The fine art of fiber art

Ravishing Red, hand-dyed cotton, dupioni silk, rayon thread; Norma Schlager.
Ravishing Red, hand-dyed cotton, dupioni silk, rayon thread; Norma Schlager.

By A Thread: The Fine Art of Fiber is opening this Saturday, May 14, with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, presenting the work of more than 40 artists. The objective of the exhibition, said curator Nancy Moore, is to show what is possible to create with fiber materials and techniques.

“Fiber art is traditionally thought of as craft or women’s work; this show presents fiber art as fine art, using materials and techniques in traditional and surprising ways,” Moore said. “Works on view are from local artists and textile artist luminaries; most are for sale and some are on loan. Local collectors have been very generous in sharing their treasures with us.”

The idea for the show originated about two years ago, said Ridgefield Guild of Artists Executive Director Pamela Stoddart. “Fiber artist Ellen Schiffman and her good friend Nancy Moore approached us at the Guild with an idea to have a fiber-only show in the galleries. We were no stranger to Nancy’s successful curated shows, as she had done two with the guild over the past several years, Continuum and The Women Show. We were excited about the concept of fiber and gave Nancy full rein to go forward with the show. Two years in the making, it embodies the best of fiber in its many forms and the best of Nancy Moore, who painstakingly selected some of the most incredible fiber works our region has to offer. I’m excited to see this show pulled together!”

An artist herself, who is primarily a painter and also creates knitted and embroidered “blanket statements,” Moore, a Ridgefield resident, recently joined the Connecticut chapter of the Surface Design Association, an international organization of fiber artists and discovered a vibrant community of fiber artists working right in her own backyard.

“This group really awakened my sensibilities to the possibilities of fiber art. Curators are appreciators,” she continued. “That hat is always on, and I immediately started creating a mental Rolodex of fiber artists. You are now seeing more fiber exhibitions in museums and galleries, so I had an idea that RGA might be open to celebrate fiber as a fine art medium. I was really pleased with the board’s positive response.”

When it came time to build the show, Moore drew on her mental list and invited approximately 50 artists to participate. Virtually all replied with an enthusiastic yes. Because of the nature of fiber works, textures and materials do not necessarily come through in jpegs, so Moore decided to curate the work in person, by making studio visits — more than 40 of them!

For Moore, the process revealed that artists’ studios “are like snowflakes — no two are alike. To see all the different ways that artists think about and approach fiber has been inspiring. Everyone is creating in different spaces, in different ways; they have stories about their work and their techniques. Many also work in other media; they’re fearless and curious about materials and how to use them. This seemed a perfect match for the Guild, which celebrates the artistic process and shines a light on both the art and the artist.”

As many natural fibers are made from plants, plant materials are included this exhibition, as are nonfiber works that use fiber techniques, such as weaving with plastics or glass beads.

A view of some of the objects in the show as they were being delivered revealed a wide and interesting array of materials and forms, including handmade paper, a wasps’ nest, birch bark, basketry, a site-specific sculpture of ladders, a metal piece with knotted twine, another of Q-tips.

The diversity of works makes it an unorthodox show with many installation challenges, Moore admits. The goal is to “create a flow what will have visitors walking and ‘wowing’; gallery visitors will find artworks hung on the walls, suspended from the high ceilings, sitting on the floor and on pedestals and displayed on shelves. Your eyes will go everywhere, and you’ll be rewarded over and over again,” she said.

Each work will be accompanied by an artist statement, “Intimate, personal thoughts about the work and the act of making it,” said Moore. “The show is an opportunity to teach and to learn, to see fiber art as self-expression.” As part of the opportunity to learn, the guild is presenting conversations with three to four artists from 3 to 5 on Sunday afternoons for the run of the show, which closes June 19. Moore will be giving a curator’s tour of the entire show on Sunday, May 22, at 3.

Opening and running concurrently in the upstairs gallery is Nature Unraveled, a solo exhibition by Dayna Wenzel, who transforms nature’s elements and found objects into thought-provoking, ecologically minded creations. Wenzel will be giving a tour of her show on June 5 at 4:30.

The Ridgefield Guild of Artists is at 34 Halpin Lane in Ridgefield and is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4; admission is free. For additional information, visit or call 203-438-8863.