This continues Climate Creative’s look at artists and how their work helps save the Earth.
Climate Creative is thrilled to announce the addition of Mira Musank as our 2023 Artist in Residence.
Mira Musank describes herself as “an avid garment refashioner and textile waste upcycler. She first fell in love with fashion design and began to teach herself how to construct garments with fabric remnants and old clothes.
“Most of her materials are pre-owned clothes, factory cut offs, and textile waste sourced locally. She also regularly rescues textile remnants from other designers and shares them with the local community for creative reuse.
“Her works of reimagining, repairing, and refashioning garments can be seen on fafafoom.com. Currently residing in Castro Valley, California, she’d like to collaborate with diverse artists globally to inspire meaningful climate actions.
“When she’s not in the sewing studio, she enjoys learning regenerative agriculture, permaculture practices, home gardening (especially tomatoes), and flamenco dancing. Sometimes, she can be heard humming songs from K-Pop idol group Super Junior or seen petting her neighbor’s cat in the backyard.”
She kindly took some time recently to answer questions about art and the environment.
When did you begin doing environmental/climate art?
I guess I haven’t seen it from that perspective, but from the start I’ve always been more attracted to creating things out of pre-existing materials around me rather than purchasing new supplies.
Once I learned how to sew, I enjoyed refashioning existing clothes more than making a new one from newly purchased fabrics. Of course I do that from time to time, but it’s relatively rare. When I make a new garment, it’s most likely made out of fabric remnants or samples I source locally from neighbors or fashion designer friends.
It feels really rewarding to be able to rescue old clothes, fabric scraps, and so-called textile waste and make them into beautiful things. The more value I can elevate out of them, the better their chance to stay out of the landfill or become someone else’s trash. So in that sense, you can say my preferred way of making is a form of climate action.
Whether it’s seen as art or not, it really depends on the audience and what their perception of art is.
What’s been the response to your climate art?
At first, the general response was generally, “Why do you spend so much time remaking things when you can get new ones cheaply and instantly?” And I understand that kind of perspective. What’s missing is the deep, thoughtful experience we can have by learning how to make something with our own hands.
As I get better with color composition, construction techniques, and fabric choices, it’s been getting more and more positive. More attractive or deemed fashionable. On the most surface level, people seem to appreciate how they look. However, I get more excited when deeper, geekier conversations about “how do you make this, what is the objective, and what was the process like” happen.
There’s no shortage of seeing new creations online every day, yet there’s little visibility about the complex process of making. These kinds of discussions — the ups and downs of transforming concepts into reality — need to be more visible. The complexity only increases when collaborations happen, or better yet, cultural exchanges happen during the collaboration. That would be wonderful, responding to a climate art by collaborating to make more art together. Circularity please!
Are you concerned about climate change?
Of course! The so-called “normal” way of overproduction, overconsumption, and excessively wasteful living is clearly unsustainable. Climate change is happening right now, and has been happening for many decades now. I’m most concerned about the lack of action (or more accurately, the systemic way of preventing action) towards healthier, sustainable living.
What made you go from concern to action?
When I realized how deep this “normal” way of producing-consuming-wasting lifestyle is adopted all across the globe. Some of us don’t think twice about tossing waste into trash bins, as if the problem just disappears to thin air and won’t inconvenience others. At the other side of lifecycle management, 90+% plastics are not recycled and large scale cradle-to-cradle technology is still a decade away. A good percentage of perfectly good products are disposed of without ever being used. Secondhand clothes go unsold in stores and exported to other countries, overcrowding their already mountainous landfills and choking people living around them.
The more I learn about sustainable practices, the more I realize it’s a subset to climate change. All of these problems surrounding planet and people are closely linked and deeply systemic. Therefore, isolated solutions are not going to bring large scale solutions. Creating, sharing my work out there, connecting with people and collaborating are ways to keep me immersed in this climate action sphere. Some actions come more naturally than others, and there are personal challenges to tackle every day as well. It’s important to be kind to ourselves while being in this fight for a long run. The smallest actions every day are not meaningless.
What do you think art’s place is in the climate action movement?
Art can bring people together. It’s very sensoric (usually visual or aural) and have this magical ability to bring forth deeply rooted reactions from people. It triggers inward contemplations and personal healing, as well as outward expressions, such as reactions or inspirations to create. Once there’s momentum, it can lead to more actions, discussions, and connections. With this mindset, I believe art’s place in climate action movement is truly essential.
What media do you use for your art and how was that changed over time?
I’m a self-taught sewist, so at first I started with cotton fabric scraps only. JoAnn’s fabric remnant shelves were my favorite go-to place. Over time, I began experimenting with various types of fabrics and special occasion fabric remnants to create textural interests in a garment or accessory.
Nowadays, I’m also upcycling other materials to use around the house or garden, such as wooden pallets, old sawhorses, wine boxes, etc. The Castro Valley community is very strong and supportive, living here really broadens my horizon to what kind of materials can be rescued and reused, as well as how I can help the community. Recently, I helped a community garden leader by doing some sketches to visualize a community shop space.
Do you consider yourself a climate artist?
Hmm. It’s only recently I started getting used to being called an artist. Calling myself a climate artist may sound natural to others, but personally, it feels very unusual. Name labeling really doesn’t matter. I hope my works will gradually speak for themselves.
Are you involved with any environmental/climate organizations?
Aside from Climate Creative, I went through leadership training with Climate Reality Project. I also get to know Project Drawdown and Work on Climate to expand my climate work-related knowledge and explore opportunities!
Photographed: Mira’s Handkerchief Dress and Accidentally Boro Shirt