South Dartmouth resident brings Indian flare to customized clothing
Thirteen years ago, South Dartmouth resident Janice Kissinger was just beginning to learn how to craft with textiles. Now, her custom stitchless, Indian-style outfits have been featured in exhibitions across the globe.
Art has always been an interest of Kissinger’s. She majored in art history at UMass Amherst and spent the following decades working with 3D artists, writing grants, and helping run art-based nonprofits.
After turning 40, Kissinger said she opted to throw herself into “her own graduate school” and independently learn from skilled textile and felt artists.
“I thought for the longest time the best thing I could do is create opportunities,” she said. ”But then I learned I loved to make [things] and I wanted to figure this out.”
Kissinger primarily works by combining soap and water to finely sculpt merino wool fibers with designs inspired by the traditional saree dresses worn in her husband’s home country of India.
“The way it kind of drapes is really classic and beautiful,” the fabric artist said. “Transferring that to the clothing I make is ultimately what I strive for.”
To create her clothes, Kissinger uses water to open up the fibers and create friction.
“If you add water, they kind of bloom,” she said. “It requires a lot of manipulation to lock in.”
Kissinger then tamps down on the combined wool and silk to ensure no pockets of air exist.
“Air is the enemy,” she said. “It keeps the fibers from coming together.”
Afterward, she will overlap each fiber to create a weave, as traditional sarees are seamless.
What Kissinger enjoys most about her crafting style is how “free form” it can be, allowing her to make design additions as they happen.
While sculpting with merino wool is adaptable, it is also a rather time-consuming process.
Kissinger notes that for some of her smaller accessories such as scarves, it can take roughly six hours if multiple items are crafted at the same time.
Dresses, she said, could take anywhere between one and four days, due to the fabric having to start off twice as big as the finished piece.
“It can be very zen if you’re not in a rush,” she said with a laugh. “It’s kind of a labor of love.”
Kissinger’s designs have been showcased and sold at the Smithsonian Fine Craft Show, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and the American Craft Exposition in Chicago.
Her work has also been shown at the Korean Bojagi Forum in Seoul, South Korea.
After all the travel, Kissinger plans to keep things local in 2022 and set up a stop at next year’s Art Drive open studio tour.
“It’ll be nice to stick to New England,” she said.
A selection of the Dartmouth crafter’s scarves and accessories will be available for purchase at the upcoming CraftBoston virtual showcase. The online exhibition opens Nov. 12 and runs through Jan. 30, 2022.
Her available work can be seen at societyofcrafts.org/craftboston-holiday-online-2021/. For more information on Kissinger, or to inquire on a piece, visit www.janicekissinger.com/.