Retracing my steps: Explorations in Fiber Sculpture at Arrowmont


Retracing my steps: Explorations in Fiber Sculpture at Arrowmont

Arrowmont: after 25 years, I am returning to the place where it all started for me as a fiber artist.  That embarrassing picture is me, Amber O’Harrow (then Amber Wood), with my first weaving, turned into a bag.  Let’s see where my journey has led me since then, as I follow my guide, Pat Hickman on an exploration of fiber sculpture at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.


Location: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Gatilinburg, TN
Members: 14
Latest Activity: Mar 27, 2017

My name is Amber O’Harrow, and I am fortunate to be awarded the 2014 Crafthaus Workshop Scholarship to study at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts from the 20th to the 26th of July.  Thank you to Nick DeFord and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts for their great generosity in offering me this wonderful opportunity!  Thank you, also, to Brigitte Martin and Crafthaus for offering so many wonderful opportunities, such as this one, on!

I am no stranger to Arrowmont.  I spent the better part of my summer there, in 1989, studying weaving, silk painting and pastel drawing.  I remember the beautiful surroundings, positive atmosphere, and most importantly, the amazing food…Southern cooking at its best!

I particularly remember my fiber classes, as they had a great impact on my life.  I was headed to Rhode Island School of Design that autumn to study painting.  Halfway through my weaving class at Arrowmont, having totally and utterly fallen in love with fiber, I called RISD and changed my major to Textiles.  I work in many mediums now, but my connection to fiber in my work, has remained strong.

I was able to study with wonderful professors at Arrowmont.  My weaving teacher was Clare Verstegen, who has been a Professor of Art at Arizona State University since 1989.  She is a Cranbrook graduate and has exhibited her work all over the world, including at the Kyoto Art Museum and the Museum of Craft and Design in New York City.  I enjoyed her class very much and made my first three fiber pieces, a rag-weave purse and two small tapestries of the Smokey Mountain scenery.  I remember, fondly, of climbing under the quilting tables of Nancy Crow’s class to get scraps for my rag-weaving.  

A weaving I did in Clare's weaving class at Arrowmont, 1989

Ed Lambert was my teacher for silk painting.  He was a Professor of Art at the University of Georgia, a graduate of Cranbrook, and a very important figure in the American fiber art and surface design community.  Ed passed away a few years ago, but I remember both him and his fun class very well.  I painted several silk scarves, using his ingenious stretching technique to secure the scarves while they were painted.

A scarf I painted in Ed's silk painting class at Arrowmont, 1989

This time around, I will be studying with Patricia Hickman in a class she has titled “Fiber Sculpture: Structure and Skin.”  Pat is a Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of Hawai’i and received her M.A. from the Univeristy of California at Berkeley.  Her work is in many important museums and she exhibits her work, regularly, at the Phoenix Gallery in New York City.  

Artwork by Pat Hickman

Studying with Pat Hickman will be an enlightening experience for me.  Although my work has become three-dimensional in many mediums, I have never formally studied fiber in three-dimensions and I look forward to learning a great deal form Pat on fiber structure in that form.  I will be blogging about my experience in her class and about my time at Arrowmont this summer.  I look forward my week and Arrowmont and I hope you will enjoy following my journey as I make explorations into fiber sculpture!


Discussion Forum

Last day at Arrowmont

Started by Amber O'Harrow. Last reply by Brigitte Martin Jul 25, 2014. 1 Reply

We started our last day as we always do, with a slide presentation.  Pat showed us interesting slides of native Alaskans drying gut, as well as wonderful works, using skins and other animal parts.The ceramic pot shown below is covered in dried cow’s stomach; disgusting and beautiful!This basket uses fish skin:After the slide show, we continued to work on finishing projects:I had some time to look at some of the books that Pat had brought with her.  Below, is a catalogue from a show that Pat Hickman curated.  The image inside the book is of a woman carrying dried gut to put away until needed to sew into waterproof suits.We met around the table one last time to share a few more thoughts on our work and the class.…Continue

Day 5 at Arrowmont

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 24, 2014. 0 Replies

Day 5 was an interesting day of looking at and discussing what we have created so far.  We continued to work but it was nice to pause and see what has been accomplished.  Here are a couple of shots of our ‘critique’:We also continued to investigate ideas and study slides to other artists work.The collaboration piece between Pat Hickman and David Bacharach was completed.  By shining a light into the piece, they were able to create more pattern and movement through the holes that had been made.I completed my ‘Hog House’, which was encased in hog gut, as well as some quilt and feed bag sausages.Tonight we had presentations by the studio assistants and were able to tour the other studios to see what the other classes have gotten up to.  Tomorrow will be our last day in the studio.  Most of the gut has been used up, so most of us will be working on our netting techniques. Dinner was very good tonight!:…Continue

Day 4 at Arrowmont

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 23, 2014. 0 Replies

Day 4 was an exciting day of gut experimentation.  We started by looking at and handling some of Pat Hickman’s work:Then the class got started on all sorts of gut-related projects.  Here are just a few:Once done, everything goes into the drying closet, where you can see the gut netting, shown above, has dried. I spent the day finishing up a few gut pieces and working on my quilt barn, that I plan to cover in gut. Dinner was an indoor picnic, since we had some rain.  Excellent hamburgers: The studio was still busy after dinner.  While we worked, Pat began a collaboration with one of the other teachers, who is a metal artist.  He made a form in barbed wire, which Pat…Continue

