The Fabrics of Creativity

Liani Foster shares his digital textile and mechanical felting skills with Rutherford County in his workshop.
Jan. 05, 2013 @ 05:05 AM

LAKE LURE— Liani Foster is always looking for new possibilities to take his art to the next level. He is also hoping to help others realize their own potential and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Foster, a mixed media textile collagist, is a graduate of Howard University where he majored in design and minored in photography. He is currently residing in Lake Lure where he and his wife retired in 2010. It is there that he opened the Fiber Arts Studio Workshop (FASW) where he teaches workshops in digital textile printing and mechanical dry felting.

"My wife and I moved here from Washington D.C. in 2010. We were going to live in Asheville because we had no idea this area was here. We eventually decided to stay in this area and I wanted to be around the arts. The areas around North Carolina and Tennessee have an artistic style that you don't see in other places," Foster said. "Coming here, I wanted to do something unique and different. I talked with my wife and I decided that this type of workshop is what I could offer the community."

Felting is the matting of wool fibers caused by a combination of heat, moisture and agitation which cause the scales of the fibers to open up and lock together. Digital textile printing is when he creates the artwork in a program like Photoshop and then the design is printed onto the apparel.

"I love integrating technology with the traditional processes and designs. I am always interested in technology and finding out what else you can do with it," Foster said. "My high school teacher told my class that one day computers will do everything that we were doing. Of course then we didn't believe it, but that opened up the floodgates in my mind."

Foster has attended numerous workshops on digital printing and new technologies. Although he has a background in design, he is self-taught in his felting in his felt and digital art. He gets his fabric for his projects from various thrift stores and online. His main passion is creating sculpture and household pieces out of felt.

"I prefer to use natural fibers in my projects, but I am not limited to it. If I have a students that is doing a project for the first time, I have them use man-made fibers," Foster said.

His prints, which he has done on shirts, scarves, quilts and totes is a combination of his own photography, original works of art and historical pieces. He has also traveled all over the world to explore different cultures. He says he loves to see how they use color and design.

"I have been to Cuba, Africa, South America and numerous other places. I encourage every young person to travel, there is so much to see, you really find out who you are," Foster said. "We need to embrace culture and understand it, especially since we are such a global community now. I want to be global, that is why I travel."

To keep his work fresh and on the cutting edge Foster frequents websites such as thecoolhunter.net and doorknob.com, which display many of the upcoming trends around the world.

"My favorite website is thecoolhunter.com which showcases all the new trends around the world. I try to locate all of those sites that have the information. How do you keep yourself fresh? You do that by investigating new possibilities and creating them," Foster said. "Do your own research and don't wait for someone to hand it to you. Experiment and start asking questions to construct ideas."

The workshop in Lake Lure is designed for beginners and experienced artisans with limited design or technical skills to create and print textiles for their projects. Foster offers workshops in printing projects including accessories, apparel, personal legacy tapestry, upholstery, experimental and sculpture.

A student is required to pay by the hour to use the machines. Foster charges $40 per student for a mechanical felting workshop and $60 for a digital textile workshop. You have to be at least 15 years old to take one of the classes.

"I want to create an atmosphere where folks can come in and learn the basic skills, so then they can use those skills to make their own things," Foster said. "They can begin to create and develop entrepreneurship skills or they can just do it as a hobby."

A retired high school art teacher, Foster says he follows the Reggio Emilia Approach.

"In this approach the children are the directors and the teachers are just the facilitators. I want their minds to speak and to create something," Foster said.

Foster's workshops houses a dry felting machine with seven needles and a Feltcrafts Needle Felting Machine with 700 needles that was custom-made for him.

"Once you learn to use the machines you are home free," Foster said.

He is also working on several projects for himself including a clothing line called Koi Joi. Another recent projects was designing shirts for the Hickory Nut Gorge Founder's Circle.

"The Founder's Circle is people who have agreed to give $250 a year for ten years which goes into an endowment. Everyone in the circle is getting a shirt with pictures of the area and our motto on it," said Jim Dunn, who visited Foster's shop to pick the shirts up. "This is wonderful for us. These shirts are high-tech fabric which would normally be around $100. It is artwork that you wear. Liani is a great addition to our area."

Foster hopes that by opening this workshop, he can get people in the area to start thinking about the future of the workforce and come up with ideas of new items to manufacture.

"I am very concerned about the outsourcing of our jobs. Our universities are teaching courses to certain needs, and then those jobs are being outsourced. What is the workforce doing to prepare? What is the job for the future?," Foster said. "I am hoping this workshop will get people thinking. We are in charge of our own destiny. If we don't get a hold on this industry, we will lose out. I have a lot of interest in what is happening here for entrepreneurial purposes. The mayor and I have had discussions on how we can benefit the county as a whole. We are ripe for a new industry with all of the crafty people that live here."

Foster says that it is not how good you are at something, but how you use your skills that makes a difference.

"I am not the best at what I do. But it isn't about being the best, it is what you do with what you know," Foster said.

For more information about Foster and the Fiber Arts Studio Workshop, you can call 828-407-6614. You can also email him at biberartsstudioworkshop@gmail.com. You can also see his Koi Joi clothing line at http://1koijoi.bigcartel.com.