There is no denying that work with string, yarn, ribbons, and fabric is highly engaging for students. The process of creating is one layer of learning. Connecting as we share about people we know who knit and sew and responding to the work of fiber artists are others.
As Amber Kane pointed out in 2018, searching for inspirational artists takes time, even if it is enjoyable. Building on her article, here are ten more fantastic fiber artists whose work your students will love. They are at various points in their careers, communicating with and creating experiences for viewers through fibers and textiles.
1. Bisa Butler
Bisa Butler’s quilted portraits use vibrant, intense layers of colors to engage viewers with topics such as family, community, and migration. She started by depicting her family, expanded to her larger community, and then included images from vintage photography of people she heard about growing up or images that remind her of something or someone.
Butler speaks about the influence of AfriCOBRA on her artworks and the importance of showing African Americans in a positive light in this video interview prepared for her solo exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.
2. Lucy Sparrow
Lucy Sparrow is an artist working in the United Kingdom. She is known for creating the entire contents of stores with believable yet very playful-looking objects sewn out of felt. Part of the appeal is the ambition and the relative accessibility of the stores, both in the location and price, of the original artworks they contain. Sparrow’s stores are a ready inspiration for class collaboration.
3. Judith Scott
Judith Scott, born in 1943, was institutionalized and isolated for most of her life due to Down syndrome and deafness. When she did have the opportunity to start making art at the age of 43, she gravitated toward yarn and fabric. As Art 21 points out, her “works have been compared to nests and cocoons,” and “the wrapping suggests protection and concealment.” Scott’s work is a natural entry point to lessons that introduce wrapping as a technique.
4. Tammy Kanat
Former jewelry maker Tammy Kanat has received a lot of recent attention on social media for her large abstract tapestries. Kanat starts with large, soft, round metal shapes and weaves with various bright textures and colors. Engaging students with her work could take hoop and circle weaving to a new level!
Eric Reiger (HOTTEA) is a street artist in Minnesota. After going to jail for his graffiti art, he went to school to become a graphic designer. However, he still wanted to create thought-provoking, removable street art. That is when he started working with the yarn his grandmother taught him to knit with.
Reiger still makes street art and is invited to create installations at indoor locations across the globe.
While the pieces are visually stunning and eco-friendly, they also bring up a valuable opportunity to discuss the issues that arise when the work of traditional, indigenous communities are both valued and transformed through contemporary consumerism.
Agnes Hansella is a fiber artist working in Jakarta and Bali. Her website includes a selection of functional items. However, the pieces that have garnered attention on social media are large installations at Loca Beach House, an open-air structure in Bali.
These installations could be a great starting point for considering how fiber artworks can transform a space, or as in the case of the installation, how one’s materials and design can echo the environment.
Ksenia Zimenko is a Russian artist whose miniature embroidered landscapes or thread paintings allow viewers to escape into enchanting scenes built out of beautiful beads and skillfully applied stitches.
Zimenko’s Instagram feed provides an opportunity to see the evolution of her style and the construction of her pieces.
Similar to Ksenia Zimenko, Victoria Rose Richard’s works are endearing in their small size. Richards depicts aerial views of landscapes through her thread paintings, becoming lovely textured abstractions.
10. Jake Henzler
Jake Henzler is an Australian artist who designs patterns for a variety of soft, charming objects. He drew notice in 2020 when his Copenhagen Building Blocks pattern gained attention on social media. Henzler recreates memories from his travels rather than journaling about them.
Engaging students in fiber arts is just one more way to tap into our students’ creative and kinetic interests. There are so many amazing artists and examples to find! Check out these ten fiber artists, and add to this list as you share their incredible work with your students.
How might your students use fibers to communicate with viewers about their experiences?
How might your students use fibers to create unique items of environments for viewers to experience?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.