Inspired by her love of color and culture, fiber artist Sherri Coffey creates a dynamic portfolio of handwoven tapestries.
ABI: How would you describe your body of work?
SC: My work is colorful, abstract, geometric, influenced by ancient cultures and my natural surroundings. The ecosystem where I live has inspired an abstract series based on my studies of the prairie. Some designs are from ancient Peruvian drawings, but reinterpreted in color and scale. Other work incorporates ancient or indigenous color combinations but with a modern spin in design. Frequently designs are simply all about geometry, shapes and colors that are pleasing to my eye.
I use tapestry to give crisp, distinct lines to the design. Other designs seem more suited to ikat, either because of the design itself or the blurred effect I want to accomplish. Both the tapestry and ikat designs have color and abstraction in common, and in time they may develop into two bodies of work.
ABI: What ways have you used to help viewers understand your art better?
SC: Frankly, I’m not good at talking about my art, but I’m learning. One way is to listen to what others say about my work, and to ask questions that trigger more conversation. A few years ago, at the one art festival I do each year, I realized how important the “story” is. Instead of the usual small labels for each piece, I decided to also include the inspiration for the work. It was gratifying (and surprising) to see visitors to my booth actually take the time to read the labels, but it also started many conversations. Definitely a good lesson for me that the story matters!
ABI: How has your work evolved to become more collectable?
SC: It is such an honor that several collectors have multiple pieces of my work and have commissioned others.
Originally I wove rugs, but no one would put them on the floor. I still love to weave rugs, but have changed my weaving to make pieces that are more suitable for the wall. Without getting too technical, this means that I set up my loom differently, which also means that certain designs are easier to weave. These current pieces can still go on the floor, but I’m the only one who does that! I am also experimenting with some smaller designs, weaving three or four at a time.
I enjoy the challenge of doing commissions. Limitations of color, size, and design required by the commission stimulates creativity for me. And I absolutely love the dyeing of all the colors!
ABI: What provides your greatest inspiration?
SC: My inspiration comes from many sources–the shape of trees, spots on a stingray, the curve of a bridge, indigenous and modern art, but the one thing that always draws me in is the ancient pre-Columbian cultures of Peru.
I love the colors, the figures, the geometry of the drawings and textiles from that period. I have also long had a fascination with the color and shapes of the Matisse cut-outs and the process he used to create them.