While many artists express their creativity through painting, drawing or photography, members of the Golden Isles Fiberarts Guild channel their imaginative talents using textiles, such as fabric, yarn, and fibers. According to Louise Eaton, the Guild’s publicist, the group is marking its thirty-third year. Eaton says it all began with three women who met at a weaving class.
They wanted to see if there was any interest in forming a local group dedicated to the fiber arts, Eaton said. After placing an advertisement in The Brunswick News, the three were stunned when more than 60 people showed up to that first meeting.
“At that meeting, it was decided to form a guild and the group held its first meeting in January 1990,” she says.
The Guild takes working with textiles, yarns, and more to another level, in a supportive environment. The Guild meets monthly from October through May at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church on St. Simons. Each meeting, which is also open to the general public, centers on a fiber art skill or technique and often includes hands-on demonstrations.
“With the influx of new members who joined this year, we are now at over 90 members as of May,” Eaton says.
In addition to large scale meetings, the Guild also has expanded to multiple interest break-out groups that each focus on one facet of the fiber arts. Those now include ones for beading, embroidery, felting, garment construction, knitting, quilting, rug hooking service design, and weaving. The Guild also holds biennial fiber arts exhibits. The most recent exhibit and sale, “Picking up the Threads,” was held at SoGlo Gallery in downtown Brunswick.
Several members of the Guild gathered recently at Sea Stitches, a fabric store on St. Simons Island to display some of their newest fiber art pieces and discuss their love of the fiber arts.
Eaton said her interest in the fiber arts grew as she transitioned from painting in oils and working with pastels. She has been a member of the group for about 15 years. “I enjoy quilting and designing and dyeing fabrics. I also found the fiber arts easier to store and transport,” she says, smiling.
Fellow member, Lane Night said she began knitting, crocheting, and sewing as a young girl growing up in California and Chicago.
“I learned to sew my own clothes as a child,” she says.
Lane discovered the Guild after moving to St. Simons in 1998 after retiring from a career as a business consultant in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York. Since joining, Night says she has expanded her fiber art pursuits to include quilting, weaving, garment construction, basket weaving — it runs the gamut.
“I’ve learned so much through the Guild,” she says.
Joining has also allowed Tonya Bradley to more fully explore her creativity through the fiber arts.
“I can’t really say what my main focus is now. I do beading, sewing, weaving, surface design, and embroidery,” Bradley says, holding up one of her recent quilting pieces featured jewel-toned fabrics.
She says her mother, Leola Holton, steered her into the fiber arts as a child.
“My mother also stumbled on the Guild and she and I joined immediately and we’re still members 20-plus years later,” she says with a wide smile. “My mother and I get to do all this together.”
Bradley says since retiring as the office manager for the Glynn County Schools Transportation Department in 2016, she has enjoyed spending more time creating and learning even more fiber art techniques.
“There is so much creativity in this group and being a part of it has taught me so much. We enjoy sharing and learning from one another,” she says.
While member Mariam Kennedy isn’t retired, her day job is fiber arts related — she works at The Stitchery of St. Simons, where she also teaches knitting and crotchet.
“I was born and raised in England and made my way to Georgia starting in Washington State, Louisiana, Grenada, New York, Ohio, then Georgia,” Kennedy says, laughing. “I was following my husband’s profession in herpetology.”
Wherever she landed, she continued to practice the fiber arts. While Kennedy has been knitting and crocheting for years, she has more recently developed a keen interest in the art of felting and started the Guild’s off-shoot felting group.
“It’s basically making felt using raw fibers, water, soap, and agitation. It’s very physical art and I find I enjoy it very much,” says Kennedy, who is also a member of the Jekyll Island Arts Association and sells her art pieces under the label, “The Merry Juggler.”
Kennedy adds that while felting is one of the world’s earliest crafts and can be traced back to early Asia, the art fell out of favor for years, before enjoying a resurgence.
“Felting started out as a practical craft and years later, people staring using it as more of an art form,” she says, as she held up a jaunty felt cap she recently created. Kennedy has shared some of her felting techniques with the Guild and enjoys learning other fiber art techniques from fellow members of the Guild, a sentiment they all seem to share.
“God has given us all talents in some shape or form that are meant to by used,” Bradley says. “This group allows us to do that. We are blessed to have this arts family.”
The guild is open to new members, even those with no fiber arts experience. Current Guild co-chairs are Nancy Harper and Jeanne Cieszeski. For more information, visit their Facebook page, goldenislesfiberartsguild or their website, goldenislesfiberartsguild.com.