Nature only knows balance and imbalance. In a world obsessed with faster, faster, faster, grassroots movements focused on slowing down have taken firm root. “Slow Food” is just now gaining enough support to be a relatively common household term; “Slow Fashion” awaits its entrance cue.
Locally, a small but growing fiber arts community brings together sewers, weavers, knitters, crocheters, felters, macramé crafters, and those who just like to spin yarn. Jennifer Hewett-Apperson is a member of the Jacksonville Weavers Guild, which hosts fiber arts programs and events, meeting regularly at Fort Caroline Community Center near Arlington. With a full calendar from September until May, the guild offers an opportunity for members to learn from the work of others.
“Historically, textile crafts were passed down from mother to daughter,” says Hewett-Apperson, “from generation to generation. And now, we don’t really have a need to do that anymore because of modernization and mechanization. We don’t get that same traditional passing-down through generations, and this guild is a way to keep that knowledge transfer going.”
Historically, weaving was about pure function. Three hundred years ago, people wove out of necessity; every farm had a barn loom where blankets and linens were woven. Every society developed its own history
and culture surrounding weaving, and yarn and cloth-making.
Weaving has ebbed and flowed over the years. A real resurgence took place in the 1970s with the rise of arts and crafts, the popularization of macramé, and the back-to-the-land movement.
Modern-day weavers are bridging the divide between the traditional art form and its modern interpretation. There is still a strong cord of functionality that will always be a part of fiber arts, but more and more, fiber artists are taking their craft into the world of fine art.
Erin Riley, a Philadelphia-based fiber artist, plays on the perception of traditional craft by weaving sexually suggestive and provocative self-portraits into tapestries that are increasingly being displayed on some of the most sought-after gallery walls.
Locally, one of Jacksonville’s queen mothers of modern art, Memphis Wood (1902-’89), regularly deployed fiber arts as part of her arsenal of creative mediums. Tactile sculpture, tapestries alive with color, and explorations of new materials draw artists to the tactile medium, where they can bounce between functionality and aesthetics.
“I firmly believe that art shouldn’t be just something you hang on your wall,” says Hewett-Apperson. “I think it is something you can incorporate into your everyday life, from what you’re wearing, what you’re carrying or just using. The fact that something is utilitarian doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.”