Vanessa Barragao | Eclectic Trends
Textile, or fiber, artistry is one of the oldest art forms in human civilization. Dating back to prehistoric times, the use of textiles was focused on clothing, blankets and shelters for keeping warm or even vessels for holding goods. As civilization evolved, textiles were increasingly seen as a decorative art medium in and of themselves, which could be manipulated to create beautiful, as well as functional items.
Crafts, such as the macrame owls and plant hangers of the 1970s, are what many people associate with fiber or textile art. But today, a bevy of fiercely talented and visionary artists, including weavers, embroiderers, quilters and more, are drawing from the techniques of the past to reflect contemporary issues and attitudes (without any owls in sight).
If you are familiar with tapestries, quilts, lace, tatting, macramé, embroidery, crewel and dream catchers, think of all of those, add some steroids, and you still won’t be able to imagine the “funtastic” photos you are about to view. I am in awe of the people who think up and figure out how to create these stunning pieces of art.
Here are 15 fiber artists you should have on your radar, including four who create their phenomenal art right here in St. Louis. I have a feeling their work will have you rethinking using fiber art in your home. I know I’d love to have any one of these amazing creations in mine.
This immensely talented Portuguese craftswoman creates “living corals” from the processed remnants of fabrics, yarn, thread, anything intended to be discarded at the textile factories of the city. Her latest work, “The Coral Garden” is a large-scale panel that demonstrates the impact of climate change and ocean pollution from industrial waste; from a bright variety of shapes and colors, these textile reefs turn into a lifeless, colorless mass. (Design Boom)
“The more I learned about the nature of coral reefs, the more acutely I realized the importance of underwater ecosystems for the life of the entire planet. At some point, I realized that I was obliged to devote my work to protecting the natural environment, to tell people about the threat to the very existence of these amazing sea creatures.” — Vanessa Barragao
“The Coral Garden” | Design Boom | Courtesy Studio Vanessa Barragao
Design Boom | Courtesy of Studio Vanessa Barragao
Luana Rubin + Hollis Chatelain
Both Luana and Hollis created quilts for the “Water is Life” exhibit at the United Nations’ Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2016. The exhibit, which commemorated UN World Water Day, was comprised of 41 quilts by women from Europe and North America. Its purpose was to highlight the crucial need for women and girls from around the world to have access to clean water.
Luana Rubin “Rocky Mountain Poison”
“Water is the source of life on this planet, and if we poison our own water sources, we are poisoning our future. Many more stories about contaminated water will surface in the coming years, and we need to find a way to change our policies so these problems are stated truthfully to the communities affected. Without safe water, we have nothing.” — Luana Rubin
Hollis Chatelain The Source of Life
“Water is the source of life. We sing and dance to it, pray for it and dream and write about it. Water quenches our thirst, grows our food, washes us and gives us means of play and relaxation. As our world becomes more crowded and our resources diminish, our water will become more cherished, causing us to rethink our lifestyle.” — Hollis Chatelain
SAINT LOUIS SPOTLIGHT: MARIANNE BAER
Marianne Baer is a multi-talented artist whose work continues to evolve. Having worked with clay for many years, she has continued to advance her love of pattern and color to textiles. “I love to travel and take photos of colors, patterns, textures and other visually interesting things…often up close,” said Marianne. “The result can be an indecipherable image, mostly a pattern or colored surface. After learning how to print my photos onto soft cotton, I found it irresistable NOT to sew, embellish and alter the photo with various fibers and threads. The result is almost 3D!”
Marianne also creates beautiful custom ceramic tile backsplashes, fireplaces and floors and enjoys repurposing old sweaters or scraps into soft wall sculptures, felted jewelry and wearables. (Read more about Marianne and her art HERE).
Alice Kettle is a contemporary textile/fiber artist based in the UK. She is also currently a professor in Textile Arts in MIRIAD Manchester School of Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. Kettle is an embroiderer, whose seemingly random placement of felt is quite deliberate and produces the most amazing figurative pieces. She describes her work at a sewing machine–her “trade tool”–as “story-telling informed by the process of making.” The works evolve and develop in an unpredictable way and tend to be very large in scale.
