Firelands Association for the Visual Arts Opens New Fiber Arts Studio


Abe Frato

The Firelands Association for the Visual Arts is housed in the New Union Center for the Arts on South Main Street.

The Firelands Association for the Visual Arts fiber arts studio has been open since 2021. Executive Director of FAVA Kathleen Jackson said that the organization has been given multiple looms by the local senior center that closed during the pandemic. The goal of FAVA’s fiber studio is to allow local artists to share their work and spread their interest in the fiber arts, which include weaving, knitting, and quilting, to a greater audience. 

Founded in 1979 and based in the former Union School on South Main Street, FAVA offers classes and workshops to community members, exhibits work by local artists, and hosts jury shows, including the second oldest biennial quilt show in the world. Besides fiber arts, FAVA also provides instruction and opportunities for those interested in drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry, and many other forms of visual art. 

Jackson emphasized that the focus at FAVA’s fiber studio is on contemporary craft. While the techniques used in fiber arts are centuries old and many people in the community still do traditional crafts, much of the art done at FAVA is experimental.

“Even the quilt show that we do is a focus on pushing the boundaries of what is a quilt,” Jackson said.

She elaborated that submissions for the last quilt show included a quilt that was made out of ceramic, and several others that were made out of paper.

“One of the big things is 3D tapestries,” local artist and FAVA instructor Gina Talandis said. “They are devising all kinds of different ways to do 3D. There’s a lot of metal weaving with … wires and coppers and fibers.” 

Talandis has been working with fiber arts for approximately 30 years, and has experience creating both functional and purely aesthetic pieces. Quilts and tapestries of this kind are not intended to be used, but rather displayed — like they are on the walls of FAVA’s first-floor gallery. 

“Since we’re not having to create functional objects … I have the opportunity to go back and make something that’s just for visual effect.” Talandis said. “It doesn’t have to be functional. And since I’m not locked into functional anymore, I can do what I want, and I can play with colors and I can play with structure and it doesn’t have to deal with day-to-day wear and use.”

Even when Talandis creates practical objects, such as mug coasters and dish towels, the primary goal is still visual effect. Jackson agreed with this characterization of the contemporary fiber arts. 

“It’s really cool because you can make things that are non-functional that are just art, where I think a hundred years ago that wasn’t the thing,” Jackson said.

The fiber arts studio is located in the basement of the New Union Center for the Arts where FAVA is based. Additionally, there are certain times when people taking a class can come in and work independently. Classes are open to all. Talandis said that the fiber arts studio attracts a wide variety of ages and experience levels, including people who were involved in the fiber arts since they were very young, and others who became interested later in life. 

“We’ve got people in their twenties in the guild and people in their nineties. It’s really quite a lot more expansive than you would think,” Talandis said. 

The emphasis at FAVA is on taking traditional techniques and using them with creativity. “It’s not your grandma’s quilt show,” Jackson said. “It’s not your grandma’s loom weaving. It’s thinking about how to take these old traditional crafts and make them really contemporary and cool.” 

Other than artistic expression, both Talandis and Jackson noted another reason people do fiber arts: it is therapeutic. Talandis said that, for her, the focus of her work is not always the final product. 

“A big part of it is enjoying the process,” Talandis said.