In The Studio: Christine Miller
September 11, 2020
I am a life long fiber artist with experience in many processes and techniques: embroidery, knitting, crochet, basketry, needlepoint, sewing, felting, stitching, and weaving. But it is at the loom where my heart beats the strongest, and I have been weaving for over 45 years now. The act of constructing fabric, one thread at a time, is exciting and always has an element of surprise to it. I have woven almost every type of item you can imagine–clothing, household textiles, art concept wall hangings, and even one 3’ x 5’ rug! My love affair of weaving with wire started more than 25 years ago and I have been creating woven metal fabric ever since.
My local weaving guild, the Dallas Handweavers & Spinners Guild, hosted a “Weaving with Wire” workshop taught by Donna Kaplan in the mid-90s. I didn’t think I had the money or time to take the workshop, but I remember a deep need to play, so I signed up. What a difference a day makes! That workshop completely changed my life and for the next 20 years, I ONLY wove with wire and yarn!
The woven metal fabric I create is so versatile and sculptural! In the early years of weaving with wire, I created jewelry and vessels using basketry and other sculptural techniques. Gradually, the scale of my work became larger as I started pushing the limits of the materials and process. Wire is a lively material that has to be controlled at every point, but once the loom is warped with the wire it weaves up very much like other kinds of cloth. I haven’t actually found a limit yet, but the wire has to be evenly tensioned to be able to weave a beautiful fabric. I regularly put 12’ long warps on at a time, and maintaining the tension over the width and length of the warp can be tricky sometimes.
I retired as a visual arts educator in 2018 and had one year to prepare for what would become a two person show, Beneath the Surface: A Coral Reef Installation. Ever since I saw the hyperbolic crochet coral reefs in the early 2000s, I wanted to create one of my own. When retired, I had a venue booked for November of 2019, and initially thought I would create the entire show out of fiber. But my husband had begun experimenting with resin painting, and when I saw his watery, blue paintings I knew they needed to be the 2D backdrop to the exhibition. I literally got down on bended knee and asked him if he would collaborate with me on this project, and he said YES! We were off and running.
For the exhibition, I used primarily crochet, felting, and woven metal to create the organic forms of the coral reef. I did not try to replicate actual coral, but instead thought of myself as the Dr. Seuss of the coral reef, and let my imagination go. The synergy of our work really caught both of us by surprise! When you look at the groupings, the 2D and 3D work just dances together! The installation also brings awareness to the fragility of the globe’s coral reefs, and a bleached reef in the installation that adds to the advocacy nature of the exhibition.
Being able to be in the studio full time is so fulfilling and productive! I am grateful that I have been able to work in my home studio to prepare for these large installations. And, during the time of Covid-19, it has been a huge blessing and grounding space for me. As the emotional clouds flow in and out of my psyche, being grounded at the loom has provided me great comfort.
Having such big blocks of uninterrupted time has also allowed me to begin delving even deeper into the woven metal fabric. After taking a traditional double weave workshop that used yarn as warp and weft, I have been exploring double woven cloth using wire and yarn. It is SO exciting and invigorating! When I lay my head down at night, I have visions of woven metal dancing in my head! And they all get created one wire and thread at a time…
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