Exploration and selling your fiber art by Leisa Rich
Leisa Rich’s interest in fiber art was aroused as a child from a fascination with the tactile nature of materials; a blanket she couldn’t sleep without and knitted clothes for her dolls to name two. At the age of 15 she opted to major in fibers.
Since then she has developed an impressive career as a fiber artist having exhibited all over the USA and won numerous awards for her work. She has been working in 3D and innovative textile art since 1976.
Leisa Rich is a Master of Fine Arts in Fibers (School of Visual Arts, The University of North Texas) and has a Bachelor’s degree in Education in Art and a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts in Fibers.
We’re delighted that Leisa has agreed to impart some invaluable advice for textile and fiber artists.
Cash vs creativity
A few years ago I met an incredibly talented artist. Her work was enticing in its subject matter, technically excellent, and very modern. It certainly caught my artistically jaded attention. However, I no longer take much notice of her work… so what changed?
Since it started selling well and she was actually making a good living, she continued on with the same materials, the same themes, and the same techniques. Artists struggle with this contradiction constantly. If they take time to explore new methods and materials, they can’t be producing work for sale and therefore can’t pay their bills. Or, can they? I would postulate that artistic exploration, a transformative process of “in with the new” is a MUST for artists.
Fiber art is (usually) a non-verbal tool that communicates your thoughts and feelings to a broad audience. If you are doing the same thing over and over again, what is that communicating to your audience, your buyer or even your inner self? True collectors of art works are looking for a piece of you, not just pretty art work. They are intrigued by your story, your process, a way of thinking that might differ from their own – a new perspective.
The act of creative play has benefits based in the cognitive: increased critical-thinking; improved decision making and problem-solving; actions of trial and error that lead to growth; a greater attention span; the development of a stronger sense of self; building confidence and more. It exercises BOTH hemispheres of right and left brain as artists play, explore, make decisions and come to conclusions, thereby contributing to their physical as well as psychological well-being. In addition, new materials proliferate in today’s market; it seems that every day something revolutionary to play with hits the stores!
Many textile and fiber artists will be desperately thinking, “That’s all very well, but I just don’t have the time”.
Well, the good news is, I didn’t set out to make this an article to browbeat you to do some exploring while leaving you high and dry… I AM going to give you some tips that will take little time and may lead to new work!
Tip One: Order, find, or buy one new material you have never used before
Recently, my friend told me about this new product called Fosshape. It is most often used by costumers and theatres; it quickly forms (via shrinkage), using high temperature steam and commercial heat guns, a desired shape. The possibilities intrigued me. $30 and a few days later I was the proud owner of one yard each of 2 different kinds of Fosshape. Not having a steamer or heat gun at my disposal, I decided to cheat and get out my scrapbooking embossing gun. Nothing is sacred from me…I troll thrift stores, crafts stores, hardware stores, antique malls, anywhere there is interesting stuff, for that one cool thing I can try something new with. So, I plugged in the heat gun and burned the stuff; big and little, weird organic holes formed, creating a fascinating effect. Now I am working with it constantly.
I experimented and may make some money as a result.
So, try your new material the way it is supposed to be used and then think creatively; try something it is not supposed to be used for and the results in your work might be innovative and unusual.
Tip Two: Get your hands on unusual tools and materials
Be a magpie. If you see a tool or material in the clearance aisle, or in your Great Uncle Ed’s tool room, or at the local thrift store, get it. Trust me, at some point you will use it! You won’t know what for. Several years ago I used a very strange yet fantastic metal tool I found in a thrift store as the handle of an artist book I made some years ago….and found out later that it was a tool used in difficult births!
Tip Three: But I haven’t really addressed the issue of time
I’m not going to tell you stop watching TV, but try making use of the time. Make something while you are watching your favorite show. My family know they have to make extra room on the huge bean bag chair when we watch something, because I will invariably have hand embroidery, painting, beading or something going on at the same time as enjoying the alternate reality screen.
You can find Leisa online at her website: monaleisa.com
A selection of her work is also available to buy on Etsy
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