TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List | Plastic in Art

Plastic in Art

Author:  on 
July 14, 2013
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 Julie Kornblum

Leisa Rich had a fascinating article about the use of plastics in Fiber Art Now‘s Summer 2013 edition. She gave several examples of how contemporary fiber artists are using plastics and synthetics in their work, including Julie’s work (above and a TAFA member) and her own work.  Here is an example of Leisa’s:

Rich_Architects in Flux_108_X81_Leisa Rich

Many of Leisa’s large works are interactive and have movable parts that the viewer can rearrange, positioned by velcro or other attachments.

One of the things she mentioned in the article is that there are microbes that are now eating away at plastics in landfills.  Leisa, when you read this, please tell us more!  I compost and was thrilled to learn that I could dump almost anything into it and a year later it would turn into dirt. A couple of years ago, a metal bin that I had in the garage got wet and it was full of fabric that I had not brought into the house.  It was all moldy and gross, so I threw it all into my compost heap.  I have been appalled and disgusted to see what has happened to the synthetic fibers.  They just turned into these awful, stringy lumps which I finally threw away.  Everything else: cotton, wool, leather, cardboard turns into beautiful earth.  Earth to earth, dust to dust! (A Biblical quote about our own mortality…)

I love, love, love making stuff out of garbage and give kudos to others who do the same whenever I can.  But, I’m not so thrilled about the idea of buying new synthetics and plastics to make art.  I also have a hard time with art installations that use immense resources for a short-term exhibit. When I worked with clay and ended up with ugly stuff (most of my things were pretty cool, but there were some losers, too), I would think about archaeologists digging up all of the awful coiled pinch pots and ashtrays newbies were making in our studio… It pleases me immensely that most of what I make can rot and become earth.

Another thought that I had in reading Leisa’s article is that as the cost of oil increases, so will plastics. Lots is being poured into developing plant-based alternatives.  The plastic bags we get when we go shopping is a huge problem all over the world.  I think it was Bangladesh that banned them because they ended up in rice paddies during the flood seasons. There are many organizations out there trying to salvage as much stuff from our garbage as possible, but until we change how we consume and how we value our resources, it seems like a lost caused.

What do you think about all of this?  I would love to hear a bunch of different perspectives.  🙂

Note:  This is a topic post in our Eco Group.  Leisa responded with a comprehensive link list of reports on the plastic eating bacteria. Check the discussion out here.  Non-members are welcome to leave comments on the blog version.



I've been working with the arts and craft world in many capacities since 1988. Handmade textiles have been my core focus since launching TAFA in 2010.

My hope is to contribute to the economic development potential the arts bring to the world, along with the intrinsic beauty shown in the work. May the world become a friendlier place for artists and nature!

Arrived in Kentucky after a childhood in Brazil, college in Minnesota and 20 years in Chicago. It's been a ride!


on Plastic in Art.
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