Jess Jones "Weeping Quilt" (detail)

Community, Creativity & Resources: by Bryana Bibbs and Christine Miller

The continuing struggle with the pandemic has our fiber community re-examining priorities, relationships, and connections. Wasteful use of materials and resources are under the looking glass, while programs and budgets are on the chopping block. Collectively, we are still reeling from massive change in almost every corner of our lives, and are processing new parameters for moving forward.

Jeanette Thompson, Intention, 2015, applique letters, fabric gel pens, fabric water soluble crayons on fabric, machine stitched, 7 x 18 inches.

During 2020, fiber artists utilized the quiet, focused time of the pandemic to create and ground into that concentrated bubble of time. Those of us working with fibers found comfort in the tactile as we dug into our stashes to rethink our lives. Stitching, mending, repurposing, and upcycling became steady themes in 2020. Resourceful and innovative thinking also became an ongoing theme, when artists began thinking of different ways to host virtual and small in-person programming. Despite the struggle we have gone through, beauty, purpose, celebration, and continuity prevailed. 

Bryana Bibbs, Quarantine Weaving No. 3, 2020, handwoven cotton and handmade junk mail paper, 12 x 10.5 inches.

It’s a good time for our fiber community to intentionally find new connections to support both fledgling and established fiber programs in our k-12 schools, universities, and community arts programs. I have heard it said so many times: fiber people are the most generous and open group of makers! We are stitched, knitted, and woven together in our organizations, guilds, and groups BUT we value opening the circle to bring in young and old alike to share in our passion and help keep it alive.

Tubes of waxed linen.

Now is the time to reach out to each other and offer whatever kind of support you need or have to give. Educators and students can contact local arts organizations, galleries, and guilds to let them know about their fiber program and what their needs might be. Members of fiber groups can seek out fiber educational programs in their community and inquire about what they could use to support their instruction. Here are some action steps that can benefit both the giver and receiver of new connections:

  • What is your intention with your community-based program? Find or create a program that you are passionate about.
  • If you are creating a program, find a space that best suits your needs, has similar goals, and supports your mission.
  • Spread the word! Although promotion on websites, email blasts, and social platforms is important, often times arts organizations and guilds will allow you to submit your program to their calendar and to be a part of their social media/website feed.
  • Contact a mentor or an educator that you look up to! This person will assist you and give you feedback on what you want to accomplish with your programming.
  • Create mentorship programs for fiber artists to assist educators and students in learning new processes and techniques.
  • Arts exhibits can create a student category in their shows with promotion and prize money for student work.
  • Spread the material wealth! Those with stashes broad and deep can assess what they need to keep and what they can pass on to programs that have tight budgets; and educators can contact organizations to let them know exactly what they would like to have for their students.
  • Organizations and guilds can extend invitations to educators to attend programs that would support their continuing education in the fiber arts.
  • Seek out grants to get the materials or tools you need.
  • Utilize maker spaces in libraries and special co-ops to have access to equipment and tools.

Our fiber family is strong and resourceful! Look in your community to see who might be able to provide support OR to see whom you could provide support to. Fiber artists are connectors who treasure the past, present and future. Start making new connections now and find or pass on some…

“Obtainium – something that is easily obtained, easily liberated, or gotten for free. ” —Kevin Kelly

— Bryana Bibbs and Christine Miller (SDA Education Committee)

Christine Miller, Lockdown Felt Book, 2020, cotton embroidery floss stitched onto commercial felt, 5.5 x 9 inches.

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