Creating ties that bind

Weekend Glitz | 1 Dec 2017

Katie Hung

Men wear ties, Grace Tam and her friends destroy then convert them into art. Underpinning this form of craft is the idea that in nothing is useless. A discarded tie could return to its first purpose: adornment.

One way to go about this craft, Tam explained, is as follows: starting with a plain clutch, picture a design, bring in the cut pieces of ties and then imagine how you might re-assemble them onto the bag.

Bits of ties become bags, bits of used papers become collage art, and menswear become a woman's clothing accessory. Art is born.

A collection of Tam's collage artwork as well as those of like-minded friends are on display at the Regal Airport Hotel. Titled Tie.Journey, the exhibition is opened to the public until January 27.

Organized by Les Beatitudes, a charity set up to create income for stay-at-home mothers, the collection of collages and bags are designed by local artists then handmade by the women.

Neckties are a primary raw material. The ties are washed, sterilized and ironed before they are cut into the appropriate shapes. In describing their work, Tam prefers the word "upcycling" to "recycling" as art is involved. "Collage combines different things together," she said.

For example, a collage of ties on a clutch bag is a composition of silk on top of polyester, cotton or linen. Tam also designs collages out of wastepaper and magazines.

QR codes and barcodes also make excellent collage material. In one design, Tam stuck those paper codes on a Star Ferry design to not just contrast past and present but also recall childhood memories.

"The most important part of collages is finding the right materials," she said. "Once you find suitable pieces, the work process wouldn't take long. If not, you can't even finish a work in weeks."

Her artist friend Garlin Lee said a lot of trial and error goes with the art. There were times, after the first attempt at assembling a collage, she "could not feel that the pieces were at the right place" so she would try another design.

To artists like Tam and Lee, the real challenge is designing a collage on a clutch because of the many ways a collage can be put together.

For example, said Lee, the sea could be represented by a single tie with uneven color patterns or strips of ties stitched together. But she discarded the latter idea as it proved too thick and unwieldy.

Sometimes, simple is best. In the end, she simplified the composition, patterns and colors. One tie was enough, she found.

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