Expressive fiber art is a type of needlecraft that combines creativity with contemplation. Rather than carefully following a design, often created by someone else, expressive fiber art combines different techniques and materials spontaneously. As a result, each piece is unique. In the process you get the opportunity to make choices about materials that creates a practice of being fully present and connected with your intuitive and creative self which many believe is a spiritual connection.
This process has another more commonly used name: slow stitching. I do not know from where or who the expression originated. I became aware of the term through the book “Slow Stitching: Mindful and Contemplative Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. An artist herself, her work often addresses concepts of time and slowness. In her book “Slow Stitching” Wellesley-Smith share ideas for approaching hand sewing as a contemplative craft. Rather than embarking on hand sewing with a finished product in mind, she encourages experimentation and a kind of journaling response to fiber arts. I found this idea liberating both for myself and the students I have had.
Often the people who come to my classes assume that they need a skillful and precise hand to make something worth their time. What they discover is that the enjoyment they feel is not about what their piece looks like but about the experience of sewing and passing of time in an unhurried manner. The mind clears and the hands take over. A space opens up in these moments, a space that many artists feel is a kind of liminal world between the material existence (or reality) and our imaginations where another force seems to be guiding us. We all have access to that place provided we set aside the notion of perfection or trying to make something to impress others.
I want to share a talk Elizabeth Gilbert did many years ago about this mystical thing creativity, because it is so beautiful and right.