Artists merge thread and technology

11-05-08 Threads
Student-made art is displayed as part of ASU's Digital Fibers class at Step Gallery in the Tempe Center on Monday. The class used special digital processes to create woven artwork.(Lindy Mapes / The State Press)
Published On:
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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A tradition as old as clothing meets a new era of digital art in “Threads and Pixels,” the Herberger College of Art’s latest exhibit at the Step Gallery on the Tempe campus.

As part of the special topics class digital processes for fibers, art students combined graphic design technology with commercial weaving techniques. Over the past two semesters, they worked with visiting artist Bhakti Ziek, using Adobe Photoshop to create digital images, which they then mapped out on woven fiber.

The designs were sent to Beljen Mills, a North Carolina company that wove cotton thread into tapestries and thread-based art using a Jaquard loom.

Ann Morton, a fibers art graduate student and the exhibit’s coordinator, compared the Jaquard process to an average ink printer.

While an ink printer uses four basic pigments to create a range of colors, the Jaquard process creates more complex color patterns by dealing with each strand of the weave individually. The process is similar, but manipulating each strand creates more vibrant colors than a printer, Morton said.

“It’s a process that artists are beginning to discover, but it’s still pretty unusual,” she said. “You can get such detail when each of the threads can be lifted individually.”

Morton said taking a fibers class that dealt with so much computer technology presented students with a sharp learning curve. Her background in graphic design helped but she said the process for creating a woven work of art departs from conventional design.

Students isolated each color in an image. They then assigned the colors on a pattern chart that directs the loom.

The Herberger School of Arts only offered the digital fibers class for two semesters, relying on Bhakti Ziek’s expertise and direction.

However, Morton said she hopes to offer it again soon.

“There are enough of us who know [the process] now,” she said. “I’m hoping we can bring it back.”

Aaron Goldberg, a fibers senior, wove himself into the art.

Goldberg photographed himself in a demure pose — one hand covering his face, the other his crotch — and integrated it into a collage-like background made from the letter M. He said he aimed to contrast his shy appearance with ideas of masculinity.

“A lot of the pieces I do deal with the male identity in a modern society,” he said. “Usually, when you do art digitally, you have to either leave it on the computer or print it on paper. You loose some of the color. [Weaving] enhanced the colors.”

Sabrina Goin, a recent fibers graduate, designed ornate pillows for the exhibit. She hopes to work with a commercial furniture contractor in the future, utilizing the techniques she learned in digital fibers.

“You lose a bit of the hands on,” she said. “But after you get the fabric, you get to create something amazing with it.”

The exhibit is free and will be held until Nov. 13. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Reach the reporter at channing.turner@asu.edu.