Throughout the course of its history, fiber art has been recognized for its domestic and utilitarian functions. Thus, an artists choice to work in this field is today often loaded with an acute awareness of the many contexts in which it exists outside the world of fine art. Although fiber art is not exclusively gendered, is has typically been viewed as womens work because women have so frequently been responsible for making clothing, bedding, and household accents. Some of the most common conceptual devices in fiber art consequently involve the revival or distortion of those traditions.
For contemporary fiber artists, materials include woven fabric, yarn, string, thread, synthetic fiber, and leather. Technical processes can range from conventional skills such as knitting, sewing, or embroidery to more alternative means such as gluing, stapling, or direct application of paint. Fiber art appeals to some because the materials tactility and versatility help artists produce unique, powerful artwork. It also engages because of its attachments to gender stereotypes and cultural heritage. For example, Aminah Robinson uses quilting and mixed media fiber pieces to celebrate her Ohio roots, while Annette Messanger uses needlepoint circles as the vehicles for ironic, misogynist sayings. Regardless of the sometimes disparate pieces that this medium is used to create, it is consistent in its ability to facilitate a vast range of art, craft, and expression.