delicate knit, no matter what it is,
it's subtle in its space,
but it's loud in what it's trying to say.
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