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Textiles: Fine Art (and how to adapt your work)

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Creating textiles for fine art is easier than it appears. Consider the current textile art you make: can you step on it, wear it or use it — or is it designed to hang on a wall? If it’s hanging pieces you create, it may be easier to market your work as fine art. Decorative art will sell for more money than practical artwork.

Textile art includes everything from carpets to macramé, embroidery to Mixed MediaPrinting. It is unlikely that makers from one area will move into another unless they already work as mixed-media artists.

Most people are drawn to textiles by their love of crafting. It is a hobby that can sometimes bring in some money, but it doesn’t reach the heights of fine arts. But textiles are the most common crafts we have in our house – and there is plenty of potential to turn textiles into fine art.

William Morris, The Adoration of the Magi (ca. 1890). Image: Public Domain

How have artists used textiles?

Louise Bourgeois, a textile artist, is one of the most well-known. She used fabric and thread in her work, including her own clothes. The artist came from a family-run tapestry-restoration workshop, making her well placed to develop textile art — from found-object exhibits of old clothes, to printed handkerchiefs and woven 3D sculptures. “Clothing is…an exercise of memory,” she said. “It makes me explore the past…how did I feel when I wore that…”

Designers of print and textiles

Textile design has many practical applications, but it can also be used to create art.

Today’s textile designers are looking for more in their careers than creating great-looking curtains. There are a wide range of textile classes available that cover hand-printing and block printing, as well as a more hands on approach to printing. Digital design and its potential on the commercial market are also taught.

Hand-printing your textile prints will give you the most valuable commodity: exclusivity. You can hand-print textiles in a series. Even if the colors and designs are the same, they will all have small differences that collectors love. Try creating a single image, which will sit better on a collector’s wall.

hands making block print art on a white fabric

Consider the inks you use and the colors. Also, choose your fabric carefully. Each fabric is different in its weave, which will influence how the ink absorbs into the surface. It’s all about experimenting. Consider using linens that are unbleached and cottons with a high thread count. Canvas is available in rolls and you can also print directly on primed stretchers.

You don’t need to go to college to learn how to print. Night classes in linocuts and block printing will get you started, as will playing around with cheap printing kits to see if you are a natural. You only need to sketch out your ideas, and then translate them onto the template.

Leah Higgins has been a textile printmaker for over 30 years. Her striking work incorporates textile printing with other mediums. Be inspired by this woman art quilts.

Embroidery

In recent years, embroideries have come a long ways in the arts & crafts movement.

As part of a multi-media approach, more and more fine artists are adding embroidery to their canvases. You’ll find wool and threads replacing or enhancing paint to create a more 3D image. This method is used for many decades. However, if you prefer a more traditional approach, try using a box canvas rather than a traditional hoop. Sketch out your design with a pen and embroider the canvas freehand.

Artweb artist Diane RogersShe is inspired by the textures and details in the world. She creates art using hand-painted silk, embroidered or quilted. Her lichen embroideries are inspired by the beauty of nature.

These wall-hung handwoven creations, which date back millennia, are one of the oldest forms in textile arts. We often think of tapestry as the old wall hangings that were popularized by monarchs and can be found in museums and castles. Tapestry is a powerful tool for storytelling, as it depicts people and events.

Tapestry

Many artists today are pushing the boundaries of an old art form. Among them are Frances CroweShe is considered to be one of the best contemporary tapestry artist today. Her work captures world events, creating evocative images. Her most recent works explore the Covid epidemic and family separations. Tapestry is a popular medium in her work. Video.

Grayson Perry, a UK-based artist, won the Turner Prize in ceramics. But one of his most famous pieces is The Vanity of Small Differences, six large-scale tapestries portraying the British.

Indigenous cultures have a long tradition of weaving tapestries, which is worth knowing for all textile artists. Visit the website to learn more. National Museum of the American Indian, which is a treasure trove of information on the dyes and textiles, designs and themes of Indigenous art.

Visit the specialist for more inspiration Website for Textile Artist.

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