Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate; communication is immediate and without boundaries. Even in the angst about our planet and in spite of the excess of information, I can sometimes find that place to be still, to filter out the unnecessary noise and simply lay a hand on what is important. These are the moments when I realize a learned lesson, when I recognize connectivity with others, when I sense a message or understand a mystery. These times don’t all result in art but if these occasions of spiritual and personal recognition coincide with an opportunity to make art, I may be off on a series.
My process begins with research into the chosen subject matter, not so much to gather information to educate the viewer but to educate myself by gathering visual images. I journal, sketch, take photos, participate in pertinent activities or go to a significant location to strengthen my grasp of the content. Images, colors and design choices begin to evolve. With white silk as my primary medium, I start the work, usually in a series of three or more pieces. Using fiber reactive dyes, I fold the fabric, lay in resists, immerse, screen or stamp the surface, building layer after layer, using impressions garnered during my earlier visual exploration. When dyeing the fabric I often add silk, cotton, linen or other cords to the bath to have compatible threads for embroidering surface detail and texture. Textile paints, discharge pastes, paper or other materials may be added as I move toward the final layer - stitching.
The content covers a wide range of topics. Recently I became vitally aware of refugee concerns and realized that our own country has forced selected populations into similar heartbreaking journeys. In one part of a series on “American Journeys”, the theme was based on the markings and signs used by unemployed, Depression era “Hobos” to guide each other toward safety and away from danger. Living south of the Mason Dixon Line on the Ohio River, I am sensitive to our shore being a destination for slaves running to freedom. Preparing myself to make a piece on the Underground Railroad included doing a 27 mile pilgrimage arranged by a local organization, walking on paths and into places that were part of the slaves’ journeys. Over the past months I have been studying early Christian art. The beauty, simplicity and depth of 3rd to 6th century Egyptian textiles led to a series where I simply enjoyed immersing myself in those images. Finishing a piece of textile art happens only when it is on a wall somewhere, being viewed by and shared with others.
Joanne Weis is a mixed media textile artist in Louisville Kentucky whose work can be found in numerous private collections around the country. In addition to producing and exhibiting her art, she is enrolled in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Louisville working toward her Masters Degree with a focus on fiber and textile. She is President of the Louisville Area Fiber and Textile Artists and as such actively juries and curates shows and promotes appreciation of fiber and textile art within the community.