“It’s Soooo Neat…”

Probably 15 years ago, I took along some of my own fibre art when I went to meet a well known Uruguayan fibre artist. I’d contacted her because I’d seen some of her work in an exhibition that spoke to me of stitch+colour+texture in a way that was fairly sculptural. I was making art quilts exclusively at the time, so although I don’t remember exactly which work I took along, it could have been Timetracks 3 –

“Timetracks 3” 2006, 152 x104cm Hand appliqued leather.

Whatever it was prompted the comment “but it’s soooo neat…” in an almost dismissive tone. Maybe she didn’t mean it to sound that way, and there are distinct cultural differences I was less aware of then – but it’s a comment I’ve never forgotten, and over time it’s caused me to wonder whether I was blindly and possibly lazily choosing to work and finish off as neatly as possible, just because that was the way I’d always stitched since childhood 🙂

One of my preferred ways to finish off a wall hanging/art quilt is with a fine binding, like a very fine plain frame around a painting, with about 1cm showing on the front (or a bit less, depending on the material used) Another method I often use is a facing that folds back, like a facing around an armhole on a garment, which leaves no defining line around the edge.

I began to study what others are doing with edges, and when appropriate, sometimes adapt them for my own work, as whether I was always aware or not it, that artist’s comment probably influenced some of my work that followed. For years now I’ve saved images of what I call ‘edge treatments’ in a Pinterest file, and adapted ideas from some – as I did recently with Green Dimension, for example. I hand quilted it with heavy duty, upholsterer’s weight neon green polyester thread, and from the ends at the edges formed large chunky knots before burying each thread back into the work. A good first pass, and lovely on the edge of a sleeve but not dramatic enough on something this size – so I’ll use a bead or something else, maybe, next time 🙂

“Green Dimension” – an edge of enlarged french knots
“Green Dimension” 2023 107cm x 103cm
“Odds and Ends” 2023, 125cm x100cm
“Odds and Ends” – detail of pieced binding.

I remember years ago seeing a textile piece of print+paint+stitch, hung by nylon fishing line from corner grommets. I wasn’t the only one who was a little unsettled as it seemed a bit shocking, almost sloppy, as if the artist couldn’t give a damn. But times change most things including minds, and from my last shopping spree in a JoAnn’s or similar craft shop in the USA I have some coloured grommets upstairs that I haven’t used yet!!

There are several current trends in edges that I like and am starting to use because they’re compatible with the design content of what I’m currently doing. I’m talking torn edges left unbound and unfaced, and of threads just left hanging, where artists simply stopped and moved to another area without any finishing off – which I found a bit challenging at first 🙂 Several in particular – Shelley Rhodes, Roberta Wagner and Annita Romano, convey to me a sense of their stitching being just a little flurry of stitching and wrapping activity, a brief episode on a constantly moving timeline-space that moves on before they’ve had time to finish off what they’re doing, so they just leave that and move on too… All of them tear edges or combine that with a bit of messy cutting and some odd fraying. When you think of it, everything an artist does just takes a segment of time from within the vast infinity of Time itself, and we sometimes run out of it without having enough to finish completely, and I rather like that concept. I’m not anti- framing, binding or facing, but I’m very aware that eges can and should be interesting, carrying the viewer’s eye away from the centre of the piece to that zone at the edge of the work where the background and the art itself sort of mesh and mingle in a crossover zone…. now there’s a title for a series…

Leave a Reply

Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

All images and text are © Alison Schwabe
Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without written consent.

Translate »