One of my goals this past year was to create three-dimensional fibre pieces. I'm new at this dimensional work, having created mostly 2D wall art in the past. And it seems there are so many materials out there for the sculptural side of fibre to experiment with. I have only just started to tap into them. 

I completed a few pieces, but didn't feel particularly successful. But that is part of the learning process. We can't expect great results right from the get-go - what is important is to keep experimenting, to push our boundaries, and not let fear hold us back. We learn best after all through these attempts and, yes, through making mistakes  And I'm pleased that I was able to include a few three dimensional pieces in my recent show, Lineations. 

To make the vase shown above, after sewing fabrics together then slashing through the layers, I rolled and manipulated the piece until it took on an abstract shape I was pleased with. To give it more structure, I inserted a strong cardboard tube in the middle, and filled out the additional space with 2 pieces of pool noodle. 

Pool noodles are a great lightweight material, strong, and cut very easily with a box cutter. The tube and noodle gave the stability to the vase that I was seeking. However once I added the branches and baubles, that balance was in jeopardy due to the length of the branches (shorter ones just didn't look right) and the weight of the baubles. I realized using 3 cardboard tubes and a cardboard base would have provided much more stability than the 1 tube and 2 pool noodle pieces. But as I had already sewn the top & bottom together, I was reluctant to undo that and re-sew. It was good enough I decided for the show and the piece was not for sale anyway.

For this wasp nest (see my blog post on the making of this piece) I tried buckram as the base for the fabrics, then stuffed the nest with polyester fill. The use of buckram gave the nest more of a sense of fragile strength, just like a real, papery wasp nest has. 

As a lover of pottery bowls, I was drawn to try making fibre art bowls. For this one, I used a foam sheet, sandwiched between fabric layers, that can be shaped using the heat of  an iron or heat gun. Alas, I didn't get the depth in the bowl that I had visualized, perhaps because I had too many layers of fabric. Yet I am pleased with this shallow, wonky bowl which I then embellished with beads. I have since learned about fosshape (used in hat making) which may have been a better material - and one which I will be testing in future. Fosshape holds its shape, although there is some shrinkage when heated, and can be painted, stitched, glued, burned, layered, and even felted. 

For this set of 3 bowls, I added wire form, a lightweight cut-able wire mesh that is also sew-able. This was a home run in my opinion. It's important to cover the mesh completely with fabric as the cut edges are sharp. To make the shape, I cut a piece of mesh in a circle and added layers of sewn fabric cut in slightly larger circles to both sides of the mesh, then hand sewed the top to finish the edges and enclose the mesh. A glass in the centre worked well to fold the sides up and around. Some scrunching and shaping was the final step. These remind me of sea shells. 

Lastly, this Icicle piece almost didn't get done as I kept getting stuck, but I'm glad I pursued it as it has become my favourite. The lines of snow on the top half were formed with pool noodles underneath, and the icicles using combinations of lace, lacey fabric, and a translucent packing material, rolled and glued with a gel medium to hold the shape, then embellished with glitter glue. The icicles have lots of texture and look like assymetrical cones, just as a partially melted icicle is never perfectly formed in winter conditions. 

As I looked around the room at my show, and at all the wall art, I realized I had embellished many of the 2D wall art pieces with 3D elements, primarily using polyester fill. Most of my wall art is stapled onto a canvas. When I add 3D elements, I stitch them in place through the canvas between the bits of fill and sometimes through the fill it it's not too thick. 

In summary I did a lot more experimenting than I had realized over the past year. There are other materials out there that I still want to try, fosshape being one I have already mentioned. I think the key is to make samples before attempting that larger piece for which we have high expectations. Making samples is never a waste of time as we always seem to find a use for or alter them for a future project.

Related Posts:

Reflections on a Solo Exhibition

A Fibre Art Wasp Nest


"Music is full of longing and movement.  Painting should be the same." I read this quote in Hundred and Thousands: The Journals of...