Eileen Hoffman: Drawing the Line with Chenille Stems

Eileen Hoffman, PINK CASCADE

Eileen Hoffman will exhibit 3 wall installation in the exhibition DRAWING THE LINE at the Pelham Art Center, Pelham New York, February 16 – April 2, 2023. The image above is titled PINK CASCADE and will be included in the exhibition. It’s a dimensional drawing of a circle (an installation), 60”H x 60”W x 4”D, created with knotted chenille stems and fabric. Notice how the knotted stems radiate out from the center to a scalloped border at the edges. Some stems are pale pink, some are deep pink, some are white, and some are blue. 

Link here to see PINK CASCADE and 12 other works in the artist’s Blooms Series, each created with chenille stems and fabric.

Eileen Hoffman says every work is created intentionally as a record of what is going on because her process is organic, and every work has the potential to keep growing with new colors, new lines, and new patterns. She uses chenille stems because they are non-traditional materials. She works with non-traditional materials to create a bridge between past textile traditions and more contemporary approaches. She uses pink as a metaphor to create a dialogue about the conflict between femininity and feminism.

The image above shows a close-up view of knotted chenille stems. 

Link here to see additional works by the artist, including wall mounted works and room-size installations. The artist draws on yarn and fabric, knits or weaves plastics, paints patterns on Dura-Lar and uses words from her own diaries as references for the veiled stories that are painted in her work. She says: “In my approach, the personal becomes political.” 

I curated DRAWING THE LINE, a group exhibition with 8 artists. Eileen Hoffman will exhibit installations that are drawings with chenille stems and fabric. The 7 other artists will exhibit drawings that are grids, mixed media, sculpture, quilts, and maps created with wire. Media range from graphite, pen and ink, to wire, wood, metal hardware, to fabric, thread, to painted linen strips and cord, and finally to safety pins. Save the date for the opening reception on Thursday, February 16, 2023, 6:00-8:00 pm. Come to see works by artists who expand the boundaries of drawing the line.


Eileen Hoffman, GYPSO PINK TWILL

The image above is Eileen Hoffman’s chenille stem and fabric installation titled GYPSO PINK TWILL. It’s a spiral that becomes a circle attached to a square “frame” created with chenille stems and fabric, 50”H x 50”W x 3”D. This work is part of the artist’s TWILL series, and will be included in the exhibition. Eileen Hoffman says “The pattern of the knotting in the Twill series is a fundamental weaving pattern used in textiles. Link here to the artist’s Twills series, and let your cursor pass over the images to see the amazing detail in every work.  Link here to see works in the Rosette series that Eileen Hoffman says began as circular looms for the painted fabric and woven pieces she creates. The Rosettes range in color from delicate pink to citrus yellow and pink, to green and blush pink and more. Your cursor will show amazing details as you scroll over each work.

Eileen Hoffman, ROSEPATH TWILL

The image above is Eileen Hoffman’s chenille stem and fabric installation titled ROSEPATH TWILL. It’s a spiral that becomes a circle that’s attached to a square “frame” created with chenille stems and fabric, 45”H x 45”W x 3”D. This work will be included in the exhibition.


The image above is a woven installation titled EMBOSSED DIAMOND, created with chenille stems and fabric, 110”H x 36”W x 36”D. Notice how this work starts small at the top with chenille stems close together. As it grows, the spaces between the chenille stem get wider and then narrower. Notice the pink chenille stems extend beyond the bottom border and almost touch the floor.


The image above is Eileen Hoffman’s drawing on paper titled DIAMOND STITCH WEAVE, created with 4 shades of pink colored pencils. It’s unframed, 38”H x 38”W. The artist says she began the drawing in the center of the circle and worked her way out, drawing the grid lines freehand. She says she placed a few measured pencil dots on the edges to keep the lines parallel, and added the triangle design as a second layer. Eileen Hoffman says her drawing is based on a fundamental twill weaving pattern. Notice how some of the tiny grid squares within the diamond are filled in with pink. 

Eileen Hoffman, MEMORIES OF A GIRL

The image above is an installation titled MEMORIES OF A GIRL, created with chenille stems, fabric, yarn and vinyl, 93”H  x  96”W  x 17”D. Eileen Hoffman says: “Growing up, my pink bedroom was both a castle and an art studio, where I hid and developed my voice. I was dedicated to knitting, embroidery, weaving, and exploring the traditions of textile arts. My bedroom was full of projects at different levels of completion. I forged a commitment to make visible the hidden stories of women’s lives, including my own stories, as we grapple with sexism.” She says she gained an appreciation for the expertise, vision, and time that this work requires, and understood how emotions and stories could be woven into each project.

Eileen Hoffman says she is interested in creating large works of art in which smaller pieces can be built up into a mass where the whole becomes greater than its parts because there is a time element, and a sense of theatre as the viewer takes in the piece fully. She says chenille pipe cleaners are an excellent vehicle for her ideas.

