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Fabric Collage Is Fun, Inexpensive And Easy To Learn, He Says

On a pretty autumn afternoon, the downtown Nashville skyline looks like a scale model when viewed from the 18th floor observation deck of the Leah Rose Residence for Senior Citizens.

Inside, retired cardiac nurse Marie Falquet cuts thin strips of cloth from a woman’s blouse and carefully arranges them side-by-side on the back of a small picture frame. Each different-sized piece bears the printed image of a building, and soon, a black-and-white cityscape emerges with a street-level perspective. She adds red flowers, beads and other splashes of color. 

“I do other kinds of art, but this is fun because I’ve never done it before,” the 73-year-old chirps as she works. “It makes you want to go to your closet and get some of your clothes and cut them up.”

That won’t be necessary. Falquet’s art instructor, Jim Hornsby, has brought plenty of supplies for the handful of students in his class. Should they run out, he knows where there is an inexhaustible source of inexpensive materials for the fabric collages he is teaching them to make — Goodwill.

It was at Goodwill where Hornsby, a retired attorney and administrative judge, first struck upon the idea for the unique brand of artwork that has become his passion. About six months ago, the Nashville resident injured his knee, and after a few days on the couch, he grew weary of watching TV. He started cutting images from the magazines on his coffee table to make collages. Hornsby had always dabbled in art and photography, but he had never been fully satisfied with his efforts.

He enjoyed this new pastime, however, and once his knee improved, he began traveling to Goodwill to buy frames for his artwork. He found plenty of frames, often for as little as 99 cents, and they inspired him to create collages to match their wide variety of shapes and sizes. Then, during one particular visit to Goodwill, he noticed the store’s clothing and how it was arranged by color.

“It’s like an artist’s palette, with all the reds and blues,” he explains.

Upon closer inspection he saw that many of the garments — especially women’s blouses — came in an amazing variety of textures with beautiful patterns, ranging from abstract designs to detailed figures or faces. He bought some of the blouses, took them home and began creating collages from the fabric.

Hornsby was hooked. Before he knew it he was churning out one or more fabric collages per day.

Hornsby’s wife, Lilly, and others loved his creations, and he was amazed by how simple they were to make. In essence, he cuts out pieces of fabric, moves them around until he is satisfied with the composition — often giving them an unexpected context, then frames the art.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, but you can put it together any way you want. That’s the joy of doing this kind of thing,” he says. “You really can’t make a mistake. If you can operate a pair of scissors, you can create this artwork.”

Because most fabrics cling in place, a sharp pair of scissors and a tiny bit of glue are the only tools required. All the rest can be readily found at Goodwill.

Hornsby raves about his new art supply store.

“Goodwill works on so many levels … . It’s a very inspirational place for me,” he says. “They have women’s wear that is very classic clothing that could probably be found in an art museum somewhere. I get all my frames and fabrics there. It’s very seldom that I walk out without anything, because it’s just so plentiful.”

The price is certainly right, Hornsby adds. Most of his framed art pieces are produced for under $10 — less than the cost of a single tube of watercolor paint.

As an enthusiastic recycler, he appreciates that Goodwill prevents the clothing he uses for art and other valuable items from going to landfills. And as a former attorney and judge, he likes that Goodwill sells its merchandise to improve people’s lives through free job training and employment opportunities.

But best of all is the creative release he gets from doing his artwork. Famed artist Pablo Picasso, a pioneer of collage, once said embarking on a painting gave him the sensation of “leaping into space.” Hornsby knows that feeling well, and he wants to share it with others — especially the elderly.

Being 72, he says he empathizes with seniors who need to fill space in their lives once occupied by jobs, parenting and other practical obligations. So he decided to offer to teach free classes in the “Art of Goodwill’ at a few local retirement and assisted living centers.

“I wanted a hobby that keeps me busy intellectually and physically,” Hornsby says, explaining that his treasure-hunting expeditions at Goodwill get him out of the house. “I think anybody can use this method of collage, but it’s especially attractive to seniors because (unlike other types of art) it doesn’t take so much time and effort to get into.”

He’s found some eager students at Leah Rose who share his perspective.

“I can hardly wait until class on Fridays,” Falquet says. “I wish even more people would come. You’re never too old to learn something new.”



  1. Fabric and frames from Goodwill
  2. Small “detail” scissors
  3. All-purpose glue (and a small dish to hold it)
  4. Toothpicks to handle the glue (not much is required)


  1. Select your fabrics from Goodwill. Look for for repetitive patterns and striking images. Don’t forget to buy a frame!
  2. Cut out the central object or image you wish to build your collage around.
  3. Cut out a background fabric to fit the frame you will use. Drape the background across the backing of the frame. Ensure there is enough to fill the frame.
  4. Place your central image on the background.
  5. Cut out other shapes and colors to balance the composition. Add other media like paper or beads if you like.
  6. Arrange all the cut-outs into different contexts until you are satisfied.
  7. Glue down any items as needed.
  8. Carefully place the glass over your collage and insert into the frame. Or, leave the glass out so the texture of the fabric can be touched and enjoyed.
  9. Hang up your artwork and enjoy!
“The opportunity to participate in art classes gives our seniors an outlet to engage their minds. It challenges them to think outside-the-box and delve into self-expression. And when you foster someone's mind, you can also see his or her spirits rise. Keeping spirits up is an important factor in helping seniors stay active and healthy, so the Leah Rose is grateful to Mr. Hornsby for donating his time to this cause.”

- Christy Moore, Activities Coordinator, Leah Rose Residence for Seniors

  • Cathy Cox
    Posted at 08:14h, 20 March Reply

    Missed this class would love to see another one scheduled!!!

    • Candace Newson
      Posted at 15:06h, 22 March Reply

      Hi Cathy. There will be another class at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at the Bellevue Goodwill, 7663 U.S. Highway 70S in Nashville. If you can attend, please email chris.fletcher@givegw.org ASAP because there are only a few spots left. Thank you!

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