Weaving as art medium
I have been drawn to fiber as a medium my entire life. As a child, I grew up watching my mother and grandmother create a variety of fiber works, which initially sparked my love of yarn and textiles. I grew up constantly sewing and making many of my own clothes. After years of learning to design my own knitwear, I finally sat down at a loom for the first time while in college and fell in love.
As a self-taught weaver, it was important to give myself the room to play and experiment. I was never interested in having someone else teach me how to weave—I poured myself over books and articles, and allowed the loom and its history to be my teacher. The history of women’s roles as weavers and spinners is particularly fascinating, and has taught me a lot about my own position as a female artist today.
As a weaver and a feminist, I am constantly learning. Weaving resonates so strongly as a medium because it connects me to my familial roots, while also allowing me to learn more about women in—and all too often, out—of art history.
in the sphere of contemporary art
As an interdisciplinary artist, I use many different materials and processes alongside my textile work. I am a weaver, sculptor, and painter, and each of these disciplines informs the other. Weaving is painting is sculpture—they all transmute the dimensionality of materials to communicate through color, light, space, form, and structure.
I am a trained figure painter and sculptor, and didactically incorporate the materials and aesthetic canon of painting and sculpture with my weaving. To me, the language of weaving is the same as that of any other art form. I have developed my interdisciplinary practice in a way that positions weaving and textiles not simply as “craft”, but as valid a fine art as any other.
Weaving is all too often overlooked in the realm of contemporary art, and is time and again exiled into the world of “craft” or “folk” art. Even today, many of the renowned female Bauhaus weavers are overlooked by institutions and books in favor of their male designer or “fine artist” counterparts. For many, the “art vs. craft” argument seems to be an arbitrary, ageless, and subjective qualifier. In fact, the Western conception of art and craft is relatively young and has largely been divisively designed through its roots in colonialism and sexism. I feel that the Western contemporary art world is finally waking up to this realization, and acknowledging that weaving is art, weavers are artists, and historically many of those weavers just so happen to be women. After all, weaving in its very origin is an innovation by women of color.
process: conception to conclusion
I often begin planning my textile works by drawing sketches, doing research, and experimenting with materials. In some ways, I see this first step as a bit of an excavation. The piece’s potential—its meaning, message, and intent—are already inside me. I simply have to dig it out through the creative process and materialize it into something tangible.
While planning the formal elements of my fiber works, I often think in terms of sculpture and painting. What form and structure will the piece take? How will the composition flow? What is its relationship to the surrounding environment? These are some of the issues I first address before beginning to write a draft.
A draft, or a weaving pattern, determines the structure and appearance of the final textile. While writing drafts, I make sure to give myself the space to play and experiment. In my studio practice, play is the most important tool for creating an innovative design. Once I have a completed draft, I select my materials.
All of my textiles are made with a combination of recycled materials and my own hand-spun, naturally dyed yarn. I create many of my own fibers in an investigation of the natural world and traditional techniques. By learning more about the natural processing of raw fiber, I am able to develop a deeper understanding of the current global textile industry crisis, and its environmental and social impact. With this knowledge, I carefully select my recycled materials sourced from dead-stock mill waste. It is important for artists to have an intimate understanding of their materials and the impacts they have. Once I have selected my fibers, I dress my loom and begin to weave.
The actual weaving process is really only a small portion of the creation of an entire piece and generally goes fairly swiftly.
Weaving is both a physical and spiritual process.
To me, weaving is a waltz that I dance with the earth, a time to feel the wholeness of my body and soul working in synchronicity to create something new. Other weavers likely understand this sensation. A painter may put a bit of soul into a painting, but the weaver wove a bit of soul into the canvas first. Once the piece is completed, it is cut from the loom. At this point, I often use my weaving as a medium itself, combining it with paint, clay, or other materials in the development of the final artwork.
Do not ever give up on your artistic vision! Being an artist means being a student of your inner and outer worlds, and making a commitment to contribute through your own unique and expressive voice.
As an artist, you have to show up and get the work done. Do not sit around and wait for inspiration to strike you—go out and make something, and let yourself be your own inspiration.
Creative time is too precious to waste.
Do not be afraid of making bad work. A truly great artwork can rise from the ashes of a dozen terrible ones. Bad art is a treasure, it shows that you’re taking risks and growing as an artist.
Do not let your influences dictate your work—push aesthetic boundaries, question authority, and be bold. An artist with nothing to say cannot make a masterpiece. Nurture your creative soul, take pleasure in your process, and never stop making mistakes!
About Evee Erb
Erb graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2016 with a BFA in Ceramics. While attending MICA, she also studied Illustration and Textile Design. Additionally, Erb studied ceramic sculpture in Florence, Italy at SACI College of Art and Design. After receiving her degree, Erb moved to Durham, NC where she has worked at the North Carolina Museum of Art, taught workshops at a variety of art centers, served on curatorial jury panels, and given lessons and artist talks at various institutions. Erb has had her work exhibited nationally and internationally.
In her artist statement, she says, “my work uses material, form, and structure to examine the relationship between gender, society, and the individual. The study of the figure is a concomitant reminder of human connection, memory, and mortality.