Explorations in fiber and color

Three artists will show their weaving, dying, fabric collage and experimental embroidery this weekend

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2002

Ellen Anderson recreated a sun-dappled lake bottom and the curling bark of a madrone tree in layers of handdyed silk, beads, gold thread and painted flannel.

"Rocks Underwater" and "Bark Bag" are among seven pieces Anderson contributed to a group show opening Friday at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Gallery. "Fabulous Fibers ... and Beads" also features beadwork and basketry by Nancy Karacand and hand-dyed silk by Susan Sloss. The show opens with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Anderson's work has been called experimental embroidery, but it goes beyond needlework. To create "Rocks Underwater," Anderson worked with painting, dying, cutting, layering and restitching fabrics.

"It's sort of a collage effect," Anderson said. "I worked a lot with sheer fabrics overlaying the color underneath. I also incorporate beads to intensify the color in some areas."

It's meticulous work. Anderson has logged about 141 hours into the piece "Rocks Underwater." Like most of her work, it's inspired by the natural world.

"I tend to zoom in on small little parts of nature, something that catches my eye, a color and pattern," she said.

Anderson studied art through a three-year program taught by City and Guilds of London, an institution established in the 1800s to train and certify guild artists. The program combines week-long workshops on Whidbey Island in Washington with "homework" projects, and Anderson has carefully documented her work. "Fabulous Fibers ... and Beads" will include an inside look at the creation of "Bark Bag."

"I (made) a book that chronicles the progression and process of designing the bag," she said. "Notes, materials, every sketch, every design idea, types of fabric and the different dying processes."

Dying fabric, cotton and silk, is at the heart of artist Sue Sloss' work.

"I basically paint the dye on to the fabric, but it won't look like a painting," she said.

She's drawn to the vibrancy of color she gets with silk and uses a variety of traditional and contemporary techniques. This show will include pieces done in a traditional Japanese tie-resist method called shibori.

"You wrap it and scrunch it, then you dye," she said. "It creates interesting patterns in the silk."

The patterns are not entirely predictable, she said.

"Working with dyes you just never know how it's going to turn out," she said. "Dye has a mind of its own."

Karacand will have six baskets, a beaded purse, a beaded dress and four necklaces in the show. Basketry is just one facet of her artistic endeavors. She's done beadwork, pierced and hammered silver to create jewelry, and over the past several years she's collaborated with Sloss on several projects. She just recently met Anderson and was delighted to be part of this group show.

"I thought it was a wonderful match," she said. "The show is really about color and texture and I thought it was a great combination. I think her work is exquisite."

Karacand first learned to make coil baskets with jute and yarn when she lived in Haines in the early 1980s. Over the years she's discovered materials such as metallic threads, fine yarns and chenille that she's incorporated into her artwork. She also embellishes her baskets with beads.

"Two (baskets) have beautiful variegated color yarn," she said. "I thought, 'What if I took this and wove them with beads into necklaces?' So I have two woven necklaces that match the color schemes of two of the baskets."

One piece, "Spirit Tree," is a tribute to trees. Karacand used tiny faceted beads that catch the light and shimmer. Made with a flat peyote weave, it features the image of a tree illuminated in the moonlight against a dark sky.

"Fabulous Fibers ... and Beads" will be on display through April 2. The arts council gallery, at 206 North Franklin St., is open weekday afternoons or by appointment.

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