The Austin School of Fiber Arts Wants You
Because Lynne Brotman just can’t, ah, weave well enough alone?
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
7:00AM, Thu. Apr. 8, 2021
Here in our river city, where the Lower Colorado flows like a ribbon of blue through the greens and browns of Lone Star substrate, you can follow the bright threads that lead from embroidery – as highlighted in this article by Jessi Cape – through other forms of stitching, and into wider realms of textile-based artistry.
You always could, of course. Remarkable practitioners of cloth-manipulation and fabric-printing (we admiringly note Jill Thrasher) and paper-making and basket-weaving (hello there, Donya Stockton) and related work haven’t been unknown in this town – to say nothing of the Austin Fiber Artists group that’s been active since 2007.
But now there’s also a bona fide Austin School of Fiber Arts.
This nascent institution was founded and is run by local fiber artist Lynne Brotman, who wrangled up a board and a faculty and a venue while pandemically sheltered like so many of us in 2020. “That’s when I started applying for the nonprofit status,” says Brotman. “And that’s a pretty arduous process to go through. It took about three and a half months to get approved, but when that was done, now we have a board of directors, and an evolving faculty.”
Yes, the Austin School of Fiber Arts boasts not only expert teachers from this city, but a changing roster of world-class artists from all over the planet. The Peruvian weaver Maximo Laura, for instance.
“Maximo is a master weaver who’s shown in Beijing and Europe and all over South America,” says Brotman. “He has workshops in Lima and in the mountains of Cuzco. He’s internationally known, but very seldom comes to the United States. But I thought, ‘What the hell – if you don’t ask, you never know.’ So I got in touch with his representative – and now he’ll be here in September. We sold out the class in seven days, so I asked if he could come for another five days, and he said ‘Sure.’ So we have spots available for that second class in September.”
Also on the School’s teaching agenda is batik master Gasali Adeyemo, born in Nigeria and currently based in Santa Fe, who delights in sharing the fiber arts of the Yoruba people. “He uses a special Yoruba technique in working with wax and fabric,” notes Brotman. These instructors and others of similar magnitude will share their skills and material-based wisdom in workshops held within (or in the gardens of) the Neill-Cochran House, the historic treasure of architecture that’s long been a hub of creative activity.
Not that the fiber arts themselves will be, at ASFA, relegated to only historic renderings. “Fiber arts have become very innovative,” says Brotman. “This is not your grandmother’s quilts. It’s not your Aunt Millie’s afghan. A lot more museums are collecting fiber arts, and there are new textiles out that have medicinal qualities, or lighting embedded into the fabrics, or – you can go anywhere with this!”
She pauses, smiles. “I guess I’m pretty passionate about it.”
Whether you’re seeking to practice or learn more about weaving, fabric sculpture, surface design, artful dolls, embroidery, even bookmaking and the paper arts, this School can be an excellent resource for you – just don’t expect all your classmates to also be neighbors. “Some of our instructors are at the very top of their craft,” says Brotman. “So some of the people who’ve signed up for Maximo’s classes are from Maine, and Ohio, and four people from Kansas, and we have some more coming in from California.”
And these aren’t virtual students, right? This isn’t just another Zoom experience, no matter how enriching such a thing might be?
“They’re coming here,” says Brotman.
And that drawing-in of people, it turns out, is part of the school's raison d’etre.
“I’d like Austin to be, eventually, a major center for the fiber arts,” says Brotman, who recently enjoyed artist residencies in Japan and Mexico and will travel to Italy for her next one. “They’re well represented on the west coast, and on the east coast, and I want Austin to be the place in this part of the country.”
Mind you, the ASFA founder and her board don’t have that goal anywhere near, ah, sewn up yet. They’re just getting started. But that’s where they’re headed.
“We think that, by 2022, we’ll have 12 or more master artists in community workshops,” says Brotman. “And then we’ll be going full force. That’s our goal.”
And you, citizen, you could join them.