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″

Part of a series called “Objects of Affection,” “New Natural Occurence” by Claire C. Taylor features a trashed coffee cup lid which the artist chooses to lavish with painstaking french knot embroidery. The tiny knots mimic mold or moss accumulating around the rim and lip of the lid, where a hand might have grasped or a mouth might have touched.

The fiber material and technique serve to bring a commonplace piece of trash sharply to our attention. With the addition of embroidery, the coffee cup cover becomes a fetish object: the placement of the knots recalls lips brushing the lid, the inside of a palm wrapped around a warm vessel. It’s also a bit of an embarrassing remnant of a moment’s need for instant gratification, rescued from oblivion and put on display. Portability and convenience have a price, we’re reminded: nothing disappears. The half-covered lid reminds us of the decades plastic takes to degrade. It’s only been partially digested. Efforts to hide the problem are ineffectual –  the objects of our affection still peek out at us from among the careful trash cans and landscaping designed to make us forget.

The non-fiber material, plastic, is at the heart of this piece. A mock coffee cup lid made of fabric wouldn’t have the same disconcerting effect – we need the contrast of the actual mass-produced object with the handmade, the disposable object adorned by careful craftsmanship.  It’s a jarring partnership.

Let’s continue the “mossy” aesthetic… but in a totally different direction!

Greetings from the Forest
Anna Goebel, “Greetings from the Forest” featured in FI2013. Cellulose, moss, hand-made paper; own technique. 70.75″ x 94.5″

Yes. It’s moss.

Greetings from the Forest detailI’m not sure how Anna Goebel does what she does. In the FI2013 catalog, she lists her method as “own technique,” which generally means that the artist has spent painstaking hours figuring out how to extract something that only exists within her own imagination, and doesn’t care to give away her secret. The result is ethereal but ineradicable, like a sky full of clouds or a windy grassland seen from the air.

Anna says:

My works are the result of my imagination, my longings and my searching. They have been conceived from my fascination with nature and express my attitude towards it. By using and transforming simple, common, available and even useless materials like wrapping paper, grass, leaves, straw… I try to give them a new meaning and value. To create my last work Greetings from the ForestI combined white cellulose with materials which I got directly from nature.

Like “New Natural Occurence,” “Greetings from the Forest” tries to give importance to something simple. But in this case, Anna is placing the fibers of the moss itself before us for contemplation. The original material from the natural world is given pride of place here, embedded within the fibrous art of papermaking.

Stepping away from the natural world:

Captain America Suit
Rebecca Seimering, “Captain America Suit” featured in FI2013. Found lottery tickets, dental floss, man’s suit. 72″ x 30″ x 24″


Discarded lottery tickets and dental floss? Far cry from those embroidered pillowcases in the last post. But Rebecca Siemering works her fiber knowledge 100%.

Rebecca says:

The lottery is the most democratic of ways to make a buck. Any day, someone can climb to win, and then turn around and slide down a serpentine slope the next. There is no time to waste, and the lottery is anybody’s game. Captain America Suit is part of a collection that reflects the desire for something better… and in the end, the good life is manifested from one’s own labor. To sew, cut and knot these items is to make something from nothing; inch-by-inch and stitch-by-stitch, to get through the day and make it shine.

Sewing, cutting and knotting: fiber techniques applied to non-fiber objects weave a cohesive whole. These are great techniques, as Rebecca observes, to make something from nothing and give dignity to the discarded.

Last one for the day, because you’ve got to make time for the playful knitted glass of Carol Milne.

Free & Easy
Carol Milne, “Free & Easy” featured in FI2013. Knitted wax (stockinette stitch); kiln-cast lead crystal (glass), lost wax casting technique. 7″ x 6″ x12″ (per sock)

Carol says:

Knitted socks exude comfort. They are soft, cozy, and warm. But just as one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, these socks have lost the comfort qualities we associate with knitting. Where once we noticed the touch and pliability of the material, the emphasis shifts now to the structure of the material itself. We see the twisting interconnection between the stitches, the deepening of color where the stitches overlap, and the spaces between the stitches. Once flexible fabric able to mold to our bodies, it is now rigid and fragile: nice to look at, but totally impractical to wear.

An unexpected switch in materials leads to a switch in what we notice about an object. The structure of the knitting is clearer than ever in the crisp glass – even as our brains struggle with the impossibility of what we’re seeing!

So bring us your metal artifacts lined with peyote-stitch beadwork. Let’s see those embroidered teapots, and please don’t forget the x-ray piecework you know you have tucked away somewhere. This, and more, is fiberart. This is how we relate to objects in the world we live in.