Sheila Hicks: Fighting the insensitive use of color.

“Textile is a universal language. In most cultures around the world, textiles are a crucial and essential component. Therefore, if you’re beginning with thread, you’re halfway home.”

Sheila Hicks



I wanted to begin with that quote because it made me realize something that I never really think about even though I should: textiles are and have been absolutely everywhere in our history. According to Wikipedia (which is a surprisingly reliable source), evidence suggests that humans may have begun wearing clothing as far back as 100,000 to 500,000 years ago. I’m telling you all of this so you understand what it means to make something that is both stunning and innovative with such a common practice.

In case you’ve never heard of her, Sheila Hicks was born in Hastings, Nebraska and received her BFA and MFA degrees from Yale University. She received a Fulbright scholarship in 1957-58 to paint in Chile. While in South America, Hicks developed her interest in working with fibers. After founding workshops in Mexico, Chile, and South Africa, and working in Morocco and India, she now divides her time between her Paris studio and New York. (, 2018)

She emphasizes the importance of color in our lives and urges people to keep them present in their minds. “Do you know what color you saw first this morning? Or maybe every morning?” she asks. And all I have to say is “I certainly don’t. Should I?”. So, it turns out the answer is yes and I’m part of the problem. She has pointed out how graphic design today assaults us with colors in books, posters, flyers, websites, and all sorts of media with no regard for the environment that colors create. These colors are chosen simply because of how eye-catching they are and how many clicks or reactions they will generate and not for the aura they have, how powerful they are or what sort of texture or environment they produce. As a graphic designer, I am, of course, deeply and permanently offended (note the sarcasm), but I do see she has a point. One example of her works that create such type of sensorial experience is the ‘Viva Arte Viva’ exhibit in Venice.  Her personal composition is in the Arsenale, where she delivers a magnificent wall of knitting with a beautiful array of different colors and surfaces. The textures she chose to use were inspired on the brick walls and columns. The architecture of the place guided her design and the emotions that she displayed with the colors chosen. The whole point of this piece is to showcase how that massive amount of color affects its neighbors, even going through the wall’s cracks and breaks.

Colorful sculpture by Sheila Hicks on Viva Arte Viva Venice

Art like this becomes a sculptural environment where you can walk into, get lost, and feel nothing but relief. She truly managed to intertwine art and architecture with something as subtle as colors, textures, and textiles.




Bio. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2018, from

Venice Biennale 2017: Colorful installation by Sheila Hicks[Photograph found in Venice Biennale 2017, Venice]. (n.d.). Retrieved September 27, 2018, from

The Duke Endowment (2017, January 24). Retrieved September 28, 2018, from

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