Without ponies and parties, textile artist Adela Akers would not be able to produce the intricately woven wall hangings she has become known for over the last decade. She weaves horsehair imported from China and hundreds of recycled metal foil strips made from the tops of wine bottles into her painstakingly detailed pieces. Spark visits Akers in Sonoma County in a converted apple warehouse that she uses as a studio.
Born in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 1933, Akers became interested in weaving and textile art only after studying pharmacy at the University of Havana and working as a biochemist. In her late 20s, her burgeoning interest in tapestries brought her to the United States to study weaving at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Akers was a weaver-in-residence at Penland School of Crafts, and she taught for more than two decades at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. In 1995, Akers relocated to Northern California with her husband.
Earlier in her career, greatly influenced by the abstract expressionism movement of the 1950s, Akers became known for her large textile works that incorporated folds and curves created through weaving techniques, like pulling warp. But in recent years, the striking detail in Akers’s wall hangings comes not from the linen pieces at the foundation of her works, but from the horsehair and foil strips sewn, painted and otherwise adhered to them. To Akers, the geometric lines and repeated metal strips suggest language, communication and ideas revealed through abstract forms.
“I started doing the stitching — the first pieces using the metal were about memorials, so the stitching became like a name or a word,” Akers says. “The metal adds another layer, another dimension of the work. The fact that I use the hair, it becomes like a veil and the metal shines through.”
Her work can be found in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Art and Design, as well as in many private collections.