Focus On: Fiber content… or technique?

Welcome to our ongoing August blog series celebrating the final weeks 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.


All work must be either fiber in content or executed in a fiber technique.

Sometimes artists ask if the International accepts multimedia work, and we point them to the above line from the Entry Requirements page on the FI2016 prospectus. Does it sound prescriptive? Restrictive? Well, this is a show about fiber art, after all. The host galleries, the Society for Contemporary Craft and Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, should be full up with cottons, linens, wools, and silks. Right?

Sort of. And sometimes they are. But sometimes, they are full of other things. Like moss. Lottery tickets. Glass. Plastic feed sacks. Metal tape measures. Zip ties. Pipe cleaners. Anything, in fact, that can be woven, knotted, stitched, quilted, felted, dyed, spun; or made to look like it is. Anything that makes use of our human relationship with fiber to comment on the world. Anything that uses or references a fiber technique. What seems restrictive on the surface can be a pretty deep pool.

 

New Natural Occurence
Claire Taylor, “New Natural Occurence” featured in FI2010. Crushed plastic lid, cotton thread, french knot embroidery. 6″x5″x1″

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Focus on: Embroidery: a “gorgeous gut punch”

Welcome to our ongoing August, 2015 blog series celebrating the final month 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.


The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh, who produce the International, started life as the Embroiderer’s Guild back in the ’60’s. As embroiderers, they were technically excellent at their craft.

But something happened to change their focus. Jay van Wagenen writes in the Summer 2015 issue of Fiber Art Now:

Back in 1976, the needlewomen of what was then the Embroiderer’s Guild of Pittsburgh looked forward to their biennial member show. Their best work, meticulously crafted over the previous two years, had been submitted to the juror and preparations for the event were well underway. But the juror declined to cooperate. Instead, he delivered the verdict that changed the direction of the group: Technique is not enough to carry the craft to art form.” There was no show.

A period of voracious research and reevaluation followed, and by the 1980’s, the Guild was producing Fiberart International in the more expanded, challenging format we’d recognize today. But even though the tablecloths and pillowcases disappeared, embroidery remains.

 

Last Word
Kate Kretz, “The Final Word” Featured in FI2013. Black cotton velvet, French knots, embroidered. 20″x16″ United States

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Focus On: Using Fabric to Tell a Story

If you’re just joining us, this is Entry #2 in our August, 2015 series celebrating the different interpretations of fiber art that we’ve loved seeing in past Internationals.


Fiber artists are particular about sourcing our materials. Mindful material use might enrich a work that focuses on a specific time or place, or help us achieve just the end result we want. We can grow our own dye plants, spin our own thread, weave just the right fabric to carry our point across. That’s part of the beauty of fiber as a medium.

But access to ready-made materials is an important part of our tradition too. The same eye for detail that leads one artist to hand-gather thousands of seeds for a project can lead another to source a pre-made fabric that infuses a piece with meaning and creates just as much impact on the viewer as something custom.

 

Oh, You Know... The Colored Girl
Joy Ude, “Oh, You Know… The Colored Girl”, featured in FI2013. Nigerian fabric, etched brass plate, printed jacquard fabric. 9″ x 27″ x 9″

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Focus On: Shibori

Fiber art can be an elusive thing to define. In past Internationals, we’ve featured glass sculpted to look like knitting, baskets spiked with plastic cable ties, and even a video of an artist interacting with a fiber artifact.  What is fiber? What is the International about?

To explore that idea and celebrate the month leading up to the FI2016 Entry Deadline, we’re going to dedicate this blog page for the next few weeks to exploring some of the many interpretations of fiber art that we’ve loved seeing in past Internationals. Hopefully, we’ll encourage you to include your own work in our festival of fiber, and dig into the possibilities of the medium!

We’ll start with a traditional technique used in an extraordinarily painterly way by one of the Fiberart Guild of Pittsburgh’s own members, Jan Myers-Newbury.

Wildfire
“Wildfire” by Jan Myers-Newbury, winner of the Louetta Heindl Kambic Memorial Award for Outstanding Use of Shibori in the Fiberart International 2010

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