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'Is this art machine washable?' Forest Grove apparel artist hits Portland Audubon's Wild Arts Festival

By Dillon Pilorget
The Oregonian

Brie Kriebel wanted to keep all her fingers, and she'd already struggled with allergic reactions to the sawdust in her husband's cabinetry shop. So she left Hardwood Design and sought her degree in apparel design, trading the bandsaw's militant rise and fall for the flutter of a sewing machine.

'Is this art machine washable?' Forest Grove apparel artist hits Portland Audubon's Wild Arts Festival

Brie Kriebel stitches one of her applique designs onto a vest in her Forest Grove studio on Nov. 13, 2014. Kriebel is peparing for the Audubon Society of Portland's Wild Arts Festival on Nov. 22 and 23. Dillon Pilorget/Forest Grove Leader

Brie Kriebel wanted to keep all her fingers, and she'd already struggled with allergic reactions to the sawdust in her husband's cabinetry shop. So she left Hardwood Design and sought her degree in apparel design, trading the bandsaw's militant rise and fall for the flutter of a sewing machine.

Already equipped with some knowledge of the fiber arts from her days weaving tapestries and yarn, and having decided "It's okay to use fabric that exists," Kriebel entered her program determined to stick with design.

Many of her peers, she said, ended up in production for companies like Nike and Columbia Sportswear, not getting to truly exercise their design credentials. Kriebel would not accept this fate.

Enter Brie Kriebel Clothing, her own company for which she gets to do design, along with just about everything else. She orders bulk clothing pieces, dyes them, picks fabric and creates colorful appliqués.

Though she has an assistant who helps around her studio, which shares a parking lot with her husband's shop, Kriebel does the stitching herself. As her Singer sewing machine hums buoyantly, it doesn't betray its age, which comes in just shy of her own 60 years.

On a gray Thursday afternoon, her needle bounces through some fabric depicting a cardinal, which she's attaching to a similarly red vest. She describes her work as "pretty Northwest," owing to her affection for nature scenes and her lifetime in the region.

The cardinal piece, and all its size variations, will go with her to the Audubon Society of Portland's Wild Arts Festival on Nov. 22 and 23. The festival brings Northwest artists like Kriebel together to sell their work, giving part of their earnings to the wildlife and habitat protection organization.

Despite profitable sales over the years, Kriebel said her work is still progressing. Recently, she saw an old piece for sale on eBay and was embarrassed to think she'd created it. But even today, success on a piece is intangible, she said. She simply knows it when she sees it.

"I know I'm not doing high art that's going to change anybody's life," she admits, but it makes her happy and does the same for her customers. Besides, she gets to keep her fingers.

The Audubon Society of Portland's Wild Arts Festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at Montgomery Park, 2701 NW Vaughn St. in Portland. Admission costs $6 for adults over age 16. Parking is free. For a full list of artists, authors, activities and auction items, see the event website.

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