By Debbie Burke
Heidi Hooper of Stroudsburg used to be a sculptor, but after losing dexterity in her right hand due to cancer, she had to find another outlet for her art. She considered clay and paper but it didn’t grab her.
One day as her mother-in-law was visiting and helping with laundry, they saw the huge, colorful pile of lint that some chenille blankets had left behind. “I said, ‘I could do something with this’,” recalled Heidi.
Though she considers her first attempts “primitive,” the artwork she began (portraits, riffs on famous paintings) soon caught on and was even acknowledged by Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. She has since been shown at various regional galleries like A Mano in Lambertville, NJ and at science fiction conventions, where she was an Artist Guest of Honor and invited to participate as a panelist. Heidi has also received two Niche Awards, which are given to professional artists from the US and Canada. HGTV and DIY found her art online and included her on their websites.
Creating art from lint is a labor-intensive process. Heidi has 778 small boxes organized by color, filling a large walk-in closet. The finished artwork is placed behind glass and must remain permanently framed otherwise the material will move. Still, one question lingers: does she really do that much laundry? “I have fans all over the world who send me lint,” Heidi said. “I still buy colorful towels to get good lint, but I mostly rely on the kindness of strangers! I reward my contributors each year with a signed print or other art.”
The subject matter in her illustrations includes animals and tributes to the old masters. “I call them ‘selfies’ because I work the artists into the work. They’re portrait bombs!” A lot of her clients request their pets, and one wanted a large piece of himself playing poker with his cats. Others like wolves or chickens. She’s had two separate requests for a portrayal of Salvador Dali, and has done a piece inspired by midcentury artist René Magritte.
Two little-known facts about the artist: she loves cats and a percentage of her income goes to local animal rescue groups like Animals Can’t Talk.
For more information, visit www.heidihooper.com.