For centuries women have been drawn to fibers – whether making clothes or household items – the attraction to hemp, flax, cotton, and wools has drawn them to make practical items as well as decorative art. Whether working with their hands, weaving on a loom, or sewing on a machine, women have enjoyed the act of creating and have passed on these various art forms down the generations, which have reinvented themselves as “fiber art” along the way.
An article in mymodernmet.com states, “In modern times, the terms fiber art or textile art generally describe textile-based objects that have no intended use. Although this realm has previously been seen as ‘women’s work,’ artists – particularly female artists in the 1960s and 70s – started to reclaim the field and elevate it into high art.” (“Art History: Ancient Practice of Textile Art and How It Continues to Reinvent Itself,” Sara Barnes, May 5, 2017)
Sitting with a group of women at a “Fiber Friday” gathering at the Dorchester Center for the Arts in Cambridge reminds this author of the importance of creating together and sharing our art with others. The group, which was established in 2014 by Windy Karpavage and Susan Lazur, had an active attendance of 14 women before the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, the group is slowly starting to rebuild and includes a diverse make-up of women who do weaving, knitting, crocheting, spinning, embroidery, felting, rug hooking, and cross-stitch, to name just a few. Anyone on the Mid Shore can attend the group that meets on Fridays from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, located at 321 High Street in Cambridge.
“This group has allowed us to build a network where we can share our experiences while maybe inspiring someone else,” comments Windy, who owns Kaire ‘je Studio on Taylor’s Island where she creates adorned felted purses, unique knitted coats, hats, and collars. She is also an instructor of knitting and felting classes at the center and in her own studio.
“It’s the comradery that is so special. I wouldn’t have attempted all of the things I have done if it were not for this group. I like fibers arts because it allows me to be creative,” adds member Jean Gutzmer, who enjoys knitting, felting, and repairing her family quilts.
Katie Ellis, former Visual Arts Coordinator for the Dorchester Center for the Arts, who is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), is also a member of the Fiber Friday group. She got captivated one day while taking photos of the group. She recalls, “There was a weaver there that day and I became enamored with her work and now I weave. While I had taken a fiber class in college, the environment of this group was the perfect place for me to learn it. It is a slower art and forces me to take time and relax.”
Another member, Patricia Dekker, collects antique spinning wheels and is a knitter and a spinner. Although she has been knitting since she was six years old, she just started spinning six years ago. She adds, “It’s just fun talking to people who enjoy these sorts of things. It’s a place for me to share what I am doing. I also like working with my hands and making things. My grandmother, mother and father all sewed – it’s in my genes!”
One of Windy’s goals with the group has been to get fiber arts more widely recognized in the region as an art form. To help do this, the group is sponsoring its second community fiber arts exhibition in September. The first show, held in 2019, also featured artists working in the windows of the DCFA and included demonstrations. The upcoming show, to run September 3 through September 25, will be entitled “Hands-On Textiles and Techniques.”
For further information on joining the Fiber Friday group at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, contact Windy Karpavage at email@example.com or call 410-330-0404. Also, Fiber Friday Friends of the Dorchester Center for the Arts is on Facebook. The group is free to the public.
Dorchester Center for the Arts is open: Thursday • Noon-6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday • 11a.m.-5 p.m.; Second Saturday • 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Summer Sundays • 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
~ Written by Amelia Blades Steward.