Transparency with a Twist
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.
|Silvia Fedorova at work. Photo by the author.
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.