In Stitches

In Stitches: Artists sew their souls into Fenix exhibit

by Becca Martin-Brown | May 17, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

Although there was some occasional sewing and embroidering on the leaves of her family tree, Erin Lorenzen was inspired to make things out of fiber “by necessity,” she says.

“My undergraduate concentration areas were ceramics, sculpture and painting,” the Little Rock native explains. “But, shortly after graduation, I moved to Buenos Aires and needed to find a way to work that was more transportable. I started working with silkscreens and soft sculptures there and was able to pack them up and bring them home to stretch, stuff, paint and complete as needed.”I love to see traditional ways of creating with fiber turned in a new direction,” she adds, and now that she’s living in Fayetteville, her vision explains the artists she selected as curator for “Sewn In.” The showcase of 22 contemporary fiber artists opened March 5 at Fenix Fayetteville — and closed almost immediately due to covid-19 concerns.

“I definitely did not imagine that we would all actually be sewn into our homes when I titled this show,” Lorenzen says. “We have been posting a bio for each artist on our social media outlets, [so] hopefully folks are learning a bit more about each artist and the inspirations for their work in that way. Each artist both embraces the tradition of the fiber arts and pushes the tradition forward, pushing the boundaries of the medium in their own way.”We hope that this can provide some inspiration for others to do the same as they are spending more time at home, surrounded by their own histories and traditions.”

A virtual tour and some virtual fiber-based activities for folks to do at home will be posted later this month on the artist cooperative’s website at, Lorenzen says, and “we will be adding more activities throughout the summer months.

“Some of the activities will be shared from artists’ home studios,” she adds. “This is an interesting time where we are all opening up our homes a bit and sharing our behind-the-scenes lives with people more. Hopefully, inviting each other into our home studios can foster some of the connection that we all need during these uncertain times.”

Here, readers can meet some of the artists, “so that people may become familiar with their work in anticipation of the show’s reopening,” says gallery spokeswoman Jeanne Parham.

‘All The Soarings Of My Mind Begin In My Blood’ Danielle Hatch Both a Fenix collective member and fiber artist, Danielle Hatch holds a B.A. in architecture from Wellesley College and an MFA in spatial studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She currently works with Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. About her work, Hatch says: “I work in the disciplines of performance, installation and sculpture to explore what lies underneath the surface of domesticity. Using materials related to home-making and home-building — upholstery, text, PVC, reclaimed wood — I seek to render feminine lived experience in tactile ways, exploring womanhood as an identity constructed through narrative. My sculptures often navigate identity formation through the lens of knowledge and expectations passed from one generation to the next, connecting the body with the built environment or the landscape, literature with self. “Through performances and site-specific installations, I work to name and make visible the underlying structures we’ve built that prevent women from authentically expressing ourselves, and to complicate how we imagine the interior lives of mothers, the intimate power that resounds in friendships between women.”

‘Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ Dani Ives Fiber artist Dani Ives calls her distinct style of needle felting “painting with wool” as she creates the effects of layering color, creating texture and depth with wool fibers and a felting needle, rather than a paintbrush and paint. She strives to push the boundaries of this fiber art by creating portraits and botanical pieces that are packed with details and realism. Ives has taught hundreds of students in workshops across the United States and internationally, including a six-week course at Crystal Bridges Museum. She says she loves to see students discover the endless possibilities of working in fiber arts.

‘How To Make A Square Pillow’ Kimberly Kwee Currently a professor at Pulaski Technical College, Kwee enlisted the help of Karin Hodgin-Jones to create her piece titled “How To Make A Square Pillow.” Together, they finished the unfinished sewing projects of a relative, Helen Jeu, a Chinese immigrant who lived in Altheimer, a small town in Jefferson County, where she ran a store called Sing Grocery. She was a fastidious record-keeper and started labeling her various sewing projects when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She seemed to be leaving herself — or her family, perhaps — reminders for what she intended to make with particular pieces of fabric. As Kwee and her collaborators finish the sewing projects in ways that are probably less conventional than their ancestors intended, they leave the notes for finishing in the final works.

‘Piece Work: Punto a Reticella’ Holly Laws Holly Laws is a sculptor who makes objects and multimedia installations. Her approach is informed by a love of experimentation with all manner of materials and processes. She employs labor-intensive and time-consuming techniques that are often associated with women’s work, craft or a specific trade, as opposed to fine art. While historically, her sculpture has focused on issues of personal fragmentation and perceptions of memory, her most recent large-scale work expands the focus from the personal to a more extensive societal memory and current political issues. Laws is currently an associate professor of art at the University of Central Arkansas where she teaches three-dimensional design and sculpture.

‘About Being’ Ziba Rajabi Ziba Rajabi received her MFA from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and her BFA from Sooreh University in Tehran. She is the recipient of an Artist 360 Grant in a program sponsored by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. Her work has been included in a number of exhibitions, nationally and internationally. About her work, Rajabi says: “As an Iranian female artist based in Arkansas, my work revolves around the desire to reconcile my relationship with two distinctive spaces: Tehran (my native land) and Arkansas (where I reside now). “In my paintings and installations, I re-create intimate moments culled from my home and neighborhood in Iran. Due to a situation where I am far away from my homeland and not allowed to return without being forced to remain in Iran, I can feel my memories of home fading away. By utilizing memories from my past, I take aspects of images that are no longer recognizable and, therefore, are abstracted into shapes that allude to elements found in my homeland. “Consequently, aspects of everyday life such as architecture, furniture, gardens or a specific time of a day become the basis for my work. My desire is to create a situation where the viewer looks at abstract paintings or installations and feels a familiarity, but can’t quite place what it is or why they sense a kinship. “By creating this kind of scenario, I can show that regardless of nationality, religion, or gender there are commonalities for all individuals.”

“Everything Is Available,” embroidery and acrylic on bedsheet and yoga mats by Erin Lorenzen, is among works on show at Fenix Fayetteville during an exhibit titled “Sewn In.” (Courtesy Image)