MEMORIES OF A GIRL includes a background the artist calls “wallpaper” that includes text. She worked with a red Sharpie pen on Tyvek to create the patterns in the small squares. She placed some items on the floor to energize the space. She included the circles and the tangle of chenille stems to express the internal tensions of the room. The artist says circles reference the handiwork of women, i.e.: lace doilies, dishes, parts of blankets, and repeating lines can make visible all the lines of work women create, including the emotions they felt. Eileen Hoffman says: “I may begin a piece with an idea, but then as I work, I respond to what is happening before me and make decisions about details, patterns, what colors to use and the spacing as the piece develops.” 


Eileen Hoffman lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She was born and grew up in NJ. In an interview at Les Femmes Folles – Women in Art, July 22, 2013), she said: “I was the class artist in elementary school, and always wanted to be an artist. I got involved in textiles as a young person and was deeply engaged with knitting, embroidery, crocheting and weaving. I even knitted during classes in high school. I have sustained that personal, intuitive relationship with textiles that I began as a student. It continues to engage me as a process and as an avenue for my ideas. I am a process-oriented artist. I enjoy all of it, from color mixing to the meditative process of the work itself. However, I get the most pleasure from holding an image in my mind and then making it with my hands. I get particular satisfaction from watching my ideas develop, making changes as I respond to what is in front of me and bringing it to life. I am also fascinated by the emotional qualities that pattern and repetition can bring to a work of art.”

In 9th grade, her aunt taught her to knit and embroider. In high school, she took weaving classes at the Newark Museum. She studied textile design at FIT and graduated with an MFA in textile design from Indiana University. When she was in her 20s she thought she wanted to be a dancer – it was a way to draw in space with her body. Today, she says she’s a textile sculptor, and is always aware of the piece as an object in space. 


The image above is Eileen Hoffman’s installation titled RAPUNZEL KNITTING HER BLANKET, created with chenille stems and mixed media on Dura-Lar, 89”H x 55”W x 38”D. This work references the Brothers Grimm fairy tale about RAPUNZEL, a young girl fighting her way out of a castle that she knew was not the entirety of her world. Eileen Hoffman says: “The story beautifully illustrates the central premise of my own work to reflect on the struggles of women to be visible and seen as powerful and intelligent.” She says the story of Rapunzel’s long hair inspired her to create a long work of art that goes as far up as it can go, past imagination. Link here to RECENT WORK/PAINTED TAPESTRIES/RAPUNZEL STORIES to see all the works in Eileen Hoffman’s Rapunzel series.

I asked the artist about the meaning of the hanging bag in this work. She said: “Many of the pieces I have made with Dura-lar contain boxes or bags in various forms. The bags originated from the clear backpacks people were asked to carry at the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. The clear bags struck me as a metaphor—a container for the hidden stories of women’s lives.”

Eileen Hoffman said: “I was thinking about Rapunzel in her tower, and what she would do to fill her days. I began RAPUNZEL KNITTING HER BLANKET during the winter of 2021 while still at home during the pandemic. It seemed the perfect time for both Rapunzel and me to begin a big knitting project.” The contents of the bag are an abstract reference to Rapunzel’s knitting project.


The image above is a wall mounted installation titled QUARTET PATTERNS, created with chenille stems and fabric, 72”H x 22”W x 5”D. The artist created her own “yarn” for the knitted strips by coloring a plastic drop cloth with a Sharpie  pen and then cutting the drop cloth into thin strips to knit with. She chose colors as a painter would choose colors. Each of the four elements in this piece has a knitted strip hanging from a chenille stem form. Some elements are flat and some are dimensional, some have knotting that is more open or more closed. Notice how the woven strips are draped and hang together. 


This final image above is titled HAD SOMETHING TO SAY. It’s a multi layered, mixed media work created with chenille stems and acrylic paint on Dura-Lar, 48”H x 40”W x 6”D. This work was installed in the Textile Study Group of NY juried exhibition titled The Gold Standard of Textile and Fiber Art (February 6-23, 2020) at the Westbeth Galleries on Bethune Street in NYC. 

HAS SOMETHING TO SAY has two layers: a top layer with a spiral and a bottom layer that’s a rectangle with lines, words and flowers. The artist drew the spiral on Dura-Lar with a pale marker and painted small circles on the spiral with Golden High Flow acrylic paint. The circles became a guide for stitching chenille stems into a continuous spiral.  Eileen Hoffman says she made the words difficult to read, “flirting with the concept of visibility and the invisibility that women may encounter.” She wanted to transform the viewer’s experience into something more than just reading words from a personal journal.

Link here to Eileen Hoffman’s CV. It lists awards, works in public and private collections, a long list of selected solo exhibitions and installations, and affiliations as a member of the Surface Design Association, the Textile Study Group of New York, the New York Artists Circle, and the International Sculpture Center. Link to her website. Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you for reading this post. Please save the date – Thursday, February 16, 2023, 6:00-8:00 pm, and I hope to see you at opening reception for DRAWING THE LINE.  

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