Mimi Haddon: A Talk with the Artist
Artist | Designer | Photographer | Instructor
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
LA artist Mimi Haddon creates community by wearing many hats. Mimi began her career as a graphic designer after graduating from CSULB. Feeling frustrated after staring at a computer screen all day, she decided to become a professional photographer, freelancing for 20 years for Mattel, Disney, Tayrn Rose Shoes, The New Yorker, and Palace costume among others.
Acknowledging her affinity for her grandmother’s quilts and ability to sew with scraps of fabric, Mimi taught summer camp for children grades 5th through 7th while her own school age children were in school, putting her love of textiles and textile processes to constructive use. Engaged in dyeing, macramé, and soft sculpture while teaching summer camp, Mimi furthered her love of textiles by enrolling at Otis where she studied surface design in Otis’ continuing education program.
“I gained so much experience and being at Otis was eye opening. We created surface design and repeat patterns all by hand, working directly with materials.” Thinking she was excited to return to school to earn a degree in Art Education at CSULB, Mimi stumbled upon a display case of textiles located in the fiber dept. She recalls having second thoughts about returning to school to study Art Ed. “My heart sunk at the thought of studying Art Education.”
The fiber program at CSULB was headed by professor Carol Shaw-Sutton, now emeritus, who accepted Mimi as a graduate student. At CSULB Mimi met several influential adjunct faculty members, all teaching in the fiber program. Mimi held her graduate show October 29, 2017 and earned an MFA. Her final thesis exhibit will have a life beyond the educational institution and will be installed at another venue. Asked for advice she can impart to other students and emerging artists, Mimi suggests attending workshops and internships outside of school. “You can meet so many interesting people and create networks and opportunities for yourself.”
One of Mimi's most fruitful relationships has been her association with the Craft and Folk Art Museum through their CraftLab family Workshops and Craft Night programs. Mimi credits CAFAM’s curator of public engagement, Andres Payan, for giving her the opportunities to teach and opening doors and expanding her horizons. The public’s enthusiasm for textile making has really grown since Mimi has taught workshops there. Through the aegis of CAFAM Mimi has connected to fiber, fashion, and design in Los Angeles.
She recently completed an installation for Dolan, a women’s clothing company located in Vernon, which sells many of their fashions through Anthropologie. She worked with large amounts of leftover striped knit jersey that in storage. Because of her prior dynamic experimentation with cutting apart t-shirts and reconfiguring the disparate parts into larger sculptural works – as a part of her graduate fiber experimentations – Mimi created several large sculptures for Dolan. “I was experimenting, trying different textile methods to create large scale baskets. My first attempts were failures, but I was resolute to create large scale works. In the end, it was hard work and my knowledge of working with materials and hand processes that enabled me to bring my ideas to fruition.”
Mimi was then asked to create a shibori dye workshop for Dolan’s employees. “It was a luxurious experience working with the bolts of fabric compared to having to cut apart and resew t-shirt fabric. My family had to adjust to a living room inundated with fabric!"
Thinking about what inspires her specifically living in Los Angeles, Mimi recalled her long drives to Dolan from Culver City to Vernon via Clauson Ave. “I get inspiration from looking at all the colorful buildings, the murals, the unexpected architecture and storefronts." Mimi also gets inspiration working with unique, one-of-a-kind vintage clothing and costumes at Palace, an exclusive entertainment company that rents vintage clothing and costumes to the Hollywood film and T.V. industry.
Mimi has not given up her freelance photography. She has been passionately photographing vintage clothing and costumes at Palace. Her efforts at photographing the unique fashions will result in a large-scale coffee-table book, for which her editors are currently seeking a publisher.
As doors open for Mimi, she continues to create opportunities for herself combining her love of textile processes, engagement with materials, photography, fashion, installation, and most recently costume design. Her investigations into skirt hoop structures and designs, as part of her graduate experimentation, led her to opportunities on the LA listserv Yahoo Group lacustrine. There she was introduced to the Heidi Ducker Dance Company, which was looking for a costume designer for a dance called Enormous Womb performed at the Boston Court in Pasadena. Mimi designed a forty-foot-long hand-dyed organza tube for one of the dancers.
Mimi’s joie de vivre, open mindedness, enthusiasm, integrity for working hard, and her ability to connect with people of diverse backgrounds continues to create a rich life for this inspiring artist.