Beldan Radcliffe loves textiles. A fiber artist, printmaker, and collage artist, Radcliffe began stretching her artistic boundaries just over a decade ago when she was inspired by the colors, textures, and patterns found in castoff clothing. Using thrift store finds, she started deconstructing secondhand sweaters and repurposing the knits to create colorful, collaged garments.
“It’s kind of like picking a palette,” says Radcliffe of her design process. “The same way that a painter would put together a palette, I look at the sweaters I have and pick the colors I think are going to work together.”
The resulting designs are unique and eye-catching, featuring wools and quality cottons and synthetics in coordinating colors with swaths of patterns here and there. You might see a bit of an argyle or Fair Isle knit blended into the design, or maybe even a fun stripe or floral weave. The garment’s structures themselves are always interesting. Edges are ruffled, cardigans often button up at the top, flaring out at the bottom for a skirt effect. Some pieces have roomy hoods made from layered colors. The upcycled sweater line also includes comfy collaged shawls, great for cooler weather. Each piece is one-of-a-kind, made from washed and preshrunk quality fabrics.
More recently, Radcliffe started making quilts and fun, bohemian skirts from repurposed T shirts and other all-cotton items. Her secondhand finds include patterns from butterflies and flowers to ethnic prints.
Radcliffe sees her efforts as a win-win. “I’ve always been interested in environmental issues and recycling, and not wasting anything,” she says. “I’m giving something another life — something that might have wound up in the landfill. And when I buy at the thrift store, the money goes back to charity. I’m supporting myself and helping others at the same time.”
Beldan Radcliffe designs can be found at the Night Heron Gallery in Vineyard Haven, and at the M.V. Artisans Festival. You can also purchase her upcycled sweaters and artworks through her website, beldankradcliffe.com.