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Innovations in Fiber

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

The South Haven Center for the Arts fall exhibit consists of fiber art made with materials ranging from suede to steel.

The art center’s 10th Annual Juried Exhibition features creative explorations in fiber and textile by 26 artists working in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The artworks were created using traditional materials such as silk, cashmere, suede, denim, felt, string, and Toile de Jouy, which is a type of printed calico typically used for curtains and upholstery. Visitors will also see works created using materials one wouldn’t necessarily associate with fiber, such as clay, paper, plastic, vinyl, glass, porcelain, metal leaf, copper, brass, steel, birch bark, and sticks and stones.

The artwork hints at an underlying theme of repurposing discarded materials, which are in turn woven into themes of their own. T.J. Schwartz incorporated fibers from her grandmother’s clothes to create some of the weft threads in her piece entitled “Spirit Wolf”, borne of grief and dreams of wolves––the spirits of which have come to symbolize for her “guidance through grief”.

Kelly Hanson used acrylic, clay, craft paper and string to create her piece, “Sleeping Arrangements”, which represents the history of her marriage and divorce through various sleeping arrangements her family assumed as it grew to include three children. “The black squares symbolize nighttime, the gray squares, naptimes,” said Kelly. “The square highlighted with stitching is, to me, a moment of complete happiness.”

Edwin Shelton incorporated cat litter, plastic bags and a mesh window screen into various fabrics to create “Two Spirits, Shiny Intuition”, which reflects a life-changing experience he had while teaching art in Zibo, China.

The artists have also employed a wide variety of techniques such as hand stitching and embroidery, crochet, machine quilting, applique and weaving; and various mediums including encaustic (beeswax and pigment), metalwork, drawing, painting, felting, soft sculpture, ceramics and printmaking.

South Haven artist Sheryl Drenth, a watercolorist and former art teacher, created “Self Portrait: Unfinished” using applique, a technique of applying individual pieces of fabric to a larger piece of contrasting color or texture.

“My grandmother taught me to make clothes by hand stitching and using a sewing machine and I have made other art quilts,” said Drenth. “The image shows the state of my studio. I have a painting table and a sewing table and at some point seeing all of my materials at once seemed to migrate together and stimulated the piece.”

Drenth’s artwork represents a universal theme of humans as unfinished beings, always growing and changing in some way. “I started the piece quite a while ago and I have more ideas than time to complete, so I found myself adding to it and then taking elements of the piece away. I incorporated safety pins into the self-portrait to indicate that I, as a human being, am unfinished, as is the piece.”

The exhibition was juried by mixed media artists Helen Geglio and Judy Wenig-Horswell. Geglio often uses repurposed materials and enjoys working with fibers that have passed through the hands others to create a visual connection between women, work and textiles. Horswell co-founded the Goshen Jewelers Guild in 2012 and her focus is lost wax casting of jewelry, watercolor, drawing and ceramics. She has traveled extensively overseas to gain further experience and insight into her work.

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