Textile Folding -Inspiring a Creative Spirit

The art of folding can be practiced with different mediums and materials. Kate Barber  is a textile artist from Exeter, Rhode Island who weaves and colors her own cloth. She then uses this fabric to compose delicate pleated art pieces much like the tessellations that are familiar to origami artists. I asked Kate about her sources of inspiration and work process.

What inspired you to start pleating your woven fabric?

I love texture, especially in cloth, and much of my weaving over the years has been a quest for different ways to create texture. Pleating is one of many ways to do this; it creates a wonderful dimensionality and tension in fabric.
Pleating is a technique I had been considering for many years, but just hadn’t gotten around to experimenting with it.
Of course, once I set off in this direction, I began to see pleats and folds everywhere – in patterns in the sand, in corrugated cardboard, in leaves, in the surface of the earth – and this continued to inspire and excite me.

Describe the process you follow in making one of your pieces.

  • I weave a ground cloth with supplementary gathering threads that float over and under the surface of the ground cloth.
  • These gathering threads can be woven in either a vertical or horizontal direction, or sometimes both, depending on the effect I want.process 01
  • The gathering thread is very strong and is used to pull up and gather the cloth after it is removed from the loom.
  • After the cloth is gathered, these threads are knotted securely.process 02
  • To set the pleats, I steam the gathered and knotted cloth and then let it dry completely.
  • Once it’s dry, I carefully cut and remove the gathering threads. The pleated pattern remains in the ground cloth.



process 03

How does intuition and the sense of play help you in developing your pieces?

Before I begin to create a new body of work, I allow myself several weeks in my studio to play, without any agenda or set plan about what to make. Play gives me room to try anything and everything, without the concern for the finished product. It is emboldening, exciting, and liberating.

And surprises happen during play. These surprises are often the beginning of a new idea. As I begin to work out a new idea, my intuition – about color, shape, proportion, the nature of the materials I’m working with, etc. – kicks in.

Although, ultimately, planning becomes an important part of the process, in the early stages working loosely keeps the ideas fresh.

What would you recommend to others as a way to encourage a creative spirit?

  • Finding time, and the spaciousness time allows, is so important to unleashing the creative spirit. Carve out time – even if it’s a few hours – where you allow yourself to simply play.
  • Ask yourself “what if?” a lot, and don’t be afraid to try anything.
  • Quiet the critical voice in your head.
  • And spend time with other creative people and things that inspire you – books, art, nature, etc.
“Winged” ~ Kate Barber
“Gather” (Detail) ~ Kate Barber

Forward Folding, a lovely collection of Kate Barber’s work is in view at the AS220 Gallery in Providence, RI. July 5 to July 30, 2016. Opening reception July 9, 5-7.

~ Photos courtesy of Kate Barber.

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