"My initial attraction to the process of knotting was its immediacy and the fact that little specialized equipment is required, which allows for great latitude in approach as to design, concept, and technique."
- Ed Bing Lee
The Picnic series marked my first foray into the world of fiber art. The series dating from the mid 1980s, juxtaposed selected passages from two of George Seurat's monumental paintings, namely Sunday on the Grande Jatte and Bathers at Asnieres, with contemporary food images selected from advertising art. Some 10 years later, I turned again to the food images, visualizing them three-dimensionally. However, the transition from earlier pieces to sculptural forms was not an immediate one, I moved gradually through several series, including framed pieces of historical miniatures, bas-relief of Orchids, the Earthcrust series, and the series, titled Meditations on the Chawan.
My initial attraction to the process of knotting was its immediacy and the fact that little specialized equipment is required, which allows for great latitude in approach as to design, concept, and technique. In the Picnic series the work is akin to making a tapestry.
The image is created by a vertical clove hitch over a fixed "warp", guided by a cartoon. I thought the process of creating an image of multicolor knots is not unlike Seurat's pointillism. In three-dimensional or sculptural work, the knotting process is most forgiving and the work can progress in many directions simultaneously. The distinction between warp and filling is interchangeable.
Shaping is possible in a variety of ways: by adding or dropping ends, by using different tensions, by using different knots or by using a different material. It is in the Chawan series that I sought to revitalize my work habits by revisiting these possibilities.
In the end, I continually return to art history for visual and conceptual stimulation. For me it is the perfect jumping off point for work in a technique that knows no boundaries.
Ed Bing Lee (b. 1933) has been perfecting his knotting artistry for over 40 years. He started as a commercial fabric designer in New York and Philadelphia and then became an instructor, teaching at Moore College of Art and Design, The University of the Arts, and the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
Working with colored thread and thousands upon thousands of knots, Lee transforms a simple material and a common technique into a unique form of contemporary fiber art. Lee will tell you that his attraction to the work of George Seurat and the technical aspects of pointillism - the placement of individual and differing dots of hues, values, and intensity to create a field of color and imagery - became the fountainhead for his knotting process.
Lee is the recipient of several Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships, and has twice received the Farelli Award for Excellence in Fiber at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show. His work is included in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Daphne Farago Fiber Arts Collection, and the Franklin Mint in Los Angeles, CA. His work has been exhibited at the Sculptural Objects and Functional Art show in both Chicago and New York, and Men of Cloth at the Loveland Museum, CO. A solo exhibition of Lee’s work, AT 70, was mounted at the Snyderman/Works Gallery in 2003.