“I make figurative pieces. I think I am a maker, I love stitching. This doesn’t mean that it is without intellect, since every mark and thought requires a creative response which articulates my response to the world, to life and my particular aspirations.” — Alice Kettle
Alice Kettle | University of Oxford
American artist Sara Schneidman creates rugs (all free of child labor) based on original watercolors. Each rug is rich in color and is hand knotted and carved to create a texture using New Zealand wool by craftsmen in Nepal. In addition to her beautiful rugs, Sara also creates pottery, paintings and stationery.
“My work comes out of my early and continued exposure to many cultures, my love of color, texture and pattern and my search for essence and universality. There is a great power in artistic expression, as we have seen through the ages. As an artist, I feel compelled to attempt to create images that move people in a positive way–toward the light and out of the darkness.” — Sara Schneidman
ST. LOUIS SPOTLIGHT: SUN SMITH-FORET
Sun Smith-Foret’s artistic practice has encompassed textile construction, quilts, sculpture, and knotted and woven functional and amuletic objects.
Rooted in ancient cultural practices, rituals and imagery, as well as in mathematics and science, her most recent sculptural works reference vessels, nests, boats and celestial bodies. A maker of objects—amulets of deep meaning—Smith-Forêt embeds these with the knowledge of spiritual thought from a range of cultures, including Native American spiritual practices, African cosmology, Viking funerary rituals, Buddhist thought and aspects of Christianity, all with which she connects on a deeply personal level. (Read more about Sun and her art HERE).
For the “Riverwalk Project,” Sun collaborated with St. Louis sculptor Libby Reuters and photographer Josh Rowan on a massive, 300-ft. long textile piece that pays tribute to the Mississippi River, the largest of three rivers defining the St. Louis region and the third-largest watershed in the world.
The project features the work of 60 local artists and includes painting, photography and text, including musical and literary references to water such as “Proud Mary” and “African Queen.” Sun worked on her portion of the piece five hours a day, seven days a week for a year. “There’s every possible color in the river, and there’s every possible color in these pieces,” she said. “It’s really a celebration.”
Declared a “Living Treasure of California” by the State Assembly, artist Arline Fisch has played a central role in the revitalization of jewelry as a contemporary art form. Her outstanding contribution has been the introduction of weaving techniques into the field of jewelry making. Fisch uses flattened gold and silver wire, which she knits, braids, plaits, and crochets into lightweight, flexible forms with dense, light-reflective patterns, subtle textures and glowing color.
For each of her pieces, Fisch draws inspiration from ancient civilizations such as Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, and pre-Colombian. Although Fisch is known for her metal jewelry work, she does sometimes move into other areas of art including crochet metal art. Examples include her crochet jellyfish that were on display at a California aquarium, crochet coral and “Hanging Gardens,” an arrangement of delicate floating flowers.
“I have always been concerned with the making of jewelry to be worn, of unique works of art, which have the human body as their site. I try always to develop objects of personal adornment, which have dramatic impact yet do not place the wearer in the role of anonymous pedestal, forms which please and exalt the wearer.” — Arline Fisch
“Coral” | Art Jewelry Forum
The late Anna Kubinyi was an amazing Hungarian textile artist who created her beautiful tapestries by hand on a large weaving loom using a variety of materials, including cardboard, silk, metal and fiber gold. However, hemp, which she bleached and dyed herself, is the basic material she used on all of her creations. The three-dimensional quality of her work makes them almost sculptural.
