.Fiber Optics – Focus on fiber arts in Petaluma

By Michael Giotis

With “Common Threads: Art and Fiber,” the Petaluma Art Center continues championing the dialogue between craft and art and where the two, well, interweave.

The exhibition features 12 fiber artists working within 10 miles of the Petaluma Arts Center—  including Patricia Briceño, Marlie de Swart, Karla Jacobs, Alissa Kaplan, Carol Larson, Travis Meinolf, Joan Pont, Carol Lee Shanks, Marta Shannon, Kate Tatum, Jessica Teem and Susan Vorbeck.

The curators of the exhibition are Carole Barlas, Irma Vega Bijou and Llisa Demetrios, who keenly observed the shared qualities of this particular group of artists and their work. Uniting the dozen artists is their shared “passion, joy and enthusiasm” for what each could make with materials, locally-sourced or otherwise. The possibilities proved endless, from functional to decorative, from practical to artistic, and from utilitarian to playful.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose
Photos courtesy of Petaluma Arts Center
VASE CASE Felt vases by Karla Jacobs.

Many worked by hand, invested in every step of the process of taking the fleece or fiber and creating a finished piece.

“Over the past few years, I have been working with a fleece garment process to create my work. I begin with wool that has been shorn off a sheep,” said Alissa Kaplan, one of the artists showcased in the exhibition. “From beginning to finished garment, the process takes approximately 46 hours.”

The artists would often iterate on an idea, resulting in lush scarves and whimsical felt vases, vast quilts and structural impressive sweaters, objet d’art grown here on our lands, tended to, shaped by local hands.

“I fall in love with each fleece and then try to preserve the essence of the wool and the color of the fleece in processing it. In many pieces, I incorporate the various preparatory stages of the fleece, from washed but untreated curls, to roving to rough or finely spun yarn,” said Marlie de Swart. “Usually the fiber dictates what the final garment looks like.”

Likewise, Carol Lee Shanks enjoys the premise of using “…fibers that have been carefully raised and processed by people who are closely connected to their natural environments. I find beauty in the unique characteristics these textiles possess.”

According to the center’s website, “There was a boundless, endless curiosity of each artist about what fibers could do.”

Sometimes, the artists pushed the possibilities of the material into new and exciting expressions.

“I am a storyteller. With cloth as my medium, I layer text onto fabric and embellish with images, clothing, ephemera and stitch relevant to the story. Through the examination of social-cultural values…” said Carol Larson. “I create a narrative which encourages the viewer to contemplate their point of view and potentially spark conversation.”

Conversely, Marta Shannon’s process brings the artist peacefully inward.

“There is a meditative, rhythmic quality to weaving,” said Shannon. “That is grounding and calming, particularly in our fast-paced lives today.”

‘Common Threads: Art and Fiber’ is on exhibit through July 23. For more information, visit https://petalumaartscenter.org/.


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