Story By Gina Malone | Photos By Anthony Gustina
All of Joyce Henneberry’s fiber fusion art is inspired by nature, a love of which she developed as a child growing up on a small, family farm in Illinois and vacationing in Minnesota where it was common to see bears. She brought that affinity for nature with her when she and her husband, woodcarver Mark Henneberry, moved to Brevard. “We chose Western North Carolina, a place where we could get back to nature, hike and watch wildlife,” Joyce says. “I love the fact that I live in a place where I have a family of deer that occasionally stand outside my studio window and watch me work.”
She attended Illinois State University, earning a degree in graphic arts. She worked as a professional graphic artist and, with Mark, started an advertising and design agency and two other business start-ups. Their firm’s graphic design work has been featured in newspapers, magazines and national trade publications. In addition, Joyce has designed published books and managed national media campaigns. “After 25 years as a graphic artist, I chose to move to the mountains and create art for myself instead of for clients,” Joyce says. “My husband encouraged me to follow my artistic path. He has always supported and encouraged me to create what I want.”
Bears feature in many of her beautifully constructed and often whimsical pieces. Watching them as a child on vacation was the beginning of that attraction to them that she still relishes today. “I loved to watch them lumber around and pay absolutely no attention to us,” she says.
She begins work on a piece by sketching loosely in actual size what she wants to portray with fabric. Often it is a scene she has formed in her mind and has been thinking about for weeks. She decides what aspects will make the piece special, such as highlights or a sense of motion. “Then I look for fabric to reflect that feeling,” she says, “spending hours in stores looking for the perfect fabric to give the feeling of a sunset or the fur on an animal.” She collects material as she travels and purchases other one-of-a-kind pieces from an artisan who uses a double-dying process on cotton.
“When I start to create the piece with fiber,” Joyce says, “I begin with the eyes (if there are animals). The faces need to have life before I can move on. Oftentimes I try to place myself in the piece and imagine what it is like to be in that setting. I have a library of fabrics in my studio and I begin pulling those fabrics off the shelves much like someone doing research in a library may pull books off of the shelves. I audition the fabrics to see what will work and what won’t and then begin the process of preparing the fabrics for the piece of art.”
She creates large-scale (over 6’) works as well as ones of standard sizes, and will work with clients on commissioned pieces.
Her pieces are made to hang on the wall and Joyce frames each with live-edge wood. “With all of my art being inspired by nature, it seems only appropriate that it is being framed by a natural piece of wood, many times with the bark still intact,” she says.
Photographs can give her work the illusion of being a painting, she says. It is standing before a piece that one gets a real sense of the incredibly detailed fusion of small bits of colorful fabric that goes into the creation of each piece, giving dimension and texture to the whole. “I have always loved mixing colors,” Joyce says. “The fusion process allows me to have fun with color. Whenever people talk to me about my art, they mention my use of color. It is a passion for me. Sometimes I will see a piece of fabric and when I see it, it speaks to me. I know how and where I am going to use it to bring it to life.”
Find Joyce Henneberry’s work at Firefly Craft Gallery, 2689 ‘D’ Greenville Highway in Flat Rock, beside the Flat Rock Post Office. She meets clients there to discuss commission work and is often found at the gallery on Wednesdays. Regular hours for the gallery are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. A show of Henneberry’s work will be held Saturday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the gallery. To learn more, call 828.231-0764, visit FireflyCraftGallery.com or find the gallery on Facebook at FireflyCraftGallery and on Instagram @fireflycraftgallery. Find the artist on Instagram @henneberryjoyce