Albemarle Neighbor: Chance encounter changes course of woman’s art

By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

The Daily Advance

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Catherine Simmons was sitting in Muddy Waters Coffeehouse years ago when she saw the sign for the Red Rabbit Art Gallery across the street. Walking through its door, Simmons was immediately transfixed by the fiber art on the gallery’s wall.

“My insides took a leap,” said Simmons, describing the profound experience.

Simmons began creating her own fiber art utilizing “different textiles, colors and mediums.”

“I have been sewing all my life,” said Simmons, recalling the time when she was 20 years old, turning her two piece bathing suit into a maternity one piece bathing suit by adding fabric.

“It is knowledge of putting things together,” added Simmons.

She creates “wearable art that is truly one of a kind” by adding different fabrics and creating new designs from materials found in thrift stores. Currently her Mosaic Bag brand is on display at the Arts of the Albemarle.

Simmons said she chose the name because “it is a collection of new and previously loved textiles” redesigned in a “revived piece of art.”

The crossbody bags can hold an iPad, according to Simmons.

Simmons said she has incorporated men’s ties, wool suiting material and hand dyed silk into her fiber art.

Simmons said she is a member of a local neighborhood group of the American Sewing Guild that meets monthly at the Arts of the Albemarle. At the meeting group members learn how to “refine techniques,” said Simmons.

After enrolling in a continuing education pottery class at the College of the Albemarle, Simmons began to make pottery buttons to use in her designs. Fond of the varying textures, she creates pottery wall art.

Simmons said she had a difficult time finding large bowls for her gumbo which led her to make deep pottery bowls. She said her pottery will be on display at the March First Friday Art Walk at Floor 2 Ceiling Designs.

Simmons said she was inspired by her mother and her Cajun heritage to incorporate bright hues into her art. She said she has also been influenced by her travels to San Francisco and Portland. The textiles and styles she witnessed on the West Coast were “very earthy” and “melded together with a splash of unexpectedness.”

Originally from Alabama, Simmons lived in various places in the United States while her husband was in the U.S. Coast Guard. The couple who were previously stationed in the area, returned to Elizabeth City in 2006.

Currently a substitute school nurse commuting to Virginia, Simmons has been a registered nurse for more than three decades.  She also worked as a surgical nurse with an ophthalmologist.  Simmons credits her love of science and attention to detail as one of the reasons for her interest in textiles and the process of repurposing fibers into art.

Simmons said she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and eight grandchildren.
Simmons’ designs are currently on display at the Arts of the Albemarle.