Interiors: Why fibre art, a genre that mixes crafts and aesthetics, is making a resurgence

 
Laura Ivill
Anni Albers, Study for an unexecuted wall hanging. Photo by Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

The boundary between art and craft is often blurred. Visit Collect at the Saatchi Gallery this weekend and there will be likely be wall hangings and fibre art in the mix.

Curators and historians coined the term fibre art to describe the emerging work of artist-craftspeople after WWII. These mid-century weavers began to create non-functional works of art through knotting, plaiting, coiling, pleating, quilting and lacing, using cotton, wool, flax, silk and, nowadays, acrylic fibres. Not surprisingly it was a genre that women artists gained respect in, and the genre took on a strongly feminist slant in the 1970s.

One of the genre’s most successful fibre artists, Sheila Hicks, represented by Alison Jacques Gallery in Fitzrovia, has a solo show at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until 30 April, and her work from the 1960s can be seen in the permanent Beyond Craft gallery at Tate Modern. There’s such a focus on this art right now, that Tate Modern will be showcasing the work of the 20th-century fibre artist Anni Albers in a full-scale retrospective this autumn, too.

Not surprisingly it was a genre that women artists gained respect in, and the genre took on a strongly feminist slant in the 1970s

“Anni Albers continues to inspire a new generation of artists and designers,” says Ann Coxon who is curating the show. ”This exhibition will provide an opportunity to focus on the possibilities of weaving as a fine-art medium at a time when weaving is seeing a resurgence of interest internationally.”

Artist Caroline Achaintre has a focus on fibre art at her studio in East London, and The New Craftsmen recently took Bloom by the British textiles artist Anna Ray, currently available to view on thenewcraftsman.com, all the way to the Miami shows.

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A particularly eye-catching launch at last year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan was Seulgi Lee’s work for Hermes. The Korean-born, Paris-based artist has used a traditional quilting technique to create limited-edition cashmere plaid blankets in three graphic designs to be wall-hung or draped over a rail. At home, an artwork such as this is comfortable as well as beautiful.


Sheila Hicks, Quipu de Cobré

Hanging rugs are something of a cross-over medium for home interiors. Front in Mayfair specialises in rugs as art, and one of the most innovative rug dealers is CC Tapis in Milan. which makes colourful, contemporary designs that look stunning while adding warmth, texture and acoustic dampening to a space – all qualities that are especially welcome in new-builds or newly renovated rooms.

The Craft Council’s Collect fair at the Saatchi Gallery runs until Sunday, from £14 (craftscouncil.org.uk). Beyond Craft is on permanent display in Room 11 of the Switch House (tate.org.uk)

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