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ARTICLE ARCHIVE

Sept/Oct 2002

PRACTICAL MATTERS

Hanging Fiber Art: Readers' Questions

[Ed. - This column concludes a four-part series on how to hang fiber works. Part 1 (Jan/Feb '02) discussed basic principles for planning how to hang work, and parts 2 (Mar/Apr '02) and 3 (Summer '02) focused on attaching work to the wall and from the ceiling, respectively. During this series, writer Bill Alexander has been answering readers' questions by e-mail; here, we include a few.]

Dear Bill,
I am primarily a printmaker, and I've spent some time exploring the use of wallpaper and fabric scraps as printing surfaces. A problem that I have encountered comes from whether to hem the edges or leave them as simply cut and sometimes slightly irregular. Professional framers have suggested that the choice will almost immediately change the classification of the work from "fine art" (if not hemmed) to "craft/art" (if hemmed). I would like to hear your sense of this predicament.
Robert Schwieger
Lincoln, Nebr.

Robert Schwieger, Hunter's Vest; screen-printed monotype on fabric, wallpaper, and hologram materials; constructed on foam board; 44 by 30 by 0.5 inches.

Dear Robert,
    Your predicament says volumes about the conceptual difficulties the craft media still face. Of course, it would puzzle a Victorian that an unfinished edge would seem closer to "art" than a "properly" finished one.
    Presentation is important, certainly. And I don't wish to denigrate the framer's trade, but currently the packaging has sometimes taken over content. One might argue that anything could be forced into the realm of high art by a sufficiently important (or at least elaborate) frame. I say, Do what looks good to you, and believe in your work enough to hope they'll eventually get it.

-Bill

Hi Bill,
I am a painter but have been doing some offbeat collage stitched pieces in felt. The smaller felt pieces I have sewn to linen and stretched over foam core board and put in metal frames with glass. The work is unmatted and against the glass. I am wondering whether there's a better way. My first choice would be the acrylic plastic box, but it would have to be the typical mass-produced kind as custom plastic boxes are too expensive for me. The next idea is to use the shadow-box type of frame that holds the glass away from the work. But that seems to me to be too much frame for my work, almost ostentatious. Do you have any suggestions?
Helen Klaas
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Helen Klaas, Felt Series; felt, yarn, shells, buttons, pieces of a Guatemalan handwoven belt.

Dear Helen,
    First, I feel the framer needs to consider the conservation of a work as well as its look. Conservators have told me that glass should not touch work, particularly fiber work, as it will act as an acid over time. Also, because of temperature changes, moisture will tend to collect where the work touches the glass.
    I have seen the commercial acrylic boxes used to good effect. The key is to construct a back to your work. One way is to build a backing of foam core covered with mat board (or in your case, linen) that exactly fits the box frame but leaves room for the work; sew or attach the work to the front mat, and glue this constructed backing into the box.
    Another untraditional framing uses a piece of foam core mounted on a thin piece of plywood, with thin wooden strips on the back for attaching hanging hardware. A top mat is attached to the foam core, and the work is centered on that. Thus, all the viewer sees from the front is a rectangle of mat with the work attached. No glass is used, and possibly the thinnest of frames gives a minimal look. Colored-core mats work well here.
-Bill

[Ed. - Helen followed up with a note that she found that foam core may be vulnerable to warping in humid climates, but that a backing of 1/4-inch Masonite (fiberboard) worked well.]

Dear Bill,
I am developing a project involving using inkjet technology to print documentary photo imagery on a shawllike textile that resembles a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. My printed images are narratives and need to be "read" by the viewer. My display options seem to be 1) to present the shawls as though they were actually draped on a human body (which makes the imagery hard to read, but retains the "shawlness" of the textile) or 2) to present the shawls in a straightforward manner, as undraped rectangles (which eliminates the "shawlness" and the human element but is readily readable). Is there a better way than using suspended dowels? If suspended dowels are the best technique, what are my options for a minimally exposed dowel? Can I make the garments seem to float, as if there were no support?
Esther Malabel
Minneapolis, Minn.

Dear Esther,
One possibility is to get dowels in clear acrylic (or Plexiglas) drilled in the ends and hung with monofilament (i.e., clear fishing line) or even thin wire. A commercial plastics house can supply the dowels and even drill them. The rods and line would be somewhat invisible. Another option is to find or have made Plexiglas (or even wood or cardboard) silhouettes of human forms. Try a sales display company that supplies boutiques and clothing stores. A third alternative is to use sheets of plexiglass that are just larger than the work; you could drill small holes and sew or tie the work to the panels. This would be bulkier but would lend framing to the tallit forms.
-Bill

Bill Alexander is a fiber artist and writer living in Morganton, Georgia.

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Sept/Oct 2002

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