Alice Fox: The Textile Study Group
The Textile Study Group (TSG) is a group of nationally and internationally recognised textile artists and tutors, well known for innovative and challenging approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching.
The objectives of the group are to cultivate and advance the practice of stitch and textile art through a broad spectrum of education: workshops, courses, lectures, publications, exhibitions and to deliver expertise and excellence in all areas of textile art across all levels and ages of students.
In this interview, TSG member Alice Fox tells us how the group was formed. We learn what they do and why education is key to their practice, which includes an annual graduate bursary celebrating and promoting the next generation of textile artists.
The group, first established in 1973, under the guidance and inspiration of Constance Howard, of Goldsmiths College of London, was designed to support teachers through the highest standards of teaching and exhibiting. The group was originally known as the Practical Study Group and was affiliated to the Embroiderers’ Guild.
The Textile Study Group’s members illustrate a rich diversity in their professional practice as highly experienced teachers and practicing textile artists.
The Textile Study Group retains a core membership of about 25 textile teachers who value the importance of the development of their own individual art practice in their role as educators. Based throughout the UK, members meet for two weekends a year in a supportive but challenging environment to participate in workshops led by outside tutors from a wide range of disciplines.
Each member is required to undertake a critical 5-year review with an appointed mentor who adds their unique expertise to the process. Members consider that this process is crucial to their work. It gives them an opportunity to reflect on both their practice and teaching over the past five years as well as discuss possible future developments.
Currently, Jane McKeating, Head of Design at Manchester School of Art and member of the 62 Group, is the reviewer, bringing her experience and highly regarded academic reputation to the group.
There is no doubt that the in-depth preparation, one-to-one discussion and feedback marks an important stage of self-development and awareness that continues and sustains long after the review. In the past we have been lucky to have benefitted from guidance from Constance Howard, Julia Caprara and Polly Binns.
The Textile Study Group run an annual residential summer school tutored by group members and open to all. Each July three members teach courses linked by a common theme. Within a supportive and encouraging atmosphere each year’s Summer School aims to help students to widen their horizons and create an exciting few days of new possibilities for everyone.
In 2016 the Summer School theme was ‘Drawn Together’ and featured workshops by Alison King, Sheila Mortlock and Bobby Britnell. In 2017 the tutors will be Jean Draper, Julia Triston and Kay Greenlees.
The group makes the annual TSG Graduate of the Year award, currently selected at New Designers in London. The bursary targets the next generation of textile teachers and artists: an educational investment for the future. The winning graduate is offered a place on a Textile Study Group residential weekend when there is an opportunity to work with current members and a specially selected tutor.
In 2015 the TSG exhibited in Sweden alongside the Swedish textile group Textil 13 under the title Traces of Life. The aim of this exhibition was to raise the profile of embroidery as a creative contemporary art form in Sweden.
Traces of Life gave the artists the opportunity to research into themes relating to past and present, family or social history, nature, things made or left by man, etc. The work drew attention to the ways in which needle, thread, and conventional and non-conventional materials can be explored and used expressively.
In May 2017 the Textile Study Group will be exhibiting and offering workshops and gallery activities at two venues in Stroud as part of the well-respected SIT Select festival. The group are working with curator Melanie Miller to develop work under the title of ‘DIS/rupt’. As Melanie explains:
Life is full of disruption on personal, political, local and global scales. Whilst the effects of disruption can be problematic, disruption can have a positive outcome: it can force change, it can lead to greater understanding as well as previously un-thought of opportunities.
There is further information on the Textile Study Group website about all the members, the annual Summer School as well as publications and exhibitions. We recently started a blog, which can be accessed here.
Alice Fox: I first became aware of the group when the original name of Practical Study Group was in use. I can remember seeing an exhibition by the group at the Knitting and Stitching show, which must be 15 or so years ago. Having since re-trained in textiles and become a professional artist, the group now forms a valued part of my professional life.
I joined the Textile Study Group in 2014 and it has quickly become a source of inspiration and support to my work and practice. We meet twice a year, each time with a visiting tutor who leads a workshop. Learning together, from each other as well as from our visiting tutor, is enriching and we go home from these meetings with heads buzzing. The mentoring sessions also mean that the group has in-built professional development, which I really value.
To be able to work alongside such experienced artists and educators is a real honour. The members’ practices cover such a spectrum of what constitutes textiles. The first session I attended was based around how different members approached and developed their work. This was a very valuable lesson on how many different approaches there are to making, all relevant in their own way. It was quite a confidence builder.
The DIS/rupt exhibition project we are preparing for 2017 will be my first exhibition with the group. I am on the project committee and so have been quite heavily involved in the planning of the project. It is going to be really exciting to see how each member develops their own work on the theme of disruption. Working towards a group exhibition like this doesn’t mean that we have to change the way we work, but it can push us to work differently, collaborate or stretch ourselves in ways that we otherwise wouldn’t. I’m really looking forward to it.
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