7
The Textile Artist

It is possible to develop a very personal relationship with textile work. For many practitioners this will dictate a career route or a set of experiences that lead them to undertake what is commonly called textile art. In so doing they may well experience difficulties of creative identity and status, because textile art is as yet an uncertain definition of practice. This chapter provides an overview of what textile art currently entails and offers observations on the philosophical and institutional problems it can provoke when compared to dealings with fine art or textile craft. Much of the chapter pursues and tests the comparison with fine art, as this is often a prime source of confusion, but it might equally have pursued and tested the difference with textile craft and design. Nonetheless there is sufficient material to indicate the professional dilemmas and questions facing the contemporary textile artist, not least being to determine what textile art actually is.

Textile art (or alternatively fibre art) is a term that has gained increasing currency in recent decades and is used to describe textile works that, like sculpture, paintings or installation, can exist in galleries or public spaces. While some modern textile art can be seen to bear similarities to activities and material approaches within modern fine art, for example the work of Eva Hesse (Lippard, 1976), it provides a broader practice that can include decorative values or the intrinsic pleasurable qualities of fabric. The vast majority of contemporary textile art can be seen to have grown directly out of the more generic textile art and crafts traditions, particularly weaving, embroidery and tapestry, as these have mirrored the evolution of modernism in other creative disciplines. On occasion when textiles has found itself adjacent to some art historical period or group, it has undergone a degree of inclusion within the art historical perspective of cultural history, as for example the weavers of the Bauhaus (Weltge, 1998) or the textile designs of Russian Constructivism - particularly those created during the 1920s by artists such as Stepanova and Popova. The term is now widely understood but not in all countries, and in various parts of the world textile art does not exist as a defined form separate from fine art or textile craft. Many people find that both the use of the term and the characteristics of the work create problems of categorization. For these reasons textile art is an unclear concept, but remains nonetheless an increasingly visible and popular group of practices, with many willing to take on the mantle of ‘textile artist’.

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The Textile Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - Overviews *
  • 1 - What is Textiles? 3
  • 2 - The Culture Place of Textiles 7
  • 3 - Perceptions of Fabric 21
  • Part II - The Creative *
  • 4 - The Textile Designer 37
  • 5 - The Designer Maker 49
  • 6 - The Craftperson 63
  • 7 - The Textile Artist 77
  • Part III - The Social and Industrial Context *
  • 8 - Globel Textiles Tradition 91
  • 9 - Ecology 107
  • 10 - Industry 121
  • 11 - The Role of Trends and Forecasting 133
  • Part IV - Related Disciplines and Studies *
  • 12 - The Buyer 145
  • 13 - Journalism 157
  • 14 - Science 167
  • 15 - Research 179
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 201
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