The journey to sacred fiber art
I was motivated to start creating fiber art in Spring 2004 on a retreat at the Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, California. I became enthralled by an elaborately appliquéd altar cloth dating from the late 1930s that was there. Suddenly I knew I had to start making sacred fiber art. But how to begin? I hadn’t sewn since high school and I was a cultural anthropologist by training, not an artist. Serendipitously, a gifted art quilter, Denise Labadie, offered to become my mentor.
After making some contemporary art quilts and a 3D sculpture of the Burning Bush, I felt called to make fiber-art tableaux based on biblical and mythic themes. Next came a fiber alchemy series of Green Men (and a Green Lady) and transformational figures: Humanabirds, chimerical creatures with human and bird characteristics, as well as Shape Shifters, including a Selkie and Ravens. I also began a temple shrine dedicated to the five elements. Next I moved onto techno covers— fiber-art pieces to cover technology, such as TV screens or computers. I would not have been able to create most of these artworks without the technical help and unstinting support of my dear husband, Gary White. Although I am the "artist," my work is very much a collaborative effort.
After a hiatus of a few years, during which Gary and I moved to Girona (Catalonia), Spain, I discovered felting. I am enthralled with the alchemical process of using fiber, water, and soap to create unique vessels and wearable felt art.
My art continues to be an expression of my spiritual life. In particular, I draw inspiration from the experiences I have in sacred sites and powerful places.
Elyn Aviva earned a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology at Princeton University (1985); her dissertation topic was the modern-day pilgrimage on the 500-mile-long Camino de Santiago in Spain. It was the first anthropological dissertation on the Camino, and Following the Milky Way, her travel narrative based on her experiences and her research, was the first contemporary American account of the pilgrimage.
Elyn has traveled the Camino a number of times, including three times on foot (1982, 1997, and 2000). In 2002-2004 she and her beloved husband, Gary White, walked one of the French Chemins de St. Jacques (Roads of St. James), the route that begins in Le Puy en Velay and goes to the Pyrenees.
Elyn earned a Master of Divinity degree from Iliff School of Theology (Denver, Colorado) in 1997. While completing the degree, she spent a summer training to be a hospital chaplain, and she served First Universalist Church of Denver as an intern minister for over a year, during which she gave various sermons that drew on her background in comparative religion.
In addition, Elyn has worked as a tribal planner for the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, as a health planner for the State of Kansas, and as a science writer for the Department of Energy. She established and ran the Department of Energy's High-Temperature Superconductivity Information Center at the Ames Laboratory at Iowa State University.
She has also taught Introduction to Religious Studies and led various adult religious-education courses. Elyn and Gary trained at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to be labyrinth facilitators, and they lead labyrinth-walking workshops (complete with slide shows). They have also studied with several geomancers and dowsers, as well as studying sacred geometry.
Elyn and Gary are currently enjoying expat life in Girona, Catalonia (Spain). They travel a great deal to sacred sites and powerful places, and are co-authors of Powerful Places Guidebooks Series, which currently includes seven guidebooks.
Elyn’s life-long fascination with comparative religion, pilgrimage, quest, and sacred sites forms the basis for a number of her publications, including books and articles published on YourLifeIsATrip.com and PowerfulPlaces.com. It also inspires her “fiberalchemy” fiber art.
Elyn is co-author with Ferran Blasco of Where Heaven and Earth Unite: Powerful Places, Sacred Sites, and You. This book is a series of interviews with Ferran about geomancy, the nature of reality, our relationship to the sacred, and much more.
Galleries & Commissions
I am eager to push the boundaries of fiber art and welcome enquiries from galleries who are interested in working with me. I also undertake private commissions and speak at events.
A few of my felted vessels are now available at Nou Glass Workshop (Nou Taller de Vidre), on Carrer Hortes, 2, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. I encourage you to drop by. They have a unique and carefully curated collection!
I'm also a writer fascinated by pilgrimage, sacred sites, powerful places, and spiritual quest.