Installation of multi prints in pink, black, and metallics.

© 2017 School of the Art Institute of Chicago; All Rights Reserved Artwork: Maria Burundarena

Fiber & Material Studies

Fiber & Material Studies Department

The Department of Fiber and Material Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is internationally renowned as a visionary program and one of the leading contemporary fiber arts education programs in the world. Research-based, concept-driven, and resolutely engaged with hands-on making, the program educates students to make ambitious, complex, and innovative contemporary art. The department’s historical mission and vision are anchored in feminist and queer politics of community, compassion and care, and our classes offer free materials to students to augment their learning free of worries about the cost of supplies. 

 

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Student in foreground spreading fabric on worktable. Several students working in studio on various textiles in the background.

Studio Practice

Courses emphasize the creation of fiber and textiles within a contemporary art context, supported by historical traditions and current theoretical discourse. Students learn a vast range of techniques including weaving, textile construction, print, dye, collage, paper making, sewing, quilting, felting, knitting, crochet, spinning, embellishment, sculpture, installation, and performative approaches. With a footprint of over 15,000 square feet, our facilities are the largest in the country and feature a broad range of analog and digital equipment to support material-specific and transdisciplinary approaches to making.

Student leaned over worktable and painting.

History and Theory

Studio practice is contextualized and supported and through teaching that emphasizes histories that are deeply interwoven into the discipline. Students consider political, cultural, and formal themes and issues that have informed the field of fiber and material studies. These may include:

Labor, economy, globalization, and production of textiles
Sustainability, the environment, and climate change
Colonization and decolonization
New technologies
Abstraction
Gender and transness
Queerness
Critical race studies

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

Three students working at a loom.

Textile Resource Center

The Textile Resource Center (TRC) is a hands-on teaching/study collection and a curricular resource of over 450 textile objects and more than 2000 books. The TRC supports student learning about global textile histories and contemporary themes.

Student in foreground holding large screenprint covered in colorful ink. Other students in background working.

Mitchell Lecture Series

The curriculum is augmented with onsite lectures by prominent national and international artists and scholars thanks to The William Bronson and Grayce Slovett Mitchell Lectureship in Fiber and Material Studies. 

Real-world Examples

The Art Institute of Chicago offers a comprehensive collection of textiles, fiber, and contemporary art. Other local resources include the Chicago Textiles Week, the Weaving Mill, and the Field Museum. Students also may visit artists' studios, museums, and gallery exhibitions.

Large woven wall piece using warp dye techniques in warm yellows

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© 2023 School of the Art Institute of Chicago; All Rights Reserved Artwork by Rivers (Qinnan Zhu)

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Sharp Building

37 S. Wabash Ave., room 901, 

Chicago, IL 60603

Professor and Department Chair

Christine Tarkowski ctarko@saic.edu

Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator

Jade Yumang jyumang@saic.edu

Senior Administrative Director

Aaron Kissman akissman@saic.edu

Administrative Director

Kaitlyn Albrecht kalbrecht@saic.edu

Administrative Assistant

Jennie Bukowski jbukow@saic.edu

Assistant Director of Facilities

Melissa Leandro mleandro@saic.edu

Manager of Facilities

Kate Smith ksmith27@saic.edu