SCA’s International Fiber Art Exhibition adds workshops, lectures, Korean Weekend this year

When you enter the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, inside the Sebastopol Veterans Building, you will find yourself marveling at the wonderland of techniques and materials displayed at the Eighth Biennial International Fiber Art Exhibition. The show opens at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 28, and runs through Sept. 3.

More than 500 national and international artists answered the call to submit innovative and traditional fiber artwork to International Fiber Arts VIII, held in collaboration with the Surface Design Association. Jurors Wendy Lugg from Australia, Jason Pollen from Kansas City and Eszter Bornemisza from Hungary selected 80 pieces for SCA’s signature show.

“The jurors are all well known, knowledgeable and skilled in their field, and the jurors can see when something is really well-done. Some of the weavings are mind-blowing so it’s hard to describe—that’s why people should come and see it. It’s very rewarding,” said SCA Visual Arts Director Catherine Devriese.

Multi-dimensional, colorful, surprising and sensual in texture, there will be pieces hung on the wall, suspended from the ceiling and staged upon landing zones. Some will invite you to wander through them as you might a maze of filtered light; others may lure you in with their details—as in last year’s “Trail of Tears/The Long Walk,” featuring Czechoslovakian glass teardrop beads, antique-bone-pipe beads, feathers, hand-painted ropes and digital printing on fabric.

Through their unique works, artists cast energy into an artistic arena of social, political and personal expression. In the warp and weft of their tapestries, artists may summon you to listen to stories unearthed from the past or made up for fun. In one piece (see photo), co-created by a fiber artist who will be talking at an accompanying workshop, stitches bind silk buds, leaves and flowers into a dress made to cover a friend’s coffin. Fabrics such as polyester have been manipulated into seemingly iridescent stone-like structures, metal is knitted into forms—and the list goes on.

Joy Stocksdale of Sebastopol has coordinated the show with Bill Yoes since it started 17 years ago. “I’m always amazed to see who enters and at the amount of people who are interested. Then, of course, I’m surprised when we unpack the boxes and get to see and touch the fiber art,” she said.
Stocksdale is herself a fiber artist and teacher, with work exhibited throughout the US. She also developed polychromatic screen printing. She offered a perspective on fiber art in the US. “Individual fiber artists became recognized in the sixties, when fiber art was influenced by an upheaval of culture, and people began to appreciate that approach because it was unique work and wasn’t following tradition—people painting fabrics, embroidering their jeans and tie dying t-shirts, for example. Fashion designers of the period used motifs and hand-made techniques borrowed from the counter-culture,” she noted.

“More currently, knitting, crocheting, tie-dyeing and printing have had a resurgence with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Movement. It is born out of a need for something better designed and one-of-a-kind, substantially made, creatively approached, and has the hand of the maker instead of stamped from automation,” Stocksdale said.

West County weaver and Sonoma Discoveries’ contributor Abby Bard, who began weaving 40 years ago upon encountering fabrics from Guatemala, said the international show gives her an opportunity “to see the imaginative ways artists around the world express themselves, particularly with their use of innovative technique. Since I spend many hours alone working in my studio here in Sebastopol, I’m fascinated to see the work of other fiber artists and the directions they are taking,” she said.
“I love when I see a piece of fiber art, and wonder: ‘how did they do that?’ It’s refreshing to see how other artists combine materials and colors, and it inspires me to go deeper in my own technique… Fiber art, full of texture and dimension, is best seen up close.”

Exhibition Extras
Workshops and lectures will be held in conjunction with the exhibition this year. There will be a Korean art exhibit in one of SCA’s galleries and a Korean Weekend with entertainment, food, workshops and lectures.

Korean textile artist Youngmin Lee teaches two hands-on workshops about the most unique form of Korean textile art: bojagi, wrapped cloths pieced together from small scraps of cloth. Jogakbo, or patchwork bojagi, is said to be relaxing. “While working on the bojagi, wish for the happiness and well-being of the recipient of your finished bojagi,” noted the workshop description.
SCA welcomes Korean dress historian Dr. Minjee Kim, whose presentation “Fashion and Textile Art of Korea: the Dynamism of Interrelationships” covers how traditional wrapping cloths and clothing construction developed into a genre of textile art and an inspirational source in contemporary fashion design. Master Seamstress Koo Haej will display children’s ceremonial dress sets. Both adults and young people are encouraged to attend.

In Sheila O’Hara’s August 19 lecture, ‘Handweaving in the Computer Age,’ she will explain how computer technology has supported the creation of complex weave structures, “allowing the dream of individual thread control to become possible.” O’Hara’s latest work includes lush landscapes, real and imaginary, and a series of jacquard tapestries inspired by Edward Curtis photographs of Native American Indians. Her work, often humorous, is shown in public, private and museum collections, including the de Young Museum.

How do fiber arts serve as a barometer of change in the visual arts of our time? How does art intersect with cultural, social and political issues? A panel of fiber artists will address those questions and offer their own fiber art examples in “A Conversation about Fiber Art Today.” Join Carole Beadle, professor emeritus with the California College of the Arts and professor at College of Marin, and Bay Area fiber artists Lara Myers, George-Ann Bowers, Teddy Milder, Susan Doyle and Roz Ritter on August 20.
Then on to Mali on August 26 with Cynthia LeCount Samaké. “The West African country of Mali is home to more fiber artists and designers than most other countries of the world. The presentation, ‘Rhythm and Hues: Cloth and Culture of Mali’ gives long overdue recognition to the talented Africans who create stunning fabrics and shows vibrantly colored examples of their contemporary work,” according to Samaké. The former UC Davis world textiles instructor now travels the world through her tour company, Behind the Scenes Adventures. She and her husband, Barou Samaké from Segou, Mali, led tours with dye workshops to Mali until travel there became too dangerous for foreigners.

Fiber Art
Stocksdale, a board member of the Textile Arts Council for the de Young Museum, believes fiber art is starting to get the attention it deserves as an art form. “Currently fiber art is gaining more acceptance in the broader art world. Some artists are crossing over from painting and sculpture into fiber art, which wasn’t happening before the 1970s as much. For the most part, I think there is more acceptance of fiber arts in the fine arts area. I think fiber art is becoming a more respected art form.”
Dallas Saunders, owner of Dallas A. Saunders Artisan Textiles in Geyserville, agreed.

“Right now, I think fiber as a medium is incredibly exciting. Artists are creating new spaces/experiences with three-dimensional pieces large and small. It is also very exciting to see artists taking new interest in knitting, quilting and needlepoint,” Saunders said.

Though Saunders’ gallery/showroom is a bit of a destination, she said it has not deterred people from coming. Interest in the jacquard tapestries by internationally acclaimed artists such as Kiki Smith and Chuck Close and artisan mill-woven textiles in the gallery/showroom continues to increase. This interest seems to align with the popularity of SCA’s signature show. “Now I want to explore the medium more extensively,” she said.

“It is one of the most popular shows ever,” said Stocksdale. Sebastopol is an out-of-the-way place but it’s being recognized for the show because we do it consistently, people look for it and anticipate it coming. A lot of artists seek out the show, as well as appreciators.” SD

For more about SCA, presenters’ websites, and date of upcoming exhibition tour, visit Fiber Art VIII Opening Reception: July 28, 6-8 p.m.