Artist takes a creative spin with byproduct of laundry

Eskau’s “Lint Project” premiered at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library on Nov. 11. The entire collection consists of art made from laundry lint and will run through Dec. 30. The project is four years in the making for Eskau, who began collecting lint in 2002.

The impetus for collecting lint came when Eskau moved into a new home. The move forced her to buy towels and sheets and a new washer and dryer.

She washed a pair of red flannel sheets and was amazed by the material that came out of her lint basket. She thought it was unique, so for the last four years she collected lint in boxes. For the majority of that time, she didn’t know what she was going to do with the lint. In December of last year, she discovered a way to present the material.

She said the work of Mark Rothko inspired her to create collages out of the lint.

Eskau’s work consists of framed pieces of lint panels that are assembled to make a large collage that will hang in the Athenaeum. There will be more than one collage in the exhibit and Eskau will have more than 60 panels on display in the gallery.

Similar to Rothko’s work, the lint panels are made up of bold, contrasting colors. The collection closely resembles fiber art, but Eskau said she feels that individual lint pieces speak for themselves. She did not try to weave it together, because she said the lint works best when it is not manipulated.

Eskau never intentionally washes clothes to get a certain color of lint, but she said flannel provides the best material for lint art. She added that, although most laundry lint is grey, she tries to use material with different colors.

The lint pieces in Eskau’s work come in all shapes and sizes. The material looks very ornate and delicate and so exquisite most people can’t tell it is laundry lint, Eskau said.

Each panel at the show costs $100. Eskau said that the price is very reasonable because each piece cannot be re-created and they are all handmade, but she’s happy her work is affordable.

Eskau’s passion for her work runs deep, but she has received some negative reactions to the idea of lint art. She said that has not deterred her enthusiasm.

“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Eskau said. “But, I love my lint. ... I always had faith in the collection.”

Eskau has been working in the arts for more than 20 years, but this is her first fine art show since 1986. Eskau stated she is constantly creating. She makes items from recycled material in her home all the time.

“I never throw anything away,” Eskau said. “Anything that has any beauty, function or value, I try to reconfigure. Eskau’s creativity led her to design wearable art and jewelry for the last two decades. At one point, she created a line of jewelry made of wooden floor panels.

The collection will be the Athenaeum’s Rotunda Gallery. A washer and dryer will be on display to accompany Eskau’s collection. Eskau said she is very excited to have a show at the Athenaeum because it is one of the most established art venues in La Jolla, with a history that spans more than 100 years.

Eskau has no qualms about being self-deprecating. She humorously refers to herself as a lintalist with an advanced degree in laundry science. She added that the only tools she used to create the collection were a washer and dryer from General Electric.

Eskau covets lint. She has friends and neighbors who save their laundry lint for her so she can use it in her work. Her fascination with the material continues today. She said she never gets tired of looking at the pieces she has created.

“There is a lot of subtlety,” Eskau said. “The more you look at them, the more you see.”

In addition to working as an artists, Eskau has a job in fine art sales at the Charles Hecht Gallery.

The Rotunda Gallery at the Athenaeum is adjacent to the main gallery. This section specifically displays the work of emerging artists. Eskau’s exhibition will run concurrently with the “Uncommon Metal: Jewelry as an Inventive Art Form” exhibition in the main gallery.

There will be an opening reception celebrating both Eskau’s show and the “Uncommon Metal” exhibition at the Athenaeum on Friday, Nov. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.