Whether you have a dedicated area in your store for fiber arts, or just a couple racks of dye hiding in a corner—your staff should know what fiber artists are looking for, and how to guide a novice through this medium. Fiber and Textile arts are very friendly to the entry level artist, and are amazing mediums with a deep history in craftsmanship and for the professional artisan.
What do Fiber Arts and Textile Arts encompass? Felting, Weaving, Embroidery & Cross-stitch, Basket Weaving, Macrame, Knitting/Crochet, Quilting, Cyanotype, Rug Hooking, Flocking, Needlework, Sculpture, Fashion Design, Leather Tooling and more. What do these artists use? It’s hyperbolic to say “everything,” but we feel comfortable saying “almost everything.”
With all of these mediums and products required, it may be difficult to create a cohesive section. Whether you have a lot available for these artists, or a little, here are a few ways you can capture their imagination.
Dyes and Paints
Artists are visual people. Providing samples of finished pieces is the key to success in these areas. Not sure where to start? Head to a thrift store and pick out some different fibers, send your staff home with the appropriate dyes or tools and hang up the results in your store window! This is a great opportunity for cross training!
There are a variety of dyes and paints available on the market. Jacquard Products has dyes, paints and inks for every surface we can think of. Angelus has a line of dyes and paints for leather with a cult following. You can turn any acrylic paint into a fabric paint using mediums from Golden, Liquitex or DecoArt. Speedball fabric inks are also a favorite.
There are mediums that are specific to dyeing that your staff should be familiar with. There are more than what’s on the list below, but these are the most common that you should be stocking:
- Soda Ash. More than an “add on”, soda ash is necessary for any customer purchasing a Procion dye. Using dye without a mordant is like painting with watercolor on glass. You might get a slight stain, but it will ultimately wash out.
- Urea. For fiber reactive dyes, urea is a humectant, essentially it keeps water wet longer. Keeping your dye solution wetter longer will allow the colors within the dye to penetrate deeper into the fabric. Urea is used by silk painters, and is how tye-dye gets really bright results (by staying wet and allowing dye to further affect the fibers of your groovy-tee).
- Sodium Alginate. Made from kelp, sodium alginate allows you to turn your dye into a “paint” by making it thick and gelatinous. This is commonly used by silk painters, but is great for screen-printers as well! It is a way to paint on fabric without changing the feel (“hand”) of the fabric.
Some other tools these artists are searching for:
- Wire Mesh/Mesh Screens for use while steaming the fabric
- Soda Ash, Alum and Synthropol
- Clothespins and Twine/Rope for hanging
- Silk Scarves
- Rubber bands & Zip Ties
Sculpture and Installation
While the following products may not instinctively live next to fabric dyes, providing a list of what else you have available in that section will help start conversations:
- Wires. Just like in traditional clay sculpture, armature or floral wires can be used to hold fabric into a desired shape. Other tools an artist may use with wires: pliers, dowel rods, wire mesh and styrofoam.
- Stiffening Agents. Like in papier mache, or in plaster cloth, a stiffening agent allows a soft piece of fiber to stiffen into place. Mod Podge, Golden GAC 900, epoxy glues, spray glues and wax all help to provide the structure an artist may want. Beeswax is trending due to the resurgence of beeswax wraps in kitchens and it’s natural antimicrobial properties!
- Hardware and Framing. An artist installing hundreds of strands will need hooks. An artist suspending a sculpture from a ceiling may need fishing line or framing wire. They may also need simple tools such as a hammer or screwdriver.
If you don’t carry these materials, make sure your staff know where in your community to direct your customers.
If you don’t have the ability to dedicate a section to an entire line of embroidery tools, yarn, or fabric, pick a couple of mediums, and carry products related to these trends:
- Basic needles and Pins set
- Seam Ripper
- Safety Pins
- Tracing Wheel
- Tailor’s Chalk
- White marking pen
- Fusible Web
- Cute Sewing Kits
- Stitch Counters
This list may seem exhaustive: but if you stick to curating a selection that makes sense for your customers, you may discover there is the perfect nook or cranny in your store waiting to serve the fiber artists in your community!
Did we miss anything? Have you had success with a department, product line or bundle that would fall under the Fiber Arts category? We’d love to hear from you. Reach out to the Art Dog team at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com.