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Newsletter June 2006

Dear ALL

Dates to diarise

  • 13 August Vita Crafts exhibition dismantled
  • 16 August Opening Sasol New Signatures exhibition. Pretoria Art Museum. This show runs till October 1. More on this later
  • 19 August Submission deadline for entry form, fee and slides for Fiberart International - Exhibition of Contemporary Fibre Art. More on this later
  • 22 August - 26 August Fibreworks retreat at Sue/Hugh Akerman's cottage at Mbotyi. More on this later.
  • 4 September 6pm opening of MMII at artSPACE Durban.
  • 4- 16 September Major Minors II exhibition at artSPACE Durban. Coffee Lounge.
  • 8-10 September Craftwise Needlework Carnival in Alberton. Web site for classes:
  • 19 September Submission deadline for entry form fee and slides for Quilt National '07.
  • 29 September Friday. Deadline for submission of Fibreworks IV work. More on this later.
  • 3 October Opening of Jutta Faulds exhibition at the Jack Heath Gallery University of Pietermaritzburg. Phone Jutta for details on 033 386 8538.
  • 9 October Monday am. Setting up Fibreworks, Upstairs@ Bamboo, Melville Gauteng.
  • 9 October Monday 18h00 Opening of 2006 Fibreworks IV Members' exhibition.t
  • 10 October Tuesday 10am AGM in JHB Venue: Jenny Hearn's house.
  • 18 October Wednesday Fibreworks IV 1 p.m. knock down of exhibition.

Next Meeting:
AGM at Jenny Hearn's home in Johannesburg Tuesday 10 October 10am
Address: 13 Ronmar Road, Morningside, Sandton.

Meeting on 30th June:

Members present:
Jutta Faulds, Rosalie Dace, Jeanette Gilks, Margaret Ruxton, Judy Breytenbach, Santi McIntosh, Carolyn Zelenka, Anette McMaster, Helga Beaumont, Sue Physick, Sue Stevenson.

Apologies: Sue Akerman, Odette Tolksdorf.

Websites/Fibreworks website

Carolyn Zelenka arrived at the meeting on Friday 30th with a wealth of fibre/textile information that she had downloaded from the various websites. Thank you, Carolyn. Have a look at these sites: This website will give you a whole host of other textile websites, e.g.,,

Surfing the web is about as close to surfing as I'll ever get! Perhaps because we are in the process of getting the Fibreworks website together, I am very focused on the design and layout of other textile websites. World wide. The aims and ethos of the organizations are also interesting - how they differ from and what they share with OUR group. What I find of particular interest is how these groups select/collect members. This can/has been quite a contentious issue. Here are some excerpts for you to chew on. Whilst reading through this, what do you find yourself doing - nodding in agreement or shaking your head?


" …Fiber Art is a fine art expression that uses any flexible, linear material in a traditional textile process. It is not a new field, but it is an enduring one. Its roots can be traced back thousands of years to when mankind first discovered knotting techniques. Ours is a dynamic, fluid field, which knows no boundaries nor definitions….Acknowledgement of the past, however, gives this field its strength of identity and community.

"…throughout history fibre has been a rich and honoured medium for embellishing life and after life. Today the creative potential of the medium is being expanded in order to increase appreciation and understanding of contemporary in fibre media. When fibre materials or techniques are the primary medium in content-based artwork the result is fibre art.

" …Today creative expression in fibre includes all forms of "wall art", quilts, baskets, sculpture, clothing and installations. Both natural and man-made flexible materials are used…. We as fibre artists continually confront the bias and confusion regarding our art - that it can be fragile and short-lived. However fibre art can provide the connection that other materials cannot. We can "feel" it in ways that go beyond our thinking of what is or what it should be.

"…The medium of fibre appeals to a broader audience because it uses familiar materials and techniques and thus provides a more accessible art form. The familiarity of the materials themselves usually suggest a meaningful reading even without necessarily revealing the artist's own conception. Therefore the audience can take something from the visual encounter and relate it to its own experience. Using fibre as a vehicle for visualizing personal statements makes sense for artists who want the viewer to trust their own interpretation, even for an audience untrained in art appreciation or critical theory".

