The Fiber Department emphasizes appreciation and examination of textile structure, the expressive and physical characteristics of a pliable, flexible plane, and its uses. The inherent properties of fiber, its long and rich history as a medium for both fine and applied arts, and the technical developments in the medium serve as points of departure for experimentation and exploration by fiber majors.
The department is concerned not only with the production and understanding of fiberwork itself, but with its interaction and connection to other media and materials. The department also presents students with critical writings not only concerning fiber specifically, but also on contemporary issues in the world of art.
Although there is a strong sculptural emphasis and the Fiber Department works closely with the other departments in sculptural studies - ceramics and interdisciplinary sculpture - both 2D and 3D approaches are explored. Many fiber students create work that involves installation, performance, video, and other cross-disciplinary approaches. Students are introduced to conventional and unconventional processes, including dyeing, sewing, screenprinting, weaving, smart textiles, the manipulation of three-dimensional forms, pliable constructions, collage, assemblage, and sculptural surfaces.
Fiber majors take a series of courses designed to build competence with a wide variety of materials, methods, and equipment. The major's ample number of electives fall into three groups: fiber electives, 3D electives, and studio electives. The last group allows students to take courses in any discipline and permits students to explore a wide variety of media in order to enhance the conceptual and aesthetic judgments they bring back to their work in fiber.
Fiber majors join majors from the other departments in the sculptural studies area to take a junior-year seminar. The capstone experience is FB 400/FB 401 Senior Independent, a two-semester course with a writing component in which students complete their senior thesis. In this course, students pursue and create a major body of work growing out of their own personal direction. All seniors participate in a senior exhibition during the week preceding graduation.
The Fiber Arts Center is located on the second floor of Mount Royal Station. The facilities include studios, a large dyeing facility, and a seminar room. Some of the equipment available for students' use includes industrial and household sewing machines, sergers, computerized embroidery machines, looms (seven eight-harness floor looms, 13 four-harness floor looms, one AVL 16-harness production computer loom, and one tapestry loom), a digital textile printer, knitting machines, pleating machines, a steam cabinet, a commercial open-burner stove with four units, stainless steel wash-out sinks, a darkroom with a 60-inch-wide light table for photoscreen work, washer and dryers, and carding machines for felting. On the first floor of the Mount Royal Station is the smart textiles lab. The smart textiles lab includes soldering and electronic equipment and materials including arduinos, sensors, LEDs, motors, fabric and conductive thread, as well, it is connected to a 3D fabrication lab equipped with laser cutters and 3D printing. The Smart textiles classes explore innovative materials, models of research and development in textile and product design, electronics, responsive textiles, and the interface of technology in wearable form. Research is supported by a comprehensive departmental library.