“Since it is very important to me, I create the entire work of art. I prepare all of my own materials, and this enables me to continuously improve or change my technique. I think it is only fair that I should be the one who struggles through the physical process of weaving my message into a piece of textile to create a form that can act as a vehicle to make people think. This is the essence of my art.” — Anna Kubinyi
St. Louis Spotlight: Luanne Rimel
Luanne Rimel | Photo by Suzy Farren
Luanne’s art explores the passage of time and lingering memory of the present. Photographs of cloth-draped buildings under construction and statues frozen in stone become metaphors for existence and memory. Images are printed onto fabric with a wide format printer. Detailed sections are collaged and stitched onto the cloth, referencing earlier domestic practices of mending and repair, reuse and repurposing. The repetitive hand stitching creates shadows and textures, alluding to the marking of time. Each piece quietly takes its own shape as the threads are gently drawn and pulled through the cloth. (Read more about Luanne and her art HERE).
Photograph of St. Louis building under construction. Printed on silk, pieced, layered, hand stitched | Luanne Rimel
Photograph of Washington DC construction. Printed on cotton, pieced, layered, hand stitched | Luanne Rimel
Working from the Seychelles, Sophie Standing is a British-born artist who has lived in Africa for 15 years. She produces her art by combining appliqué and free motion embroidery. Sophie brings her animal subjects to life with a stunning combination of fabric and thread, pulling from countless hues, layering various patterns and thread weights and expertly piecing them all together to become one amazing image.
She references both her extensive artistic background and her physical surroundings to create these artworks. From a distance, her subjects appear drawn, but they are in fact entirely sewn and composed of various and varied fabrics collected and assembled from her travels. Sophie is also an accomplished wedding florist and fine artist, life drawing being a speciality. (Auri Buzz)
Sophie offers this advice for artists just getting started with textile embroidery:
“Just explore — don’t be afraid to just try out things. Sometimes it won’t work and will be a mess, but that’s how I learned. Experiment with colours and designs, all ranges of fabrics, stripes, spots, florals, geometric, as many clashes as you can on one piece of fabric art. Be bold.” — Sophie Standing
Karen Gossart and Corentin Laval
Basket and wicker makers, Karen and Corentin cultivate their raw material, around twenty varieties of wicker with different characteristics (colors, hold, flexibility), in order to vary and master the creation process from start to finish. Branches, driftwood and pebbles are often incorporated into their contemporary designs, which are rooted in age-old basket weaving traditions.
St. Louis Spotlight: Candyce Grisham
Candyce (Candy) Grisham has been fascinated with fabric, sewing and quilting since she was nine, when the corduroy jumper and print shirt with a necktie she made in sewing class won a prize. And when she spied an ancestor’s quilt in the Smithsonian at age 13, she was hooked. She taught herself to quilt from books and used cardboard templates and scissors to make her very first quilt, a log cabin. It has been a love affair ever since.
Candy enjoys using fabrics, themes and colors from nature but also leans more and more to bright fabrics with prints. Many of her works have a “traditional with quality,” as she relies on inspirations from generations gone by but adds a contemporary feel to her designs. In addition to creating her own works of art, Candy teaches quilting and has recently published a third book, Dresden Quilt Blocks Reimagined. (Read more about Candy and her art HERE).
“I have dabbled in fiber art, challenges, quilting and modern quilting, and I love it all!” — Candyce Grisham
Growing up in Fujiyoshida, a small city about two hours east of Tokyo, in the 1970s, May Sterchi didn’t see any macramé owls or plant hangers, but she did spend a great deal of time at shrines where she would see shimenawa, or “decorations of sacred straw rope.” They were “the most beautiful thing,” she says. She continues to draw inspiration from them for her beautiful work of rope art combined with macramé. (Modern Macramé)
“My inspiration comes from my life in Japan, especially my childhood memories. I’ve been living in the USA for almost 15 years, and I realized that it’s really important for me to keep those great memories close to my heart and revisit my roots. Having a creative outlet through art is one key component of my happiness. Also, it’s very satisfying to express what’s in my mind through my creativity. Those thoughts lead me to many ideas when I design the pieces. Each piece I create comes from my heart.” — Mayumi Sterchi
I hope I’ve inspired you to consider adding fiber art to your home. There are so many different varieties, you are sure to find a fabulous piece that will work for you, and we encourage you to contact one of our local artists featured in this blog. If you need additional help locating the perfect piece, please give us a call at 314.395.114 or CLICK HERE to email us.