New members application:

"…A committee of FIBRER.ART.WALES members will consider the applications. The membership of the selection committee changes regularly. There is no quota on membership, each application is considered on its own merits and the potential contribution of the applicant to FIBER.ART.WALES. All exhibiting members are subjected to this selection procedure. A majority vote is needed to progress to the second stage. The decision of the selection committee is final and no correspondence will be entered into...Unsuccessful applicants are welcome to reapply… Successful first stage applicants will be invited to bring examples of their work to a meeting where they can discuss their work and their future contribution to the group. The committee do not give reasons for refusal at stage one. At stage two unsuccessful applicants will be given brief reasons why their work has not been selected.

"…All exhibiting members are subject to continuous selection by their peers. Members who do not submit or do not have work selected for three consecutive years must forfeit membership. This rigorous criteria of continuous selection plays a vital role in stimulating FIBRE.ART.WALES to grow and develop, reacting to the challenges of a changing visual fibre/textile art climate ".

From 62 Group of Textile artists:

" …established 1962. …run by an elected committee of its own members. Membership is international and by selection or invitation. Individuals are required to exhibit regularly to maintain their membership entitlement.

The group aims to:
promote Textile Art in major national and international venues
provide facilities for members to exhibit and sell their work
create opportunities for the growth and exchange of ideas
encourage international links with other textile groups
to ensure professional commitment whilst encouraging the exploration of new directions - promote and encourage greater awareness of textile art through education

"…Why has the 62 Group survived for over 40 years? First of all a group is only as strong as its individual members and the 62 Group has always attracted a committed, professional membership. To support them a wise constitution was drawn up and adhered to with only minor amendments. The wisdom lay in its insistence on a professional approach - a rigorous selection procedure for membership and for inclusion in any Group exhibition. Groups often flounder when rigour is abandoned in favour of a kindly indulgence to its members - they become self-congratulatory. Group 62 members are always subject to appraisal by their peers. This may have an "exclusive "feel. On the contrary, the 62 Group is an "inclusive" group, receptive to work which is challenging. New members are added each year, others depart, so that the group has a built-in dynamic, which prevents stagnation and ensures survival ".

Membership application

This is VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL to the Welsh Fibre arts Group and since 62 Group is much older I suspect the Welshmen got permission from the Englishmen to use the same wording! The 62 Group membership application document contains the following sentence IN ADDITION to what you have read above:

"… The selection committee changes regularly and includes both recent and long standing members". I think this is a significant addition.

I think it would be very worthwhile to discuss some of these points at our next AGM in JHB. I sincerely hope you will make the effort to attend. What is important is that you HAVE opinions and are prepared to discuss and defend them. Talk to your Fibreworks friends AND members of OTHER groups and find out what they do, and why, regarding "committed" and "professional" membership. Exchange ideas/develop your thinking/get attitude.


Sue Akerman has kindly invited us to Mboyti - whoever is keen must confirm with Sue on 033 3 473236 a.s.a.p. Dates Tuesday 22 August to Saturday 26 August - cost R10 a day per person for gas and electricity, plus staff salaries which are R110 a day to be shared between us all. Travel is via Durban and Port Edward, Bizana and Flagstaff and Lusikisiki. We will travel in tandem. It is 4½ hours from Pietermaritzburg. It is absolutely wonderful there! Annette McMaster, Sue A and I helped to build a retaining wall for agapanthus from car tyres when the restoration of the cottage - one of the oldest in the area - was in its infancy. Yes, when there was only candle light at night and a significant hole in the thatch roof from which we contemplated the darkly star-studded sky. I remember too the black, distant roaring of the surf…

Major Minors II

The Major Minors II catalogues need to be sold - it is everybody's responsibility to do so. In case you have forgotten, it is to pay for exhibitions, like our up and coming Fibreworks IV at the Upstairs@Bamboo gallery in Johannesburg. We are also looking at having a 10 year exhibition next year to celebrate a decade of our achievements, and the sale of catalogues will pay for the venue - but only if we sell them!

Quilting Arts Magazine: Thanks to Rosalie who kindly took the 9 works selected by Quilting Arts magazine to America to be photographed and then brought them all back again. We look forward to seeing them in print, and will let you know once published. We look forward to her News and Views of America when she comes back after ANOTHER trip from the USA! About 10 days ago when Margie Garratt was up in KZN, Rosalie gave a group of us a slide show she gives to American audiences. What an honour to be part of such a professional presentation. Thank you, Rosalie.

