Shifts in textures: a look into the world of fiber
The hardwood floor creaks as you enter fiber artist and Studio School
Amy Young’s in-house studio. The sun shines through slit blinds of a large window, casting brilliant natural light over the massive, tawny-colored loom in the middle of the room. Strands of blue- and gray-toned threads are pulled through, a work in progress underway. Miniature baseball bats are woven into the work, creating valleys and peaks among the fiber.
“Textures really got me into fibers,” says Young, who has a bachelor of fine arts from UCO and a master’s from Colorado State. “In grad school, I was really interested in the 1980s and pop culture and the idea of nostalgia, specifically the term ‘anemoia,’ which is nostalgia for a time you never lived. I was born in the ’90s, but still had this interest for the ’80s and pop culture, and this sense of nostalgia for that time. I’ve always been interested in textures and materials, and then finding out that through weaving, I could force those textures and materials into a formable cloth, that’s where I really honed in.”
Young is a “master weaver of binaries,” according to DARIA, a publication devoted to art in the Denver area. As a queer, mixed-race individual from Shawnee, Okla., the artist’s identity is intrinsically woven and functions as a key component in her fiber practice. Disrupting ideologies of binary existence (man vs. woman, black vs. white, etc.), Young creates sustainable and captivating pieces, using weaving, tufting and ice dyeing as her tools.
“The first weaving I ever did, I was already trying to weave pieces of plastic in, but specifically in the loom," Young says. “Back in undergrad where I was making work about fast fashion, I was taking clothing people were giving away, deconstructing it and then sewing them together. So when I got to the loom, I was deconstructing clothing and reweaving into a different format. Then I did the prom-dress piece, I Just Want to Let Them Know They Didn’t Break Me. … So I was like, ‘OK, if I can fit THAT into the loom, what else can I do?’”
Young wove thrifted dresses with intricate decorative work into fiber formations, embellishing with beads and other texture-offering materials. From fishing hooks, lures, baseballs and gloves to wedding gowns and melted plastics, working in unconventional products is this artist’s staple.
Taking her talents from individual to the collective, Young teaches in Oklahoma Contemporary’s Studio School, currently leading a rug-making course. Young shows students — from beginners to experienced artists — how to combine alternate materials through the loom, creating one-of-a-kind pieces. Students even tackle and practice techniques Young has yet to attempt, a moment for the master weaver to learn as well.
“In this most recent weaving class, one of my students has picked up on a method that I haven’t even learned how to do,” Young says, laughing. “Teaching always keeps you on your toes, and it makes you interested in things you weren’t previously. The method he learned is called ‘leno,’ and I had no previous interest in, but as soon as he learned how to do it I was like, ‘I should learn how to do this and do this myself so I can teach other people.’ But also seeing how he used it, I hadn’t even considered using it that way before.”
“Teaching forces you in some ways to broaden your horizons, into the collaborative. Or even seeing people have interests in things you’re interested in and watching that light bulb go off in their head where they just start to get it — that’s always really exciting for me.”
Through weaving, Young has found moments of contemplation and Zen. Taking on intense topics like gender and race, while simultaneously tethering them to her identity, Young creates pockets of mindfulness, exploring themes like past friendships, lost relationships and, most recently, adolescence as a queer youth.
“My physical body is working on the loom, but mentally I’m completely somewhere else,” Young says. “Those were those moments where I could work out and meditate on what my life has been so far. This last series I made was on adolescence and love in adolescence, so it was a time to contemplate and move through those ideas — forcing me to take a moment. The work forces me to take the time to slow down — which is a gift, really.”
Tackle ice dyeing with Young this summer in a four-week class where students will learn to dye fabrics and utilize special techniques to create intricate patterns. Limited spots remain. Want to try a different topic in fiber, ceramics, painting or photography? Check out the full Studio School lineup.
Images: Amy Young at work on the loom. Amy Young's weaving a work in progress. Amy Young giving a talk during her MFA. Photo courtesy the artist. Amy Young's Dream Story (2021). Students at work on looms in Amy Young's rug making class. Amy Young's tufting work in progress. Amy Young ice dyeing.
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