Fiber Arts Festival fuses traditional, contemporary techniques

Posted on Jan 25 2018 - 7:57am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

The only fiber arts festival in Mississippi will introduce the community to a combination of cutting-edge technology and traditional folk techniques this week through lectures, children’s activities, demonstrations and workshops put on by both visiting and local artists.

The festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Wednesday night at the UM Museum with a lecture by renowned Nebraska-based ikat weaver Mary Zicafoose. Markets, receptions, classes and other events will run from Thursday until Sunday. A full schedule of the festival can be viewed on the Yoknapatawpha Arts website.

“I love the fiber arts because it’s always evolving,” Andi Bedsworth, the organizer of the festival, said. “There’s people who still do spinning, weaving and felting; then there’s people who are really mixing it up and making mixed media pieces and arts quilts.”

Bedsworth said that compared to last year, the festival has received many more online class pre-registration requests, so she’s expecting a large turnout. She also said that the arts council and the Powerhouse have been planning for at least a year now to host Zicafoose.

Students may already recognize Zicafoose’s work from her collection “Fault Lines,” which has been on display at the UM Museum since Oct. 3.

Zicafoose said she loves the fiber arts for many reasons, one of which is because unlike other art forms, a lot of textiles – such as knitting, crocheting and embroidery – are portable. In addition, she said the process of creating fiber arts engages both the right and left hemispheres of one’s brain.

“They’re technical but also artistic, and there’s something really, really satisfying and successful about that,” Zicafoose said. “There’s a reason they used to teach weaving in mental hospitals – it really quiets people and stimulates healing.”

People are drawn to weaving, Zicafoose said, because the technique has transcendental properties that expand one’s consciousness. When people are working with fiber, they can slip away to an alternative thinking place.

3D and 2D animator Ashley Gerst will also come down to Oxford from Brooklyn, New York, to demonstrate how to use the computer software GIMP at 10:30 a.m. Friday. GIMP allows users to create custom embroidery patterns and transfer them onto fabric.

Gerst said GIMP is similar to Photoshop because it allows one to use an actual photo of something real as opposed to a template.

“It’s so much harder to draw on paper because you can end up not liking the way it turns out,” Gerst said. “For example, if I draw my friend’s schnauzer and the eye is out of place. I’d have to redo the whole thing, but with GIMP, I can just nudge it over and edit faster.”

Gerst attended grad school with the owner of the Oxford digital gallery Misbits and has clips and sets from her upcoming film, “The Spirit Seam,” on display there until Feb. 13. The Spirit Seam was inspired by Gerst’s grandfather’s life in midcentury Appalachian Pennsylvania mining country.

Gerst researched images on Pinterest from that time period then constructed miniature dollhouse-like copies of houses and furniture, which she then juxtaposed with 3D digital animation of the characters – such as the granddaughter, Pollywog, and grandfather, Pap-Paw.

“My grandfather was very close to me and has always been supportive of my art-making and interest in sculpture and woodwork,” Gerst said. “He passed away in 2013, so this is me processing his passing and making a love-letter to my childhood.”

Gerst said she’s obsessed with “tiny things” and the sewing, knitting and felting of small objects and quilts “keeps her sane.”

The Oxford Treehouse Gallery is also hosting a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at which work from Pauline Crouse, Stephen Threlkeld, Andi Bedsworth, Antzee Magruder and Zita Webb will be on display.

Vivian Niell, one of the co-owners of the gallery, said a few of the artists will be there to explain their pieces.