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3D Textile Art & Artists

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Giant towers of cascading red thread. Rope art that stretches across rooms. Textile art isn't just about embroidery and weavings. In this lesson, we'll look at 3D textile art and artists.

What is 3D Textile Art?

When you hear the words 'textile art', what comes to mind? Items like quilts and coverlets, embroidery, rugs, or tapestries? Those are indeed examples of textile art, but some artists have moved away from flat surfaces and home furnishings into new directions, creating artwork that fills rooms, suspends from ceilings, and towers over viewers.

You can walk around many of these works, and in some cases stand inside of them. These artists are creating 3D textile art.

First, a quick definition: textile art is any type of artistic creation that uses textile fibers like cotton, wool, hemp, silk or even synthetics like polyester and nylon in the production of art. If the artist makes a work that extends out into space, away from a wall or up from the floor, it's considered 3D textile art.

Textile art has a long history, but with the rise of feminism in the 1960s, and the development of new art programs dedicated to women (especially in California), some artists began using textile fibers, which had long been connected to proverbial women's work like sewing and knitting, in radically new ways. Now let's explore the work of a few artists.

Artists Who Create 3D Textile Art

Claire Zeisler (1903 - 1991) was an American artist who pioneered 3D textile art. Early in her career she studied with modern artists Alexander Archipenko and László Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. While she began working with textiles via traditional weaving on a loom, she soon abandoned convention and moved into three dimensions.

Her works, some made of knotted and braided threads, are massive and freestanding. You can walk around them. A dramatic example is Red Preview from 1969. This eight-foot tall cascading mass of bright red jute fibers is all about color, texture, and mass.

Red Preview, jute fibers, by Claire Zeisler
redpreview

Faith Wilding (1943 - ) was born in Paraguay and later came to the United States. She is a feminist and multidisciplinary artist who creates art in a variety of media, including textiles.

Her work Womb Room, created in 1972, was an important piece in the development of 3D textile art. Made entirely of crocheted knots, it surrounds and envelops you as you step into the space. The rope webbing is organic but also eerie, and it feels a bit like a giant spider web.

Womb Room by Faith Wilding
wombroom

Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930 - ) is a Polish artist who in the 1960s became known for rough-textured burlap sculptures that vaguely echo human forms. They don't have faces or personalities, but express fundamental elements of humanity.

Abakanowicz's large hanging textile pieces, called Abakans, are monumental sculptures made of sisal, a natural fiber, and woven on metal frames, and she has also created rope sculptures that stretch across rooms.

Crowd and Individual by Magdalena Abakanowicz
sculpture

Sheila Hicks (1934 - _) is an American artist who lives and works in France. Early in her career she studied fabrics and fibers in South America, and her fiber sculptures use a wide range of textile materials. She also incorporates unusual items into them, like porcupine quills, rubber bands, and feathers.

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