We recently connected with Julie Barrett Cataldo and have shared our conversation below.
Julie, appreciate you joining us today. So let’s jump to your mission – what’s the backstory behind how you developed the mission that drives your brand?
I have a very short “hate” list, but textile waste is definitely on it. The U.S. throws away up to 11.3 million tons of textile waste each year, which is approximately 80 lbs per person. While sustainability has become a major topic in the fashion industry, there is much more to be done to curb the amount of textile waste that ends up in landfills across the world. Even in my youth, my heart was in textiles! I realized the negative impact of shoddily made garments. I learned to, at a touch, know which fabrics were quality and which would end up tattered. This knowledge led me to make much of my own clothing and alter thrift store items to suit me. My mission now is to reuse viable clothing and other to-be-discarded textiles through innovative portraits that are “clothed” in sculptural garments. I also have a fairly extensive line of abstract paintings, dream pillows, sleep masks, meditation masks, and other self-care products made from reclaimed textiles and infused with herbs. This ensures no waste of the fabric remaining from creating the portraits.
Julie, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
I am a visual artist residing in the small, artsy town of Bell Buckle, TN, where I am the local Arts Council president and highly involved in fostering art and connection in my community. I have been an artist for many years. About 12 of those years were spent making heirloom rag dolls and fantastical creatures, where I was the “doll fashion designer.” I created garments for the dolls with reclaimed textiles, using fabrics that were beautiful and cast off from interior designers, other sewists’ fabric stashes, or thrift store clothing. My purpose in using these items was to mitigate the fact that most textiles that enter the supply chain will end up in landfills and can take up to 200 years to decompose there. I now specialize in mixed media textile paintings. I create abstract paintings, as well as portraits, “dressing” my portrait subjects much like I used to dress dolls. I use this style of art to celebrate the power, individuality, and dignity of my subjects. I either paint the portrait or use a photograph printed onto fabric. Then, I continue to use reclaimed textiles to design and sew beautiful garments onto my canvases, so the clothing designs spill three-dimensionally into the atmosphere of the room. This honors the divinely given, three-dimensional life of the subject and gives new life to textiles destined to be discarded.
My line of self-care items stems from a similar desire as the fine art, I aim to reduce textile waste and honor the individual who uses them.
Where do you think you get most of your clients from?
Honestly, word of mouth has been my best source for new clients! When I create a portrait for a client, they are very proud to show family and friends the work that is honoring their loved ones, many of these have led to more portraits within the same families.
How do you keep in touch with clients and foster brand loyalty?
I keep in touch with clients through an email newsletter that highlights new works, upcoming exhibitions, and events. I also like to send personal emails to see how they are enjoying their commissioned pieces or other art pieces bought.
- Instagram: juliebarrettcataldo
- Facebook: Julie Barrett Cataldo Mixed Media Textile Artist
- Other: Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/JBCataldo