Fibre art. It’s exactly what it sounds like – only gloriously, gorgeously, kaleidoscopically more all-encompassing than one could imagine. Often a riot of colours and textures and techniques, of cottons and yarns and threads, it can be incorporated into fashion or collage, woven into public spaces as the ever-popular yarn bomb, or even become vast, emotive artworks, à la Iphigenia Papageorgiou…
A teacher and fine artist, 31-year-old Iphigenia is one of Cyprus’ rising fibre art stars – an art form which, she reveals, is not yet well known on the island. “Although less renowned than painting or sculpture, fibre art is quite popular worldwide,” she explains. “Even here in Cyprus, we could consider Lefkaritika, with its handmade lace, a form of fibre art. But as yet, there’s little,” she adds, “which represents the more modern form of this art.”
Hoping to change that, Iphigenia has begun creating her own fibre art pieces, displayed on walls and open to the elements. For the most part, these pieces involve huge, emotive figures woven and knotted onto metal frames. Intricate and intimate self-portraits; coy girls with downcast eyes and an air of mischief; star-crossed couples – all tell an eloquent story. And, in that most are created live by the artist herself, it’s a tale that’s often written as we watch…
Her first piece, she notes, was crafted in 2017 for the Limassol Street Life Festival. “I wasn’t sure about whether it would work; it was a bit scary, especially as I had decided to create the piece ‘live’ – almost as a performance. But 25 hours later, and with a new experience under my belt, I knew it had been worth it. There was so much positive feedback, and people loved the idea of an artwork being created before their eyes. It became a very personal process.”
But Iphigenia had been working fibre art into her creations long before her Limassol debut. “My main inspiration has always been my ongoing embroidery art on clothing, and in 2016 I organised a group exhibition where I presented a series of embroidered portraits on tulle, fashioned with a continuous line. I originally had the same thing in mind for the Street Life Festival, but then I discovered there was no way to stretch a piece of tulle onto an outdoor wall…”
Instead, she turned to a simple metallic grid: “I stretched the fence on the wall, my fingers became the needles, and I used thicker yarns to embroider. Today, I often do the same thing: using yarns, threads, and anything thick enough” – often bought from specialist shops both here and abroad – “to fill the big spaces of the metallic fence with a unique combination of cross stitch and embroidery.”
“Some were commissions, mostly from festivals,” she continues, “and I’d love to complete more commissions in the future, and work abroad too. Others were for bars or restaurants, or even for myself. And, until Covid-19, I was due to be part of Bristol’s ‘Upfest’ – Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival – over the summer. But whatever I do, I enjoy,” she adds. “People should love what they do,” she adds, “otherwise they shouldn’t do it. In trying to find a reason for my own existence, I feel that perhaps I was ‘created to create’. It’s my purpose,” she muses. “I can’t think of myself without creations. I consider my biggest challenge in life to be myself; there is honestly no bigger challenge.
In that vein of creation, Iphigenia is set to teach a fibre art class over the next few months at IPH House of Arts – the studio she owns in Limassol. Already known for her work with adults of all ages, and younger students – “I focus on portfolio preparation for Fine Art, Architecture and design, graphic design and Fashion design courses” – this latest series will break new ground.
“To be honest, the classes will be a very experimental experience for me as well,” she smiles, “and I’m really looking forward to starting the class with my new students. I will mainly teach embroidery, tapestry and macramé: experimental techniques at a beginner’s level, since this will most likely be the first time the students have tackled fibre art.”
Always drawn to teaching, Iphigenia relishes her time in the classroom, transmitting ideas and encouraging her pupils. “When I studied Fine Art at Canterbury, and got my Master of Arts at Kingston University, London, I noticed I had a knack for communicating with others. And I recognised that I could go on to teach a subject that not only kept me creative, but that also encouraged creativity in others. Over the years, I realised that I have so much passion transmitted through teaching art to my students; I try to influence and guide them and their response gives me motivation to keep teaching and creating.
“Art,” she concludes, “can be anything and everything, and living and thinking as an artist produces so much emotion and so much power. That fascinates me. In the same way I hope that my artworks – and those of my students – fascinate others.”
For more information on Iphigenia’s fibre art, visit https://www.iphigeniapapageorgiou.com/ or the Instagram account @IPH.ARTS. To find out more about the fibre art lessons, call 99 779895 or email [email protected]