2019 Fiber Forum Retreat

Influences of Japanese Boro in Contemporary Fabric Art with Mary Ruth Smith

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Boro, a Japanese word, means “tattered rags”. It is frequently used to describe caringly patched and mended cotton/hemp bedding and clothing of rural families between 1850 and 1950. This constant repairing allowed the wearing ability for these items to be extended beyond their normal life cycle. Thus, boro fabrics tell us much about the living standards of families and the kind of economy of their time as it does about the visual impact these pieces possess.

This workshop will utilize the concepts of recycling, refurbishing, up cycling, up scaling, making do, mending and reclaiming, all contemporary trends that describe ways some of today’s artists develop their work. Many of these artists have been influenced by Japanese boro; for others, it just seemed to have happened that their work possesses characteristics of boro without ever seeing it.

Power Point presentations will provide a historical overview of Japanese boro and highlight professional and student work from Baylor classes and from workshops taught by Mary Ruth. Artists who have been influenced with the concepts of boro will be introduced as well as artists whose work appears to have the characteristics of contemporary usages as noted above.
Students will be introduced to the ways patchwork, pieced construction, applique, reverse applique, mending, darning and hand stitch (using several types embroidery stitches) can be used to create rich and varied cloths composed of many parts and pieces of left over materials/scraps. Stitching, the means of making marks and holding parts in place, will be used to communicate ideas, provide complexity and strengthen conceptual viewpoints.

This is a process-oriented workshop whereby students will develop their work intuitively through the process of selecting, arranging, and putting all parts together in a cohesive and meaningful whole. Throughout the process, students will be guided as they make design decisions. Concepts of what makes a good design will be identified and discussed as students develop their work. Work sessions will be open to a wide range of topics depending on interests of participants. Critiques are ongoing, individually and and collectively, as the work sessions proceed.

About Mary Ruth Smith

Born and raised in Virginia, Dr. Mary Ruth Smith joined the Baylor Department of Art faculty in 1993, bringing with her the maturity of a long teaching career in two fields of higher education. She has traveled from home economics to art education to art and, at Baylor, has created a studio concentration in fabric surface design. Over the past forty years, her hand-stitched award-winning artwork has been exhibited extensively throughout the United States and in Canada and around the world. Selected international exhibitions include Small Format Textile Art Salon, Montevideo, Uruguay, 3rd & 4th International Triennial for Miniature Textiles, Szombathely, Hungary; 5th & 7th International Exhibitions of Mini-Textiles, Kherson, Ukraine; Quilt National 2005 & 2007, Miami, Ohio; Visions 2006, Oceanside, California; Man+Woman=Creation, San Jose, Costa Rica and Pojagis From American Friends, 5th Cheongju International Craft Exhibition, Korea. Her work has been illustrated in Fiberarts Design Books Six and Seven, Surface Design Journal, Embroidery Magazine, Touching Fiber Arts, 500 Art Quilts, The Art Quilt Collection: Designs and Inspiration From Around the World, American Style and Textile Forum. Recent published commentaries on her work include “The Stitched Statements of Mary Ruth Smith” by Todd Turek in the Surface Design Journal (2012) and “Mary Ruth Smith: Passages in Profiles” by Dr. Ann Brockette in Fiber Arts Now (2016).

Throughout her teaching career she has taught numerous workshops and presented lectures for a variety of professional and lay organizations. Selected workshops include two International Surface Design Association Biennial Conferences, 4th International Biennial of Textile Art and Design Conference, San Jose, Costa Rica, Federation of Fiber Artists of Texas, Oklahoma Art Guild, Fiber Dimensions, San Francisco. Lectures have been given at Seoul Women’s University and Sookmyung University, Seoul, South Korea, Fibres West Conference, Bunbury, Australia, and National Art Education Association conferences, Boston, Massachusetts and Minneapolis, Minnesota and Fiber Dimensions, San Francisco.


Date: March 10 – 16, 2019

Location: La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa, 600 La Torretta Blvd., Montgomery, Texas 77356

For more information about the retreat including registration and accommodations, please check out the Fiber Forum Retreat brochure below.

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