Fiber and Material Studies

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Department of Fiber and Material Studies provides you with an interdisciplinary study of fiber, materials, and processes that incorporate art-making approaches including: textile construction, sculpture, installation, action, and craft.

Summer at SAIC: Saturday, July 29

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Studio Practice

Courses emphasize the production of textiles and fiber arts within a contemporary art context and supported by current theoretical discourse. Students learn a vast range of textile construction, surface techniques, and processes, including: weaving, print, dye, stitch, soft sculpture, felting, knitting, crochet, spinning, collage, and embellishment. Our studios feature analog and digital equipment, and students engage in thinking and working with hand processes while incorporating digital technologies and computer-assisted approaches to making.

History and Theory

Studio practice is supported and contextualized through teaching that emphasizes the histories that are deeply interwoven into this discipline. As well, students consider the political and social themes that have informed the field of fiber and material studies. These include:

  • Labor, economy, globalization, and production of textiles
  • Repetition, gesture, and action
  • Technological developments impacting the field
  • Histories of collective and collaborative making
  • DIY, craftivism, sustainability, ethical forms of making
  • Gender and feminism—women’s global and historical roles in the production of textiles and contemporary explorations of the politics of gender, feminism, and masculinity
  • Queer theory—used as a lens through which negative stereotypes of the field may be examined and overturned and as a means to interrogate and explore the meanings and uses of materials

In addition to studio and classroom experiences, Chicago offers you a wealth of opportunities for studying Fiber and Material Studies within an art or cultural context.

Real-world Examples

The Art Institute of Chicago offers a comprehensive collection of textiles, fiber, and contemporary art, while the Field Museum provides historical holdings of indigenous ethnic textiles. Students also may visit artists' studios, museums, and gallery exhibitions.