Dec. 8

December 8

1934 –
Fiber Artist  • Installation Artist

Born in Nebraska in 1934, Sheila Hicks now lives in Paris and, in her late 80s, is still pushing the boundaries of what can be done with fiber. Though not a student at Black Mountain College, Hicks attended the then little known Yale art program which was newly being led by Josef Albers (former director of BMC). But when Sheila decided to write about Peruvian textiles in an Art History class she became obsessed with weaving. Albers introduced her to his wife Anni who was otherwise unknown to the art students at Yale since weaving was not considered art. (!)

In an interview in 2004, Hicks was asked when it was she started seeing fiber as art. She said “I have always made yarn-based things. I learned, from my grandmothers and from my mother, to sew, to embroider, to knit, to crochet, to cut patterns, to drape. These were normal pastimes.” But never art.

Over many decades, Hicks has studied weaving techniques all over the world. Her pieces quickly moved beyond the wall to three-dimensional and highly tactile, enticing viewers to connect with the work directly: to reach out and touch them.

“I think that is important, the wanting: the desire to hold it in your hands, to befriend it, to see if it bites.”

—Sheila Hicks

Links for Further Exploration

Invitation to Creativity

Sheila Hicks’ preferred medium is basically anything yarn-related. We, too, love yarn. But today, remembering the gift of Anni’s weaving workshop to non-fiber artists, we’ll work with materials that aren’t as familiar. Let’s let our fingers get into it with the oil pastels and see if it “bites!” Today we will explore the technique “sgraffito” which is Italian for “scratched.” First you lay down a layer of colors and then cover over them with a solid darker color. Then you find a tool like a toothpick, sewing needle, fork… and you scratch lines, shapes, words, etc. into the dark surface, revealing the colors underneath.

Further Inspirations

An Art teacher explains sgraffito and shares images froma workshop

Elderly woman with short white curled hair (Sheila Hicks) wearing a black and brown long coat sits on a heap of giant red balls made of yarn with one golden ball to the far left with her black shoes set in front of it
Portrait of Sheila Hicks with her installation from “Foray into Chromatic Zones,” London, 2015.