The Top Five Fibre Artists in South Africa

Fibre Art refers to works created with material like natural or synthetic fibre and other components like fabric and yarn. The artist focuses on the medium, and their manual labour in creating the work is part of the final product’s significance. Aesthetic value is prioritised over utility.

Africa is known for its history of fabric, from South African shweshwe to Egyptian cotton to Malian mudcloth and Kuba raffia from the Congo. These South African artists are being hailed internationally for their work with it.

Celia de Villiers

Celia de Villiers holds three tertiary qualifications, including an MA in Visual Art, graduating cum laude. The Sacatar Foundation of California has awarded de Villiers an art fellowship, she is credited by the World Craft Council, and UNESCO endorses her.

De Villiers has been widely exhibited and has also adjudicated and curated many exhibitions in South Africa and around the rest of the world. She has also published numerous academic articles in America, Brazil, France, Romania, and South Africa.

Kathryn Harmer Fox

Born in East London, Kathryn Harmer Fox uses her domestic sewing machine, fabric, and thread, as an artist wields a brush and paint.

Fox studied Fine Art and worked initially with conventional tools. She was then inspired by an exhibition of sculptures and wall-hangings made from non-traditional materials and has gone on to make dress fabric her primary medium as a result. She repurposes throwaway materials like remnants and offcuts, using them to create painterly works with conceptual qualities.

Fox places huge importance on being able to draw but says that anyone can do it. Just like reading and writing are taught skills. She teaches workshops locally and internationally, aiming to share her experience to help her students breathe life into their own.

Odette Tolksdorf

A textile artist and teacher living in Durban on South Africa’s eastern coast, Odette Tolksdorf’s primary works are multi-layered art quilts. Tolksdorf places importance on the formal elements of design, highlighting the contrasts between colours, lines, shapes, and texture.

Rosalie Dace

Rosalie Dace’s passion for colour, design, pattern, and texture shines through in her quiltmaking.

Her background in art and education informs her work and sees her heading up classes in contemporary textile art. Dace reveals that her inspiration comes directly from the world around her and her life. She’s also stated that her aim is to get her students to feel excited about what they’re doing and to help them develop a belief in their abilities.

Sally Scott

Sally Scott defines her art as a companion travelling alongside her as she journeys through life. She says it’s how she processes what she’s experiencing, feeling, and seeing, and it helps her understand the world around her.

Born in Zimbabwe, Scott grew up on a farm and her maturing in an unspoilt locale at the base of the Nyanga mountains led to an understanding of the power of nature. Scott says that it was here she became closely acquainted with rural Africans and that their influence has seeped into every one of her works.