Sydney artist Toby Jones defies categorisation. In his 15-year career he’s worked as art director for fashion label Ksubi, as a graphic designer and on music videos. He also dabbles in jewellery and furniture design.
For his most-recent project he has been scouring op shops from Tasmania to the NSW Central Coast to buy as many cast-off woollen blankets as he can find.
You know the ones. They’re the silk-trimmed, Australian-made chequered wool blankets your grandma had, stored in the back of the car, on the spare bed or thrown into the picnic basket.
His mission is to repurpose these household staples of old and transform them into a thing of beauty he hopes will once again find a place in people’s hearts and homes.
“I kept finding more and more of them and I couldn’t believe they had become rubbish,” Jones says. “They’re 100 per cent wool and nobody wanted them, they were being cast aside but some of them are essentially antiques – 30 to 50 years old. So the idea was to reinvent them and make them a semi-precious item again.”
Jones is using the traditional technique of shibori dying to transform the blankets. It’s a time-consuming process that involves carefully removing the label and trims for re-attachment later, washing, cleaning, mending, tying or binding, dyeing, drying and heat treating before washing and drying them again with the labels and trim finally stitched back on. The result is either a beautiful wall hanging or what Jones refers to as “functional art”.
“It’s an experimental technique; you never know what you’re going to get so every one is different,” says Jones. “I found one that was a frightening tangerine orange and wanted to do something interesting, so I turned it into a pattern that resembles tiger skin.”
Titled Re-Up, the blanket project ties in with Jones’ interest in recycling and upcycling. He’s also pledged to donate 10 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the blankets – which range from $500–$800 – to the Salvation Army Oasis Youth Support Network in Surry Hills.
“A lot of the time these blankets were being used as dog blankets, but they’re something people living on the street could use,” Jones says. “This is a way of giving more than just a $5 blanket. Instead I can give $50 or $80 from each blanket, which will hopefully go further.”