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Apr/May 2007

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Finding Room for Fiber Art

Text by Rhonda Brown
Photos by Tom Grotta

Ed.—In our April/May 2007 issue, dealers/publishers Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta share images of their home, a converted 1895 barn in Wilton, Connecticut. This home, which was renovated specifically to highlight the fiber art that the couple promotes, has appeared in Architectural Digest and other publications. In Fiberarts, the couple share some of the fiber-art-focused design and installation decisions they made. Tom Grotta’s photographs of the interiors illustrate the beautiful art-filled environment in which they live with their teenage son.

Here, some bonus tips from the couple on creative display techniques for making room for a growing collection of fiber art.

The ceiling is a great place for fiber art. Many pieces are light enough to be held by just a strand of monofilament stapled right to the ceiling.

This dramatic installation of “paper prayers” by Wendy Wahl is made of tall stacks of woven paper, hung from the ceiling.

Jane Balsgaard’s Paper Sculpture 4, of paper, twigs, and string, floats gracefully from a single strand of monofilament. An added advantage of monofilament installation for lighter works is the possibility for slight movement when hung not too far from an air source.

If your ceilings are high enough, above a doorway may be another possibility for installing art.

Here, Gyöngy Laky’s Future Tense creates a commanding presence in a tall space above a doorway.

Build a shelf above a closet or a bookshelf to hold a dramatic collection of works.

A dramatic space was designed above a bank of clothes closets to showcase these baskets by Gyöngy Laky, Markku Kosonen, Leon Niehues, and others.

The Japanese change artwork with each season. Some people do the same with linens. Create a grid of nails or other hanging mechanisms on a wall at varied heights, and you can periodically swap all the works on the wall or just a few key works of similar sizes.

A tapestry, DarkBlue Line 1 by Sara Brennan, joins three weavings by Chiyoko Tanaka. Other framed works of similar size can be easily exchanged for the two works on the right without replacing a single nail.

Add a cabinet or series of shelves below your wall display to show—and store—more work.

The cabinets above and below this display can store enough objects to fill the counter twice over. The collectors can rotate their collection—which includes ceramics, fiber sculpture by Norma Minkowitz, and baskets by Mary Giles, Dorothy Gill Barnes, Tamiko Kawata, Ed Rossbach, and Deborah Valoma—every few months.

Prune your book collection and create one bookshelf for art display. Battery-operated light strips can be installed to provide light above the works.

A grouping of linen and porcupine-quill baskets by Birgit Birkkjaer provides a unifying element when placed on a short bookshelf.

A built-in niche can be designed to accommodate a collection of large or small works. Flat and framed textiles and sculptural works can be mixed on taller shelves with good effect.

A grid of shelves can look attractive even partially empty as your collection grows.

Above this built-in storage unit, instead of consigning a single work to hang on the wall and one or two objects to sit below, this collector used a grid of shelves to display a collection of whimsical pieces that she collected over time. Among the items she included are a basket made of street signs by John Garrett, a work of wooden clothespins by Karyl Sisson, and two small objects made of price tags and buffer pads by Françoise Grossen. Because of the clean lines of the display grid, she could include, without crowding, a twisted-paper wall piece by Wendy Wahl in the center and larger sculptures by Simone Pheulpin and Mary Merkel-Hess below.

Many of us spend more than half of our waking hours in an office, where poorly framed posters or yellowed clippings under thumbtacks pass for “decoration.” Here’s a chance to upgrade your workspace and maybe create some converts to the fiber-art cause. Consider collecting or commissioning works that relate to what you do.

A client who sells wire provided samples to Gyöngy Laky to create Wire for the company’s conference room. Each piece of wire is stamped with the company name.

For my day job as lawyer for a New York publishing company, I provided artist Toshio Sekiji with copies of books from which to create a weaving of book-jacket parts and lines of text to hang in my office.

Author Rhonda Brown is a cocurator with browngrotta arts, which represents contemporary fiber artworks from the United States and abroad. For twenty years, Brown and her husband, Tom Grotta, have been promoting fiber art through their representation, exhibitions, and publications. They regularly exhibit work at the fine-contemporary-craft fairs SOFA New York and SOFA Chicago and at palmbeach3. Brown, a former magazine writer and editor, is also coauthor of Making Room: Strategies for Small Spaces.


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