Focus On: Beading, one stitch at a time

Welcome to the last entry in our August, 2015 blog series celebrating the final days to enter your artwork for consideration into FI2016! We’re highlighting different artist’s interpretations of fiber art that we’ve loved seeing in past Internationals.

According to textile scholar Elizabeth Wayland Barber (Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years), some of the very oldest evidences of fiber we know about are the strings and sinews that were used to link pieces of bone and stone together: the very first beads.

Textile artists have come a long way from stringing shells together. We’ve developed embroidering, weaving, looming, stitching: all ways of bringing thousands of glittering separate pieces together to create a work of art. Flat or sculptural, as an ornament for fabric or as a dense, shimmering fabric of its own, beadwork is a significant part of the fiberart tradition.

Urban Artifact Undulation

Annette Tacconelli, “Urban Artifact: Undulation” featured in FI2007. Found metal, beads, and thread; weaving with beads, loom construction and assemblage. 6.5″ x 1″ x 8″

In her “Urban Artifacts” series, Annette Tacconelli uses beadwork to transform found metal bits into sculptures that feel surprisingly alive, complete, and whole. About “Urban Artifacts,” Annette says:

My urban artifacts are one of my most beloved and philosophically truthful bodies of work. I begin by harvesting discarded rusty bits of a forlorn modern world. I wash the metal. I shut my eyes and see the metal’s next incarnation. Most pieces are made from over 10,000 beads, built one bead at a time. Using only the bead, thread and tension I create the ruffled volume or flat expanse. It takes approximately six months per creation. Here the mundane, the soulful and the imperfect become prayers.

You can draw a visual comparison between Annette’s beadwork and the shimmery scales of a snake, or the pattern of bumps on a lizard’s back. Here’s some more of her work from FI2010: an almost anthropomorphic form you feel might flip over or crawl away at any moment:

Urban Artifact 13

Annette Tacconelli, “Urban Artifact #13 – Moving Still” featured in FI2010. Found metal and wooden wheel, seed beads, thread. Peyote stitch work. 6″ x 10″ x 5″

Urban Artifact (detail)

Urban Artifact #13 – Moving Still (detail of Peyote stitch beadwork)

Taking the anthropomorphic one step further is Christy Puetz’ 2005 piece, Magdalena.


Christy Puetz, “Magdalena” featured in FI2007. Glass seed beads, cloth, wood, milagros, doll head. Glass beads embroidered onto cloth form. 7″ x 12″ x 6″

Christy’s beadwork also shimmers seductively – making for a piece that you’re torn between wanting to reach out and touch… or back away from.

Beadwork can also be synonymous with decorative excess, and my favorite example of this over-the-top ornamentation is FI2013’s sumptuous She Speaks Folly in a Thousand Holy Ways by Samantha Fields.

She Speaks Folly

Samantha Fields, “She Speaks Folly in a Thousand Holy Ways” featured in FI2013. Recovered afghan, beads. 78″ x 43″ x 22″

Beadwork has a seductively tactile quality to it, and when picked up, is often much heavier than you expect it to be. Samantha plays on this idea by deliberately letting the piece sag and puddle on the floor – as the viewer, you’re compelled to both straighten it up and, at the same time, run your fingers through the glossy, messy excess.

Close up, the resemblance of the beads to some kind of sugary, cancerous growth is emphasized.

She Speaks Folly (detail)

She Speaks Folly in a Thousand Holy Ways (detail)

Samantha says:

I create hybrids of form, social constructs, and disparate categories. I see these hybrids with their excess of ornament as an elevation of what has been traditionally considered devolution of a sophisticated western society. I am interested in a visual language that has been associated with the feminine, the infantile, the primitive or relegated to be superficial, excess, and considered unworthy of serious consideration.

Whether your beadwork is flat or sculptural, organic or precise – We’re exited to see what new forms you’ve been creating with beads.

Focus On: Video

Welcome to our ongoing August, 2015 blog series celebrating the final days to enter your artwork for consideration into FI2016! We’re highlighting different artist’s interpretations of fiber art that we’ve loved seeing in past Internationals.

OK, really? Video? Wasn’t the last post bad enough with the lottery tickets and the glass? Where’s the fiber art?

Hear me out. It won’t take long!

Ritual often makes use of fabric. Maybe it’s a piece of special clothing adorning the body, like a baby’s christening gown, or a cloth that’s employed in ceremony, like a chuppah at a Jewish wedding. Or the bit of lace veil that both conceals and reveals a bride’s face in many traditions.

Video is a wonderful medium for recording the act of ritual itself, and April Dauscha uses it to great effect when she films the use of her unique handmade needle-run lace artifacts. April uses her custom-made ceremonial garments to stage intimate personal rituals of penance, contrition, dressing, and undressing.

Act of Contrition still

April Dauscha, “Act of Contrition” (still). Featured in FI2013. Video; handmade needle-run lace veil

This is a still from April’s 2012 silent video, “Act of Contrition.” View the entire video here. It’s about 4 minutes long and well worth it – remember, even though you’ll see her lips moving, it’s a silent video so don’t fiddle with your speakers; nothing’s wrong!

April says:

Lace speaks of purity and sexuality, it reveals and conceals, it is humble, yet gluttonous in its ornamental overindulgence. Lace is the ultimate dichotomy. I use it as a potent symbol to represent the duality of body and soul, right and wrong, good and evil. The story of the fall of man and the origin of ‘original sin,’ was developed around the story of Adam and Eve. Act of Contrition is a video piece that highlights this fall, our struggle with imperfection – the veiled mouth focuses on a site of imperfection, the water becomes a symbol of cleansing, and the fall of the lace portrays our struggle.

As the artist voicelessly whispers her confessional, the lace serves to simultaneously highlight the fact that she’s speaking and silence her voice. It’s as if she can only speak through its refined filter.

Video is the perfect medium with which to view this lace ritual. We see the lace contact the skin, the movement of the lips, the drip of the cleansing water; we get to watch a practice begin, sustain, and end. At the heart of the act is the piece of handmade lace, shining light on yet another facet of our complex, long-standing, human relationship with fiber.

Watch April’s other videos here!