Happiest and most joyful of years to all! We are so pleased to welcome 2023 with TSA member Sally C. Garner, a textile artist and educator based in Atlanta. Sally’s work was featured in our recent end-of-year campaign and we wanted to spend a bit more time getting to know her and her practice.
Textile Society of America (TSA): We were so captivated by your work, would you share a bit about your process and inspiration.
Sally C. Garner (SCG): Recently, my work has been inspired by the patterns you find within nature. I’m highly impressed by the amount of mathematical structures that nature generates with ease. But I also have growing concerns for the environment, especially based on the idea that human interference could disrupt the balance of natural processes. My current body of work is part reflection, part criticism about this aspect of humanity’s relationship with the environment. I am focused on manipulations of nature through sci-fi-esque sculptural textiles, earth works (where I weave materials that I find in natural settings), and experimental forms in traditional weaving and basketry.
TSA: Does that work tend to reflect a communal process or more of an individual practice?
SCG: I have a very individual practice, in that I often am weaving or creating in the studio by myself. I find it meditative to weave and often get into my own rhythm working in my studio; and I find it really relaxing to keep this space for myself. However, as a graduate student, I have a very communal environment in which the work is received and engaged with. Through critiques and studio visits, my work is shared with my peers and professors. It is invaluable to get a wide variety of perspectives on my work and my ideas. I am so grateful for this time I have in academia to be inspired by other incredible artists, and their influences on my work are crucial to my practice at the moment.
TSA: Speaking of influences, do you have any textile-related books / resources that you can share?
SCG: There are so many books and anthologies that have been influential on my understanding of textile histories and theories, but I want to share a book that I’m currently reading, The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World by Virginia Postrel. I am finding it an incredibly broad survey on the influence of textiles throughout time, including current technologies. The way Postrel writes these histories is really enjoyable to read because it’s a narration of the research that captures your attention and it is very accessible. I am particularly interested in the sections about how textiles evolved through different technologies, and how mathematics and arithmetic are carried through cloth and the weaving process. I initially checked this book out from my library, but before I even finished the first chapter I knew I was going to buy my own copy. I have been taking my time with the book, and know that even after I’ve finished it, I’ll be revisiting it again in the future.
TSA: Now for a fun one, if given the power to master any skill instantaneously, what would it be?
SCG: This is such a tough question for me, because I actually really enjoy the process of mastering my artistic skills all the way from the beginner stage. I am intrinsically a curious person, and often want to “figure out” techniques on my own. It’s like a puzzle for me: I want the reward of putting together my own knowledge, which is shaped by failure as much as it is by success. For example, as much as I would have loved to be instantaneously a master of double-weave and start producing complex designs of double-cloth immediately once I got the inspiration, I actually wanted to start by figuring out the basics on my own. With the general knowledge I had amassed on loom weaving, I dove right in to double-weaving with just the theories I had on how it’s created. The experiments were basic, but influential on following through with the next step, and so on. I didn’t want to follow specific “how-to” tutorials unless I got stuck with a limitation in my own knowledge. I particularly like to challenge my mind through these kinds of experiments. So if I had the power to master any skill instantaneously, perhaps it would be to master innovative thinking.
TSA: And finally, what projects are you currently working on / looking forward to?
SCG: I have a busy spring in 2023! I am working on my MFA thesis, which culminates in a solo exhibition at ArtsXChange in Atlanta, GA (4/4-4/14, opening reception: 4/7). I will also have work in group shows in Asheville, NC at UNC-Asheville opening in February (date TBD), and in Marietta, GA at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art from 4/1-6/4. After all these shows, and graduating, I plan to take a little time to relax before figuring out my next project. I am hoping to continue teaching fiber/textile studio art classes in higher education next fall, as teaching has really become a passion of mine. I get really excited to share my knowledge on textile methods with my students, and delight in seeing them develop works of art with their creativity and their varied interests.
Sally Garner is a textile artist and educator based in Atlanta. She has been teaching a variety of textile techniques over the past ten years in both classroom and small workshop settings. Sally has shown her work nationally, has had her work published multiple times in Fiber Art Now magazine, and has received awards from Fiber Art Now, the National Basketry Organization, and Surface Design Association, among others. Sally is currently an instructor of textiles and foundational art at Georgia State University, where she is also pursuing her Master of Fine Arts degree.