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November/December 2001


Silvia Fedorova:
Transparency with a Twist

Silvia Fedorova at work. Photo by the author.
Twelve years into her career, Slovak artist Silvia Fedorova switched from tapestry weaving to bobbin lace, a technique of plaiting threads that are weighted with bobbins. Her early work in double weaving, she says, had made her feel that she needed more "light and transparency" in her art. In between working on big pieces, she had started making lace, just to use her fingers on something small. Invited to lead a lace workshop in 1980, she studied lacemaking for a semester in preparation. Since then, there's been no looking back.

Born in Banska Bystrica, in central Slovakia, Fedorova studied at the Academies of Applied Arts in Prague and Vienna. Since 1970, she has lived in Bratislava, in a fairy-tale attic studio overlooking the capital's main square. Fedorova has participated in numerous exhibitions of tapestries and bobbin lace; her work is in the collections of museums and galleries in Europe and elsewhere. In 1987, she won the Golden Bobbin award at the third Lace Biennial in Brussels for an installation piece composed of 17 black-and-white panels of silk and cotton, each made with 40 pairs of bobbins.

Though Fedorova continues to make installation pieces, her bread-and-butter work early on was lace jewelry. Made of cotton, her lace necklaces, chokers, bracelets, and other accessories show a taut, imaginative spareness. Fedorova thinks that the "geometric" quality of her lace is a reaction to the "organic, vegetative" feel of her tapestries. In the 1990s, she turned to making hats of raffia, these too with a quirky, sometimes dramatic twist. Later, she started incorporating copper wire to make pieces stiffer. A couple of years ago, awash in plastic shopping bags, she started cutting the bags into strips and using those to make offbeat boas, collars, and such. "It's a good material," she says, "different but easy to work with and much easier on the hands." Intriguing too are Fedorova's bobbin lace balls of copper wire shot through with black and white raffia.

Hat, 1997; artificial raffia; bobbin-lace technique. Photo: Jena Simkova.












With the coming of democracy in 1989 to then-Czechoslovakia, Fedorova was able to realize a lifelong dream. In 1990, with two other artists, she opened a gallery, called Gallery X, to showcase Slovak textile and fiber arts. That prompted Fedorova to start weaving shawls and other items for the gallery. Bobbin lace, however, is her chosen medium, and she continues making hats for shows, exhibitions, and theatrical performances. "I have to be free," she says. "I've never been employed. I've spent my whole life as a professional artist. But maybe that's because I'm able to live without much money."

- Jacqueline Ruyak

Jacqueline Ruyak often writes about Slovak artists.


This profile first appeared in:

Nov/Dec 2001

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