Textile art is having its moment. The last few years have seen a huge resurgence in macramé, quilting, knitting, crocheting, weaving, cross stitch, needlepoint and more, made by women and men alike. Color, style, size and texture all play a role in today’s unique creations.
Types of fiber (natural and synthetic) and the variety of ways to use them are seemingly endless, and for the beginner, many choices await. Classes can be found in across Northern California, with numerous offerings in the Bay Area, or one can learn basics, brush up on rusty skills or find new techniques on YouTube and textile art sites.
The current trend in wall art using various sizes of jute, rope, yarn and thread are popping up in trendy chain stores such as Anthropologie and Pottery Barn. While these can provide inspiration, it’s nice to consider the history of textile art, which has roots going back to prehistoric times. Aesthetic creations followed utilitarian function as societies evolved.
It is not hard to grasp just how important the craft has been throughout history. Here are some interesting facts: the Louvre museum has 30,000 textile works, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art has 27,000 including American needlepoint, European tapestries, Middle Eastern rugs and African kente cloths. According to its website, the MFA has been collecting textile art since its inception in the 1870s, with ancient and contemporary examples. And that’s just two out of the many museums that showcase textile art throughout the world.
In 2014, the Metropolitan Museum of Art said this of its 2014 textile exhibit: Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800, is on such a grand scale and includes pieces from so many different cultures across the globe that the exhibition could only be put together with the expertise of curators from nine different departments throughout the museum, something that has never been done before in the history of the Met.”
In June and July, Arts Benicia featured Thread Count, New Directions in Fiber Art, showcasing contemporary fiber artist’s works. We covered the exhibit in the June 2018 issue, as well as Threads of Change, Material Matters at the Benicia Library in our November 2015 issue. The Dharma Door, a Benicia company owned by William Berg and Katie Zilavy, offers fair trade textiles and home goods that include baskets, bags, rugs and wall hangings, meticulously made by hand by skilled artisans in remote villages in Bangladesh. Wonderful examples of textile mandalas and other large-scale wall hangings can be viewed on their website, thedharmadoorusa.com. Another fun website to check out is about the farmers who produce the fibers in NorCal: Fibershed.com/producer-directory.
A quick Internet search shows that even with the recent resurgence of interest in textile arts, brick and mortar shops have been closing around the Bay. But those who wish to learn, or re-supply, don’t despair. Below are some options that, while may require a bit of driving, have their own tactile magic that make it worth the trip.
Atelier, an independent retail store in Truckee offers an extensive selection of textile art supplies, divided from the space’s other art supplies by an enormous, room-size macramé wall divider made by Heather Rivers. Atelier is beautifully organized and displayed, with something for everyone. She owns the store with husband Brian Hess, along with Bespoke Truckee, equally impressive, two doors down, with some textile art pieces for sale. Full disclosure: I have a familial connection to Heather and Brian. Nonetheless, both stores are a must-see on your next jaunt up to Tahoe. Here are some other worthy shops worth checking out.
Fiber Frolics (Benicia)
Dharmatrading.com (San Rafael)
Quiltusa.com (the Cotton Patch, Lafayette)