A cross-section of North Adams Fiber Artists' work

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NORTH ADAMS — A new show at the Eclipse Mill Gallery in North Adams dives into the world of fiber arts with a comprehensive survey of what Berkshires fiber artists are up to. "Cross-Section" runs from Friday, Sept. 7, to Oct. 8 and features a variety of creations that amplify the voice of a type of creative work that doesn't often get thrust into the forefront.

The show features work by 17 members of the newly-formed North Adams Fiber Artists group and draws not only from the members' diverse styles with textiles but the history of the region in which it formed. The show acknowledges the fiber work that came before it, even by centuries.

"The show is to highlight fibers, which is not as often a shown medium as paintings and print and photography,"said group member and show designer Arthur De Bow, "but in this region we live in, there is such a strong, long decades, centuries-old tradition of fiber use by artists, even by people 300 years ago that wouldn't have called themselves artists. What they did was incredibly beautiful artistic work in fibers that was just part of their everyday life."

De Bow points to the regional practice of quilting as a historical example of practical items that take on an artistic quality in the hands of those that have created them, though there are many others, and the members of NAFA want to highlight the work and artistry behind the techniques.

"We might wear a hand knitted scarf and appreciate it, but not give it a second thought in terms of really stepping back and taking a look at what goes into it," said group member Betty Vera.

The group began when Vera, a fiber artist whose work centers on intricate weaving designs, moved to North Adams after living in New York City and the Hudson Valley five years ago. During that time she was involved with a fiber artist group, but the move to the Berkshires made it harder to meet up with them and she began to consider the possibility of one in her new location.

"After a while, I got to know people and realized there were a number of fiber artists, people who are interested in various aspects of the fiber arts, that I could just email and sound them out," Vera said. "Would it be fun to have a group and get together and support and inspire each other? So that's what happened."

Members came from North Adams, Williamstown, Vermont, South Berkshire County, the Pioneer Valley and even Connecticut. The Eclipse Mill show marks their debut as a group.

The show includes two pieces by Vera. One, a Jacquard print of a studio wall featuring a thread that pulls inspiration from the Dadaist thread experiments of Marcel Duchamp and another of a mill floor with its own strand of thread. Jacquard is a specific kind of weaving that utilizes six colored spools of thread together to create a woven image dating back to the beginning of the 19th century.

Vera's pieces are created through a digital version that controls a two-story-high Jacquard loom that is catwalk accessible, replicating the punch card system that the weaving format originally used.

Debow has one piece in the show, a silkscreened piece that stands as an example of his longtime fascination with crows.

The show will also feature work that is knitted, crocheted, felted, quilted, knotted, hooked and other techniques.

"We want people to appreciate the diversity of the fiber arts," Vera said. "It's hard to call it a single medium because the techniques are so diverse, but they all include some element of fiber — a long, fibrous thread or something that gets made into something and that can be useful in wearable and decorate the home, but also it can hang on the wall or sit on the floor or a pedestal and be admired and enjoyed as art."

As to the future of NAFA, members are considering their next steps in public as well as private, including group outings and group members instructing other group members on different techniques.

"It's very interesting and diverse group of nice people and we're having a very good time so far," Vera said.


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