I use dance as a metaphor in describing the process through which I create textile art. My goal is to produce dazzling effects of rhythm and movement by manipulating and modifying fibers and fabric to bring about new and dynamic forms of art. In doing so I create objects of fine art for residential and commercial interiors as well as one-of-a-kind garments and accessories for special occasions or the stage. My textile art is exhibited in galleries, public spaces, and performance situations.
I start the process of creating new art by gathering threads, yarn, braid, tape, and yardage, all of silk, wool, cotton, linen, or other natural fibers. First, I consider their inherent characteristics along with the extent to which they are suitable for becoming the basis of artistic form. Then, I contemplate various ways through which their surfaces can be embellished using such techniques as stitchery, silkscreen printing, airbrushing, and hand painting with dyes. At this stage curiosity develops, questions arise, experimentation is needed, and creativity soars.
…curiosity develops, questions arise, experimentation is needed, and creativity soars.
Then comes the dance of textiles! Those textile materials and I form a symbiotic relationship. We become partners. Sometimes I take the lead by initiating the first step. At other times, characteristics of the materials inform me of the next move. The pace starts out slowly as each responds to the other, then gains momentum. As we go back and forth, rhythms develop, patterns emerge, and art forms evolve. The dance often goes on for weeks, even months. It’s an exhilarating process which I refer to as “choreography in fiber.”
Robert Hillestad is a studio textiles artist and design educator. His designs have been shown in more than l50 juried and invitational exhibitions and stage presentations throughout the U.S. and abroad and are included in numerous collections. He is the author of Robert Hillestad: A Textiles Journey (2008) and 50 articles about textiles and costume.
He is a Fellow in the Costume Society of America and the International Textile and Apparel Association. He received the Lincoln Mayor’s Arts Award (1996) and the Nebraska Governor’s Arts Award (2008). When he retired from a 31-year career at UNL (1996), the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery was named in his honor.
Dr. Hillestad earned degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Drexel University and The Ohio State University, did post-graduate work at the Art Institute of Chicago and completed a year-long study in the Paris couture. He works and resides in Lincoln, Nebraska.
All photographs by John Nollendorfs Photography, Lincoln, Nebraska