Written by Jean ThomasMany of us who identify ourselves as a fiber artist have encountered this question:  What is a fiber artist or what exactly do you mean by fiber.  We could reply with one of these definitions of fiber:

1.    A slender, threadlike structure that combines with others to form animal or vegetable tissue.
2.    Any substance that can be separated into threads or threadlike structures for spinning, weaving, etc.
3.    Any such thread or structure or a threadlike root.

But more likely we will either try something more specific or reply “Well, almost anything goes.”

We can also go to a catalog for a previous International and find some unusual choices.
In 2001 Kiki Revoir chose Ace bandage.

Kathleen Van Meter used window screen, nuts, bolts, and washers among other things.

Marcia Wolfson Ray chose marsh grass, straw wire and twine.


In 2004 Erna van Sambeek used painted barbed wire.


Fran Reed used bass skin, gut, fern, and willow.


Jerry Bleem employed fish scales and staples.


Overall the choices in 2007 were more “traditional”  but a few qualified as “unusual”: Mi-Kyoung Lee employed rubber bands and nails for her installation.


Nancy Koenigsberg chose annealed steel wire and coated copper wire.

The 2013 International catalog contained two examples: Sandra Jane Heard utilized vintage steel tape measures.


Carol Milne chose knitted wax.


On to 2016 plastic came to the fore a bit with Josh Richard using woven plastic construction fencing.


Steve Totin listed found plastic bottle caps and wire.


One more unusual fiber: plastic used by June Lee.

Enough about “unusual” fibers.  By far the choices of the majority of artists are more in line with what the vast majority of viewers (and artist as well) think of as “fiber.”