This fall, in St. Louis and beyond, you’ll get a chance to walk among life-size, quilted totem poles. You can learn how to dye a silk scarf in the microwave, study a collection of antique kimonos or enjoy a fashion show of repurposed materials.
Artists from across the country and around the world will show off contemporary fiber art, textiles and fashion at Innovations in Textiles 2019, a collaborative event comprising more than 45 art galleries, organizations and museums. Most are in the St. Louis area, but participation extends to Columbia, Mo., and Mount Vernon, Ill. The exhibits and events wrap up in November.
As you’ve probably guessed, these are not your grandma’s sewing projects.
“So many artists might use techniques that have been around since the early, early days,” says program coordinator Anne Murphy. “But they’re doing things differently. They’re weaving, and suddenly it’s a sculpture within a sculpture within a sculpture, and it’s very different. Or there’s something that looks like a painting, and you swear it’s a painting, and you come up close to it and it’s a quilt.”
Innovations in Textiles started in 1995 with just four entities: Craft Alliance, Art St. Louis, the St. Louis Art Museum and COCA. The collaboration grew, presenting work every other year. In 2015, the organizations decided to present every four years.
This year, the events coincide with the Oct. 3-6 conference of the Surface Design Association, an international group focusing on textile-inspired art and design. Bus tours to area galleries will be available Oct. 5.
“You know how it is: Sometimes it takes one little thing like this to suddenly add extra energy,” Murphy says. “We’ve had more partners than we’ve ever had.”
The exhibits have already started but will ramp up by the end of the month. In May, the St. Louis Art Museum opened “Printing the Pastoral: Visions of the Countryside in 18th Century Europe,” which examines the art of copperplate-printed cotton, known as toile. Starting about 250 years ago, artisans were able to use copper plates to create more intricate designs on fabric, such as shepherds and couples in love. The designs are still popular and recognizable today. The exhibit is on view through Dec. 1.
“Totems: Stories in Personal Fiber” opens Oct. 4 and will be exhibited through Nov. 1 at Bluebird Park in Ellisville. More than 20 artists from the Bits Art Quilters have created a forest of totems, each between 4 and 6 feet tall and uniquely stitched, woven, felted or otherwise embellished.
Art St. Louis downtown will present “Fiber Focus 2019” from Sept. 28 through Oct. 24. The exhibit shows off work of artists from Missouri and the eight neighboring states. Artistic director Robin Hirsch-Steinhoff says the first works on view there in 1995 pushed the boundaries for that time — but they were nonfunctional sculptures or purely decorative wall pieces.
A few years ago, an artist created an installation that basically consisted of dirt in an intricate design on the gallery floor. The artist had used a piece of lace like a stencil and sifted the dirt through it.
“It was beautiful,” she says. “I think with every new artist and artwork, people are just always pushing the boundaries and exploring.”
What Innovations in Textiles STL • When Through November • Where More than 45 regional galleries, organizations and museums • How much Most are free • More info innovationsintextilesstl.org