Fibre art on display

2008-10-02 08:04

IF you think fabric and thread have a fuddyduddy image, take a look at a new book, Innovative Threads: A Decade of South African Fibre Art, and think again.

Liza Gillespie, the author of the book, took over the running of the Innovative Threads company from Margie Garratt in 2006 and produced this hard-cover volume as a tribute to her predecessor who founded Innovative Threads in 1996 as a platform for fibre artists. She ran an annual, professionally run and juried exhibition - which still carries on and will take place in Durban next month.

Garratt believed that fibre art needed exposure and so Innovative Threads has been hosted all around South Africa and tours internationally as well. Overseas, South African fibre artists enjoy a particularly high reputation and are regularly invited to exhibit in other countries.

Gillespie is not a fibre artist herself, just someone who was a member of an embroidery guild, loves the process of stitching and had been to the Innovative Threads exhibitions and workshops. Her aim in the book is to give representation to each artist who had exhibited over the past 10 years, and so the work of 144 fibre artists is shown, with a short biographical note.The book is divided into sections, showing work from each of the 10 years the project has been in existence.

Not all the work is by individual fibre artists; several empowerment groups, like Kaross from the Northern Province and the Keiskamma Art Project from the Eastern Cape, have work illustrated. Among the KwaZulu-Natal artists represented are Sue Akerman, Annette McMaster, Jutta Faulds, Jeanette Gilks, Rosalie Dace, the Grassroots Quilters Guild from Durban, Helga Beaumont and Lib Steward.

According to Gillespie, the roots of fibre art lie in alternative and contemporary quiltmaking, but the form has moved on from there to include all kinds of stitching and thread work, including knitting and weaving.

In her introduction to the book, Professor Karin Maria Skawran, who is a judge for Innovative Threads, describes it as a celebration of slowness. And, says Gillespie, fibre art is growing, not only in terms of the number of artists, but also in the type of work being done. There are no limits, other than the artists' imaginations.

The 2007 exhibition will be showcasing the latest works by award-winning and emerging textile artists of South Africa. Innovative Threads will be curated by Tonya Miles who took over from Gillespie at the beginning of the year. It will run at artSpace in Millar Road, Durban from June 18 to June 30. Gallery hours are 10 am to 4 pm, Monday to Friday and 10 pm to 1 pm on Saturdays. For more information on the exhibition, e-mail

• Innovative Threads: A Decade of South African Fibre Art by Liza Gillespie is published by Innovative Threads and is available from Exclusive Books.

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