On this week’s episode of Art on the Air I invited photographer/painter/fiber artist Brittany Reidy into the studio with the intention of having a long conversation about DIY galleries in Savannah, as she’s recently opened up a new space in her home called The 2201, a reference to it’s address on Price Street. I even invited artist Kevin Clancy to act as co-host, since he’s one of the main folks behind another successful DIY space, The Hen House.
A live interview show, however, has a funny way of taking it’s own path. And one of the more interesting subjects that arose was the question, “What exactly is fiber art?”
“Fiber, it’s creating the initial structure,” replied Reidy.
A definition, sure, but one that, for me, needed more explanation.
“Wool starts on the sheep, right?” She explained, “So you have to actually sheer the wool, but it doesn’t really have enough of a structure to make too much out of it. But if you twist the wool, you can get a thread. Then you can take that thread and you can weave that into something or knit it into something, and then you’re starting to create more of a structure.”
“And thinking about where those objects come from.” Clancy agreed, “Like flax: Growing it from seed; beating it; retting it; stripping it; and then spinning it to make linen.”
I was starting to get an idea of where they were going, but it still felt a little bit elusive. Reidy agreed that a clean explanation isn’t easy, even for one with a degree in the field from SCAD.
“It’s even hard for me to really get into and wrap my head around it just because it’s so, so broad, and fibers can mean so much.” She continued, “I know someone making blankets for NASA. And then I also know people doing print and pattern for Target. And there’s another side of it where you get conceptual.”
“I wonder sometimes, if you’re pouring bronze into a lost wax cast, that’s sculpture.” Clancy opined, “But if you knit a figure of a person, it’s still sculptural, but it falls into some other category for some reason?”
Clancy, who has spent a great deal of time working with fibers for projects such as “Worth Dying For” and “What So Proudly We Hail’d,” postulated further.
“I think Brittany hits on the right mark about that initial place that you can take this post-process object and work it backwards to something that is so much more free, that can then be reused in many ways to make other things. Like making paper from it.”
Reidy agreed, “It all weirdly ties together. It’s just that very hands on, personal connection to making something great.”
So we can all define fiber art now, right?
Listen to my entire conversation with Brittany Reidy and special guest co-host Kevin Clancy, as well as my Field Note interview with Xavier Hutchins, José Ray, Kevin Bongang, and Tyriq Maxwell on-site at the Starland Mural Project, embedded here! And yes, we did eventually get around to talking about Reidy’s new art space The 2201.
Tune in to “Art on the Air” every Wednesday from 3-4 p.m. on WRUU 107.5 FM in Savannah, and streaming worldwide at www.wruu.org. Next week’s guest on the show will be William Kwamena-Poh. Plus I’ll have a special feature on the Arts on Waters project.
Art off the Air is a digital-only column that is posted every week on dosavannah.com as a companion piece to the WRUU 107.5 FM show “Art on the Air.”
Rob Hessler is an artist, host of the radio show Art on the Air on WRUU 107.5 FM Savannah, and Executive Director of Bigger Pie, a Savannah-based arts advocacy organization.