Monday, July 17, 2017

Fiber Art Defined

What is "Fiber Art" anyway? I'm sure we all have our own definition.  Those who do simple scarves with knitting or crochet could be considered fiber artists, but in the eyes of the "professionals", maybe they aren't as much.  And those professionals can be loosely defined as well, as people who choose to create something fancier, more unique or just plain crazy that one wouldn't be likely to wear to Walmart. 

A good definition of Fiber Art that I found is: 
"Fiber art refers to fine art whose material consists of natural or synthetic fiber and other components, such as fabric or yarn. It focuses on the materials and on the manual labor on the part of the artist as part of the works' significance, and prioritizes aesthetic value over utility."

Where am I going with this? Well, I've always considered myself a fiber artist, despite the fact that my paintings have no physical fiber in them.  It can be argued that my scarves, shawls, etc are all fiber art, but I wouldn't put those in a gallery show.  My paintings, however, depict images of knitted forms and are created by looking at a still life created from the actual knitted forms, so shouldn't they be fiber art?  

I've never really worried about this until now, and I haven't had much opportunity to display my works in a fiber art show.  But as of late it's been on my mind a lot, as a local gallery in town is hosting a juried fiber show and, to quote a good friend, "A fiber art show in Downtown Bryan without Lisa Urban in it is just wrong".  

I've experimented a lot the past few months with what I want to do to enter this show, as my normal oil paintings just won't cut it. I've tried attaching knitted thread to create "clouds" on top of my paintings.  I've tried physically knitting a panel and oil painting on it.  I've tried sewing threads in certain spots of a painting.  None are convincing enough for me.  I was about to give up when I had the honor to teaching a "kids fiber arts" camp a couple weeks back.  Teaching the kids some techniques gave me an idea.

I was teaching the kids to weave one day on small, cardboard looms and the next thing I knew I was joining in on my own little wooden one.  Using handspun yarn scraps, I created a few small coasters. I got to thinking that they'd be cool to sell at the shop I work in, and considered making more.

But then something clicked and I realized I had a solution to my fiber art problem.

Little woven canvases! I have a ton of this old rug warp and linen yarn that a friend gave me.  I never thought I'd use it, in fact I debated donating it or selling it at one point.  I'm so glad I didn't!

Using scrap sock yarn as the warp, I'm weaving with the linen (I think it's linen) yarn to create little squares on my little wooden loom. 

Once the squares are created, the ends are woven in and a small coat of primer is applied to the front side.  I am then using gouache to paint a small version of my knitted landscapes directly onto the surface.  the result is a surreal, woven painting.  I showed this to several people and they all agreed this is a clever, cute way to create 'fiber art' that is unique to me. 

The four blank ones above are going to be my next ones, with the color scheme of the painting matching the yarn I used to warp.  The final projects are then mounted on a black square of mat board and placed in a simple frame.   Along with the local show, there are a few other shows I think I may enter if I can pull this idea off.

What do you think? What is fiber art to you? How fun is this idea? 



  1. I love this new adventure of yours! I also have a very vague idea of what the fiber artist actually is. I guess for me it would be an artist who expresses his/her creativity/idea/message to the world through the means of fiber; where fiber is a tool. Looking forward to seeing what you'll come up with it!

  2. What a brilliant idea to create art on yarn canvas. My idea of a fiber artist varies from day to day...hard to pinpoint. But I have always considered you one.:)

  3. the woven canvases are clever, something I wouldn't think of at all. I love fiber arts and just when you think you've experienced it all, we come up with more!!


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