Barbara Lee Smith in her studio

Delicate Art from Industrial Textiles

Spunbond nonwovens are tough. Used for a variety of industrial applications, they withstand needles and hold pile yarns in place, give structure to molded automotive carpets and withstand high heat and abrasion. For over thirty years they are also the perfect medium for the delicate art of Barbara Lee Smith.

For over thirty years, Barbara has used spunbond nonwovens from Freudenberg to create masterpieces ranging from 3D sculptures to layered canvases. She first came across the material by chance and began experimenting with it.

Barbara Lee Smith Portrait



“I became enchanted with the material.
All the things you aren’t supposed to do with fabric, I could do with spunbond: paint, stitch, fuse, and melt it.”

Barbara Lee Smith, Artist


Inspired by nature and armed with an unusual material, Barbara uses a three-step process to create her work. Starting with sketches and then moving to the paintbrush, she individually paints pieces of the material, which she uses to layer and create a scenic collage. Because of the characteristics of the polyester, Barbara is also able to use some unusual techniques like applying heat to melt the fabric and change its appearance. Once she has assembled her canvas, she then quilts over all the layers in a pattern that resembles a topographical map.

Art from Barbara Lee Smith

The result is a work of art that often tricks viewers when they see it. As they step closer to the art, the nonwovens delicate appearance looks like rice paper, but its durability is what allows Barbara to paint, sew, and melt it without tearing apart.

In 2018, Barbara was introduced to another possible art medium from Freudenberg: Evolon® microfilaments. “From an artist’s point of view, Evolon® reflects light very well while the spunbond material looks more like Japanese rice paper. I like adding bits of Evolon® to the spunbond pieces because it provides a little bit of shine without using shiny paints or shiny materials”.

Even after thirty years of working with the nonwovens, Barbara is still surprised and fascinated by the material. Being an unconventional material for artist, it does not always behave the way she expects it to, but for her that is part of the beauty in creating.

“I don’t use any other material because I still feel like I haven’t learned everything I could possibly learn by using it.”

Barbara Lee Smith, Artist

The Sites of Freudenberg Performance Materials