Fiber Arts: a Rebel Movement

Through the Traveling Door
July 18, 2016
Morning Walk
July 18, 2016

Fiber Arts: a Rebel Movement

I recently took a virtual tour of my old craft book collection, just to see if any of the craft artists’ work had stood the test of time. Among the books that have become classics was Del Pitt Feldman’s The Crocheter’s Art (Doubleday, 1974). I remember this book from my early research into fiber arts. Now a first edition will cost you around $600 dollars!

This book came at a time when crafts, and especially fiber arts, were experiencing renewed interest for the first time since the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century. For the first time in more than fifty years, fiber arts were being recognized as art and being included in shows in some of the major national galleries. Today, the larger museums still give a nod to crafts with a few select pieces, but major shows are not on the agenda.

But fiber artists aren’t waiting for big shows; they are yarn bombing in public places. This work by Olek, a visual artist whose medium is crochet, transcends the traditional view of craft and demonstrates that any work that makes a statement becomes a cultural statement, a work of art.



There are also collectives working together on yarn bombing projects. Sometimes they make a statement, but sometimes they are just to beautify the neighborhood. This is living, breathing art that starts in houses and small studios and moves outward to the rest of the world. This is art now, art in our everyday life. You may see it in a museum someday, but it starts here.

One such group is the Ladies Fancywork Society, a fiber craft group from Denver, Colorado, that really gets around. This photo is a commissioned blanket for the bison sculpture outside the Denver Historical Society. But they don’t wait to be asked! If you check out their website, you will see that they are not opposed to sneak attacks on the bridges of Amsterdam or the pioneer sculptures outside San Francisco’s public library. Closer to home, they will sometimes organize community efforts like yarn bombing crocheted flowers to fences surrounding a construction site.

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But this movement has a history, as all art movements do. There were several artists in that now rare edition of The Crocheter’s Art who are still working today One such artist is Nicki Hitz Edson. Some of her best known early works were crocheted masks. She is an artist after my own heart; I love masks and crochet. And this imaginative piece brings both together. You can find excellent full color photos of some of these early works at Nicki’s website.



These masks look as fresh and inspired as they were back in the day when they were first being shown in Tiffany’s windows and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York City. Her mask work continued to be a major part of her art shows throughout the 1970s and then in the 1980s wearable art became the predominant theme in her work. This is not to say her work is limited only to these two ideas. If you browse through the other pages on her website, you will see she also does tapestries and pet portraits, gives workshops in freeform crochet, and sells patterns for some of her original designs for knitted vests.

Art doesn’t happen in museums. It ends up in museums. Art is created everyday by artists in all media. Whether your chosen art form is art, music, theatre, or dance, you are a part of the art world.

Whatever it is you like to create, keep doing it. Just for the joy of it!

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Joy Harmon
Joy Harmon
A crafter, a traveler, and a scribbler

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