"I just wanted to have a fiber show in Charleston."
So says native Charlestonian Kristy Bishop, fiber artist, wayward painter, and co-organizer of the upcoming fiber arts exhibit Pinned Down. "It's either show or don't show, so you have to make things happen for yourself," she continues. With that same go-get-'em spirit, Bishop asked friend and Redux fiber artist Camela Guevara to join her in exhibiting. Guevara happily agreed, and she and Bishop got down to work creating new pieces for the event.
For Bishop, that has meant hours and hours — months, really — of dyeing, tearing, pinning, and sewing pieces of silk chiffon onto squares of smooth bridal silk. This time-intensive method results in multidimensional abstract work. From far away, the pieces look soft and fluffy, like a field of wildflowers seen from far above. Step closer, and you're taken with the details of the silk's rough yet delicate edges. The play between the two textures makes it almost impossible not to run your fingers through it. Luckily, Bishop doesn't mind if you can't resist a quick touch. She actually encourages it.
Though the look and feel of fabrics intrigue her, as they should any self-respecting fiber artist, Bishop is even more drawn to the possibilities of color she's found in this medium. Since she dyes her own fabric, the color options are literally endless: a single artwork can contain the darkest, deepest blues and the most ephemeral pinks or greens, with every shade in between. Having come to fiber art after being dissatisfied with painting, Bishop feels a creative freedom that canvas and brushes never quite offered. Working with these fabrics, she says, "is like painting with silk. I like working abstract, but I had trouble painting abstractly. Once I moved into fiber, I opened a lot of doors."
Guevara, whose work features hand-beading as well as hand-sewing, came to her fiber work in a rather more direct way. Though she studied painting, sculpture, and printmaking at the College of Charleston, she also worked as a seamstress doing alterations at The Rose Knot (now the Charleston Garment Manufactory). "It was a natural progression to incorporate fabric and hand sewing techniques into my work to experiment with those skills in a less functional way," Guevara says. Her pieces tend to be fine and graceful, with intricate bead- or thread-work that provide a lovely contrast with Bishop's larger, color-saturated pieces. Simply put, their work just looks good together: they have an affinity for similar and complementary colors, as well as an aesthetic that is both bold and highly feminine.
"Our work shares the integrity of having been assembled with only thread," Guevara says. "Both our works could be disassembled with little damage to the components ... I think that sensitivity comes from using sewing, a traditionally female task."
Following what seems to be a rising trend toward showing art in alternative spaces, Pinned Down will be hung at the downtown floral boutique Stems. Having the show there, Bishop says, is just another example of the many ways that local creatives are working together. "We don't have a lot of galleries for young contemporary artists to show in. I want to ... really reinforce the arts community [in Charleston]. I like that we have a community where everyone knows each other, and you can grow and work with each other, and collaborate."