Strand By Strand // Painting With Thread


I've become very used to the puzzled look I am met with when I tell someone I create abstract paintings with thread. I get it - it's unusual and a hard thing to visualize if you've never seen my work, so I usually have a photo ready to help explain my process. 

The question that follows is... "How in the world did you think of that?"

I took an experimental painting course during the senior year of my BFA program at the University Florida. This class turned out to become a huge turning point in the development of my work for it was in this course that I began experimenting with thread as a medium.

My professor, Ron Janowich, gave us thought-provoking prompts that pushed us to explore the boundaries of painting and step outside the norms of our process. When given an assignment to create a painting without using any paint, my interest was truly sparked.

My mother is a talented seamstress. My grandmother taught her how to sew, and she taught me. Growing up I would sit on the floor with her scrap bin, experimenting with needle and thread. Mixing and matching, I would play with how I could piece different materials together while the hum of a sewing machine clicked away in the background. When I got older, I started learning on one of her machines, making mini quilts and pillows. Though I never learned how to sew to the level that she can, my mother gave me a pair of hands that will always feel the need to create.


 My mother's endless supply of thread immediately came to my mind as the perfect resource to utilize for project with no paint. I decided to create a series of line paintings using nothing but this simple yet strong material. I attached a strand of thread to the back of a raw canvas board with piece of tape and began wrapping. Circling my arm around the canvas, I wrapped - laying a straight line one by one.

I created three of these paintings. The process was measured and meticulous, but somehow felt natural and fluent. My spools spun along the ground as I wrapped around and around. The fiber felt familiar sliding through my hands. I had a connection to the material. I was hooked.

Canvas board does not have a frame, so as my threads accumulated they began pulling the board tighter and tighter, warping the surface just slightly. The threads hovered over the canvas and the sliver of space between peaked my interest - What could lie beneath these threads? Is there more to this that I can explore? I grabbed a photoscan of an ink painting laying in my studio and slid it in the space between the threads and canvas. The two worlds blended together. A contrast of geometric and organic form. A balance of controlled and natural movement. A structure of form upon formlessness. I was fascinated.


Over the past few years, I have pushed to further develop this process and explore its possibilities. I now create upon cradled birch panels. The wood provides both a surface to explore with wet media and a structure for the threads to wrap around. This piece is one of my most recent works. From my new series, "Coast and Cove", each piece is an exploration of bodies of water and the landscapes that surround them. 

Isaqueena Thread, Ink & Acrylic 8 x 8 in, Sold

Thread, Ink & Acrylic
8 x 8 in, Sold

For me, working with thread is a connection to a material that roots back three generations. Pulling from fibers of the past and constructing them with my present, my paintings are a mapping of movement, color and form, translating the world around me and how I experience it.

My new series "Coast and Cove" will be released to my website on October 24th.

Taylor AdamsComment