Art of the Week: “Before and After the Drought”

“Before and After”

Textile, 48h x 54w

Bonnie J. Smith

Santa Clara Branch NLAPW






Bonnie Smith tells stories of life through her textile art. Smith created “Before and After,” part of the Drought series, to bring the water issues of California to the attention of the world: water rationing, crop loss, dried-up lakes followed by flooding, more crop loss, damage/destruction of homes and infrastructure.


Smith used photographs of water habitats she took over time to print on cotton fabrics. After cutting the fabrics into large sheets she pieced them into a kimono shape. The style of stitching came to her as she was working. “The work speaks to me, the fabrics let me know what they need to finish telling the story.”


Bonnie Smith’s textile art tells the stories of her life.  “With the ‘Drought’ series I am currently working on it is my goal to bring the water issues we deal with in my state to the world.  First, not enough water and all of the havoc that the drought brought to our everyday lives, the rationing, loss of crops, and with the drying up of lakes and rivers how it simply affected our enjoyment of our local terrain. Then too much water brought flooding, loss again of crops, flooding of homes and destroying our infrastructure.  Always, taking pictures of water habitats around me, I was overwhelmed when I saw how the differences of each environmental system overwhelmed our personal lives.


“In the creating of ‘Before and After the Drought,’ I studied for a long time pictures I had taken of Alviso Salt Marshes which are located in the Northern California Bay Area. Devastated by what I was looking at currently and what I had seen before and then again when the rains started fiercely coming in that region I always knew I needed to create a work to let others see what the drought had done to our preserve.


“My process was to print the photographs onto cotton fabrics. Using two different weights of fabrics gave me the desired effect. Cutting the printed fabrics into large sheets I was able to piece them into a kimono style which gave me the finished textile I had envisioned. The style of stitching came to me while I was creating the artwork.  This always happens to me on all of my  textiles. The work speaks to me, the fabrics let me know what they need to finish telling the story. I do feel the finished textile tells the story of Alviso Salt Marshes. Nature does seem to somehow heal itself but for how long can and under what extreme circumstances can nature keep recreating itself.”


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  2. Exquisite work, addressing a timely and urgent subject. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Dorothy Kamm says:

    Interesting artwork and interesting story behind it. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the thought process and creative process that went into this piece of textile art.

  4. Sara Etgen-Baker says:

    Fascinating process! Your craft is truly unique. I’m impressed. There is hope after any drought, even after our own personal drought periods. Your art did shed light on drought conditions. Also, your art symbolized personal drought to me.