Fiberarts Magazine: The Major Minors II catalogue appears on the books/catalogues for sale in the latest edition of Fibrearts magazine. As a result of this we have had a number of sales of the catalogue - world wide! Charlotte Yde a Dane, is swapping two of our catalogues for two Quilt Art magazines that she edits. Her website address is

ArtSPACE Durban September

Romy Rycroft is delighted to be opening the show and what with her husband, Alan Rycroft, chairman of the KZNSA opening the Garret Artists drawing exhibition in the main gallery, we are in for a Double Feature. Try to BE there!


Remember that participation of this exhibition is reserved for fully paid up members.

We are exhibiting Fibreworks IV at the Upstairs@Bamboo gallery, crn of 9th Street and Rustenberg Road in Melville from 9 - 18 October. The opening will be at 6pm Monday October 9th .

Please find entry form and details at the end of this newsletter, submit this with your work when you deliver it to Jenny Hearn by Friday 29 September.
Her address is 13 Ronmar Road, Morningside, Sandton.

So far all is in order. Dana Biddle and Jenny Hearn have everything in hand. Many thanks, Jenny and Dana.

Members Achievements

Roy Starke
Congratulation Roy on a colourful and successful exhibition on the lower South Coast. It was a JOY for everyone who experienced it - thanks for your passion!

Odette Tolksdorf was again asked to be a judge at the National Quilt Festival in Port Elizabeth this year. Here are the prize winners:

Sally Scott won Best Art Quilt for Bongwefela.

Sue Stevenson 1st Wearable Art, Sue Akerman 2nd Art Large, Jenny Hearn 3rd Art Large, Jutta Faulds H/C Art Large, Elaine Barnard 2nd Art Small, Annette MacMaster 3rd Art Small, Sue Akerman H/C Art Small

FNB Vita Crafts Exhibition
Margie Garratt, Jeanette Gilks, Judy Breytenbach, Helga Beaumont, Jutta Faulds, Sue Akerman, Sue Physick, Jenny Hearn, Odette Tolksdorf, Leonie Malherbe, Hlengiwe Dube and Dana Biddle have work on this exhibition. It is currently being exhibited at the NSA gallery in Durban.

Jabulisa Exhibition -
Sue Akerman, Jutta Faulds, Jeanette Gilks and Annette McMaster have had works accepted. This is a traveling exhibition that showcases a variety of arts and crafts from artists living in KwaZulu-Natal. The exhibition always has a catalogue.

Innovative Threads:

Jeanette Gilks opened the Innovative Threads Exhibition 2006. Here is the
opening address:

What I find interesting about Fibreartists is how freely we borrow from the traditional crafts and art disciplines. I should say steal because there is no pay-back! Disavowal and Guardian of the Deep display very powerful sculptural properties. The fabric books on the table are both graphic and painterly as are a number of other 2D works displayed here. Still other works illustrate how photography, embroidery, beading and quilting have been used as points of departure. A number of artists show a keen interest in new media and contemporary fine art materials, e.g. Tokyo Beach makes use of digital imagery on canvas and Top and Skirt is a witty construction of fibre glass and resin. Language Divides - Language Unites seamlessly unites some of the classic disciplines and practices of quilting with seriously alternative fine art materials…
The work here reminds me of the valency electrons I learned about in physics at school. Valency electrons are found on the outer edges of some atoms and because they are not hugely attracted to the central core of the atom, they are prone to wiz off into space and join other atoms if it seems like a better place to be. Many fibre artists, like valency electrons, like to engage with the outer edges of the various art/craft disciplines. Celia de Villiers referred to fibre artists as "ex-centrics " because we have moved away from the center of a discipline to its edges! We love to romp and roam and rove, dipping here and there into art and craft alike. Like Ulysses in Tennyson's poem, we seem to be, "always roaming with a hungry heart ", and looking at this room compels me to think we have become a troupe of hybrid, vigorous travelers!

I am particularly drawn to the ex-centric, eclectic personality of the group and fibre artists will do well to keep this flexibility and fluidity of movement. We should avoid limiting and rigid definitions of ourselves that dictate exactly who we are and who we should become because we don't want to be lumped with rigid boundaries that resist changes and shifts. I say this because as organizations and institutions develop and acquire a history they can also acquire a dogma that is prone to pronouncements that foreclose and exclude.

