I first became enamored with denim jeans after attending an exhibit about the life and work of Levi Strauss at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Previously I hadn’t given much thought to the ubiquitous jeans that I had been wearing all my life. Denim jeans as we know them today were created in 1873 with the introduction of the copper rivet to reinforce the pockets and seams on canvas work pants. California gold miners were in need of durable, long lasting pants and the Levi Strauss Company produced them from a strong cotton sail cloth originally from Nimes, France. The name denim is derived “from Nimes”. What I love about the fabric is how each garment takes on the individual shape of the wearer. Much like an old pair of boots or gloves that crease and fold over time, denim jeans start to resemble the bodies that inhabit them. The fabric is so unique, I try to explore every property it possesses. I start by disassembling the garments into all the individual parts, waistbands, inseams, and pockets then put them back together again in a new form. In this digital age, I derive great satisfaction by cutting the fabric by hand. Each pair of pants holds a personal story of the wearer which gets incorporated into my artwork along the way. I love the slow, meditative process of assembling my pieces layer by layer.

Shelley Gardner, January 2021