Textile artist Jen Athanas knew she had to move out of her home studio in Del Ray when her fabric samples started toppling over on her. Now, she creates her handcrafted fashion accessories in a roomy studio space about 15 minutes south, in the Workhouse Arts Center.
Jen has been working nights, busily preparing for an opening this weekend, but she took some time one evening to show me around her studio.
She has one of the 100 art studios in the buildings that served as a prison until 2001 when Fairfax County, Virginia bought the property and turned the space into a cultural arts center.
Jen works with recycled, reclaimed, vintage and new materials, which she cuts and then reconfigures into new wearable creations. She’s run her business, Jen-A-Fusion, for the past nine years. You can buy her accessories in her Etsy store and locally in Del Ray at Show of Hands.
Jen organizes her supplies floor to ceiling neatly in plastic bins arranged by major color groups,
and in an astounding variety of colors, patterns, and textures.
On one set of shelves, she pins magazine photos to serve as inspiration.
Besides her two sewing machines — a serger and a standard machine — and her heavy-duty steam iron, Jen’s rotary cutter and scissors must also remain within reach at all times.
I learned that these curious-looking plaid objects are aptly called “hams.”
They’re important for ironing odd shapes or when pinning a zipper into a skirt on a curve.
Jen showed me some of the mens’ fabric samples a friend gave her that she was excited to use in new creations.
Similar to the way she used them when creating a hem on this skirt. As you can see, Jen’s signature style is to mix and match patterns.
She loves to piece together different fabric types, colors, and patterns to create, in this case, a skirt. Her upcoming exhibit features a series of one-of-a-kind skirts similar like this one, in a variety of sizes.
This close-up of the skirt shows a bleach stencil technique Jen used to decorate the hem of the skirt. I love the industrial cog and wheels paired with the organic pattern in the accent fabric.
For this skirt, Jen dyed the fabric in addition to blocking her various fabric selections.
Here, she was pleasantly surprised to discover that the tan stitching retained its color, while the background took on the magenta stain.
Jen displays and sells many of her creations in her studio, like these padded iPad and laptop cases.
The opening reception for Jen’s show is Saturday, March 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Workhouse Arts Center, building 9. You can also view the collection and try on a garment during the open business hours through April 17. Jen is happy to meet you in her studio anytime too. Just send her an email.