Fibreworks must retain its ragged, scruffy and shifting edges!
These shifting edges remind me of the mountains in the Cape winter just before a cold front: the crisp top margins suddenly give up their hard edge and become a multitude of vanishing gray tones. I love these meditative, gray areas. But in the world of human affairs - which includes the art world - gray areas are not gray at all. They are full of colour and action and can give rise to controversial and contentious issues that promote fierce discussion and hot debate. Cutting-edge artworks often arise from gray areas because these artworks often involve danger - they cut - and in the art world it's the gray areas that are the danger zones.
Now the one work that perhaps emerges from the gray area in THIS exhibition is the work cleverly titled, Below the Surface.*

I'm sure some of you don't like it and wonder why its here, but I'm convinced everyone has an opinion on it. Here is merely a potato-print canvass stretched on a frame. Here is the shifty, snot-nosed kid on the block who teaches all our nice children bad habits. This work is surely the brat on the show. Here is the chancer. This work may not be cutting edge, but I must confess I do admire its inert, deadpan, dry sense of humour! By confronting boundaries, gray area artworks prod critics and artists alike into greater soul searching and reassessment. This is good.

Innovative Threads exhibitions must continue to nurture works of art that focus attention on contested areas. Great artworks address boundaries, whether it be negotiating the fine line between what is acceptable as an artwork and what is not or brushing up against the fuzzy edges between the known and the unknown. By signaling new directions, great artworks represent the growing edge and wherever that edge is drawn I hope it remains undefined and impressionable.

This will keep the fibrearts a living and growing entity.

Cape Town. June 2006

Interestingly, "Below the Surface"- very nearly excluded from the exhibition - went on to WIN the prize for the most innovative work in the Innovative Threads competition.

28 works from a total of 48 Competition pieces sold, together with three retrospective artworks. There were around 2, 000 people through the door. A book, Innovative Threads - a decade of South African Fibre Art is available for sale. Contact Liza Gillespie for details: 083 630 0962

Sasol New Signatures Exhibition. Jeanette Gilks had an artwork accepted for this exhibition. The work is not fibre/textile AT ALL but a small mixed media sculptural assemblage

Sasol New Signatures exhibition

About two months ago Odette Tolksdorf and I attended a workshop at artSPACEdurban. Presented by Fransie Cronje - artist, curator and art educator - the workshop aimed to equip emerging artists and upcoming art students with the requirements of the Sasol New Signatures Competition. (Unfortunately I learned that the deadline for the competition - mid July - would not make it for this newsletter. I wish I had known about it earlier). The workshop was attended by a range of people who represented the whole spectrum of the Durban arts community. Some interesting points emerged from the slide lecture and group discussions:

1 We were asked as a group what "made us mad" about art competitions/ art exhibitions. There was considerable consensus of opinion. We all get mad when:
Jurors/judges/assessors seem to look at the artist first and not the work, i.e. there does not appear to be a "blind tasting" of work and consequently selected work is seen to be sexist, racist or elitist
Jurors/judges/assessors frequently get their work into the exhibition they are jurying/assessing and judging
Jurors/judges are invariably unavailable for comment on the rejection of work, i.e. no feedback
Curators/co-ordinators change the Entry rules/requirements
Organizers/curators constantly change the submission dates/deadlines
Exhibitions often have (what appears to be silly) age restrictions

Fransie assured us all that the Sasol New Signatures Competition exhibition would not make us mad for any of the above reasons. That's a relief!

2 What are the jurors/ judges looking for in an artwork? What should the artist consider? (I reckon a number of us will find the following points of value considering we are /have been involved in judging and assessment). Remember, however, that the following points are MY observations and MY interpretations and understanding of the comments that were made during a slide lecture of the Sasol collection:

Work must be able to stand on its own. Its primary function is to work VISUALLY
The medium contributes to the content, is the vehicle for content
Concept/content/intention of artwork ought to prompt debate. Avoid bland descriptions of things/events. Have something to say/get attitude. Have an opinion, but don't moralize
Titles are important as they introduce content. Try to avoid untitled work
Rationales of work are beneficial but these should be short - verbal essence to be captured in a paragraph. Pages of theory will not be read.
Frames should be an extension of the content. They are not an added on afterthought
Brevity is the key. Avoid overstatements. Remember less is more
Presentation of work must be immaculate and appropriate

The submission date has now come and gone, but I think a number of Fibreworks members should consider entering this competition NEXT year. Contact Nandi Hilliard on the email: for further details.

Fibreworks members MUST consider entering this exhibition next year.

Love you lots,


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