Heather Jones at her sewing machine.

Photo courtesy of Heather Jones.

Heather Jones, who uses textiles as other artists use paint to create bold contemporary work, is one of 16 artists selected as the first artists-in-residence at Black Rock Senegal, a new artist’s retreat in Senegal, West Africa.

Black Rock Senegal, located in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, and named for the dramatic black volcano rocks that line the shore, was established by portraitist Kehinde Wiley, perhaps best known for his portrait of President Barak Obama. Three artists at a time will spend 1 to 3 months at the stunning complex, which was designed by Senegalese architect Abib Djenne, with interior design input from Wiley.

Kehinde Wiley at Black Rock Senegal.

Photo courtesy of Black Rock Senegal.

“I’m honored and excited to be included in the inaugural class at Black Rock Senegal,” says Jones, who applied after seeing a post on Wiley’s Instagram feed.  “I was drawn to this residency because of its location. I spent ten days in Marrakech, Morocco, earlier this year, and I fell in love with the traditional handmade goods of that region.”

“When I learned about Black Rock Senegal, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to learn about traditional Senegalese handicrafts, particularly textiles, and to create a body of work where I incorporate them into my art.”


The resident artists, chosen by a panel of established artists and museum professionals, includes painters, photographers, fiber artists, writers and film makers. They will have three-story private residences with fully stocked kitchens, living/dining/sleeping space, and adjacent studios, as well as the use of a spa, gym, infinity pool, chef, and staff, including a language tutor. There is also a stipend for incidentals and additional art supplies. Wiley also has a residence and studio there.

 Jones, who will be there for most of October, will bring some fabric from home but plans to purchase a lot of textiles in Dakar.

“So many things about the textiles in Senegal are appealing,” she says. “I am drawn to the visual surface qualities of color and textures, but I’m also interested in exploring the historical and political role of textiles in the area as well.”

“The Lights are On” by Heather Jones

Photo courtesy of Heather Jones

“Bring Me the Dawn” by Heather Jones

Photo courtesy of Heatehr Jones

“Can’t Always Be Strong” by Heather Jones

Photo courtesy of Heather Jones

She has some idea of what she wants to create, “but I will also see what happens when I am there, and try to figure things out as I go. I don’t want to go in with too many preconceived ideas. I would rather work in the moment and be open to creative ideas that develop as I am there.”

In her work, Jones explores the possibilities of color and shape, often through geometric and striped compositions.

“I am drawn to fabric, to its familiarity, its inherent qualities of saturated color and textural luminosity, and its invitation to be touched. Fabric reflects, captures, and interacts with light in a way that no paint can. I choose to create paintings with fabric because it feels honest: clean lines are formed between colors through the process of being sewn together, rather than through the use of an artificial barrier like tape. By manipulating fabric and pulling it taut, seam lines shift and stretch, revealing their final placement only once the painting is finished.”

She is also interested in the historical and socio-political relationship between women and textiles and women’s work and between gender, place, time, and culture.

“Conceptually, my work carries on the tradition of woman as maker, pushes the boundary between fine art and craft, and questions the definition of painting.”

Jones, who lives on a small farm just outside Cincinnati with her husband and two children, is a three-time winner of the Project Modern Quilt Design competition held by the Modern Quilt Guild, is exhibited in a variety of venues, and is the author of Quilt Local: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday.

Roberta G. Wax

Roberta G. Wax


Roberta Wax is an award-winning journalist and imperfect crafter. A former news reporter, her freelance articles and projects have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, from the Los Angeles Times and Emmy magazine to Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset Studio, Craftideas, Belle Armoire, etc. She has also designed for craft companies. Although she has no art background she was a crafty Girl Scout leader. www.creativeunblock.com

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