Day 3 at Arrowmont

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 22, 2014. 0 Replies

Day 3 was a busy and productive day.  We started with a slide show, which included my, now, favorite work by Pat Hickman.  I can’t remember what it is called, but they are little lizards, that she FOUND dead and encased in gut…superb!Our assignment for today was to think about time:We continued working on experimental forms for the first part of the day:I made a basket from little electrical wires I’ve had for a while:Pat introduced knotted netting, which we all quickly got the hang of.  Then, after lunch, she showed us how to use gut or hog casings in our work.  Unfortunately, my camera and I are not getting along, and I don’t seem to have the film I though I took of her presentation!  Suffice it to say that we’ve had a great time, this afternoon, using casings in lots of different ways: …Continue

Day 2 at Arrowmont

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 21, 2014. 0 Replies

Day two at Arrowmont started with a good breakfast:Our class began with the viewing of images of artwork that related to sculptural fiber.  We were then given our first assignment, to create a form that could contain something that is important to us.We were given some materials to work with, in addition to what we brought.  I had never worked with reeds, but have always wanted to. Thinking of my farm and the purple martins that I have attracted to my farm for the first time this year, I decided to create a form based on Purple Martin gourds.Everyone experimented in very different ways and with different materials.We were also shown different variations of knotless netting.Time flew by today and soon it was time for dinner, with delicious ham, sweet potatoes and summer squash:…Continue

Sunday, June 20th - Day 1

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 20, 2014. 0 Replies

It is Sunday, June 20th and I have just begun my course at Arrowmont.  I checked in and found my room in the Red Barn:After a bit of exploring, it was time for dinner:  BBQ chicken, excellent fresh tomatoes, salad and roasted potatoes….very good, but not the sort of southern cooking I am hoping for.  But, I been told to never fear, it will come!During my exploring, I found the studio my class will be working in.After dinner, there was an orientation, and then our class met for the first time.  Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.  We seem to have a good group.Tonight, we each gave a presentation of our work, so that we would understand one another better.  The work was diverse and excellent.  I am looking forward to seeing some interesting work by the end of the week!Now it is time for some rest. …Continue

Tags: class, arrowmont, sculpture, fiber

Time to Pack!

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 12, 2014. 0 Replies

I will start my class at Arrowmont in a week from tomorrow, so it’s time to pack.  Here is what I will need: - 2 spools of waxed linen (light/dark)- 4 large paper shopping bags- “skin-like” materials-maps, foreign language papers, patterned wrapping papers,    rice paper, etc. (a few sheets)- stiffening agents such as bees wax, glue, etc.- T-pins- Straight pins- 1 quart plastic container with a tight fitting lid- An absorbent rag- Mesh sticks (or gauges to use) like a ruler about 12” long with even, smooth edges    or a wide wooden tongue depressor or a popsicle stick.  Bring 3 of these different  sizes.- Something that for you reflects memory and/or time or place- Notebook- Pen and pencil- Sharp scissors- Garden pruning shears- Sharp needles, especially large eyed tapestry needles- Thimble- Hole punch- Stapler and staples- Awl and a pair of pliers- 1 small tube of acrylic paint and a small container for mixing paint- 1” paintbrush-1 roll of masking or other tape- 1 roll of paper towels- Other flexible linear elements which might lend themselves to netting – copper   wire, other wire, plastic telephone wire - spool of something other than waxed   linen which is strong, holds knots well, is smooth and not slippery.- Padlock for your studio locker, if desired I have gotten everything on the list, mostly from my studio.  I only had to buy the waxed linen, a new packet of T-pins and a new packet of tapestry needles.  I had plenty of interesting “skin-like” materials because I am a hoarder!  I am bringing everything from a French paper place-mat with information about recycling to a rice bag with yellow and pink flowers.I…Continue

A little information to start with:

Started by Amber O'Harrow Jul 5, 2014. 0 Replies

I suppose the first thing I should blog about is a little background information on me.  As I mentioned before, I am an artist who works in many mediums, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional.  My art focuses on the beauty found in nature, which though it may sound trite, still holds the potential for deep meaning and strong visual impact, if presented in a fresh way.  This is what I attempt to do by combining unusual materials and methods to create contrast with natural forms and imagery. As an undergraduate at RISD, my studies in fiber were two-dimensional and mostly woven.  It was only as a graduate student at the University of Iowa, studying with Professor Chunghi Choo, that I discovered that I am really a sculptor and three-dimensional artist.  With Professor Choo, I studied metals, with the aim to give my fiber work more form and structure.  I was fortunate that Professor Choo also had a background in fiber, as well as metal.  Since having studied with her, I have made everything from a crocheted intestine necklace to a 6 foot cast aluminum chicken.Having a wide range of material and method options available to me, allows me to choose the right medium to express my reaction to what I see in Nature.I am looking forward to Pat Hickman’s class…Continue

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