3 years of TextileArtist.org: Joe & Sam’s favourite articles
Back in late 2012, myself and my brother Sam launched TextileArtist.org as a tribute to our mum and other practitioners working in this under-rated medium. Our aim has been to promote and elevate textiles as an art form. Originally we published a series of interviews with artists we admire from the prolific 62 Group.
As our audience grew, so too did our frame of reference. The artist interviews have become a staple, but in response to feedback, our range of content is constantly expanding.
In fact, this very article is the first in our Best of TextileArtist.org series, which will take a retrospective look at some of our most successful and inspirational content.
To launch the series, myself and Sam put our heads together and selected our favourite 10 pieces from the past 3 years of running and curating the site. Maybe you missed it the first time or perhaps you’ll gain more value the second time around. From stunningly beautiful and inspirational featured artwork to career guidance from experts in the field. From pieces written as passion projects to those we created in response to your requests. We’ve aimed to showcase the range of what we have to offer here at TextileArtist.org. Enjoy!
In this piece from 2014, which has been shared on social media more than 300 times, our aim was to challenge the connotations of the word ‘embroidery’. Rather than in-depth insights, we offer you a glimpse into the work of 10 incredible contemporary practitioners, all of whom are pushing the boundaries of their medium in some way.
Whether it’s the stitched illustrations of Debbie Smyth, which re-examine everyday imagery, or the evocative work of Kirsty Whitlock, which communicates messages of social responsibility through the use of recycled and reclaimed materials, the featured artists honour tradition, but seek to re-imagine it.
This was somewhat of a passion-piece for me and I’m extremely proud that the article has gone on to be read by over 15,000 people.
I’d seen a documentary in 2011 about a retrospective exhibition of Judith Scott’s work and her story intrigued me enough that I wanted to find out more. I set about researching her life and work; what I discovered resulted in this article. Having been labelled as an ‘uneducable retard’ and put into state care from an early age, Judith went on to create a breath taking body of sculptural textile work, some of which can be seen in photographs in this article.
In the comments section of this piece, Caz sums up perfectly how I felt when writing about this incredible woman:
“If such innate talent was hidden inside this amazing woman, who else through being so restricted by social convention, hides similar extraordinary abilities. I am both humbled and inspired by this story. Judith has set a high bar for us to aim for”.
Taking my lead from the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, in this piece I sought to explore the discipline it takes to truly transform from amateur artist to professional.
Judging by over 50 passion-fuelled comments that have been left in response to the article, I’m not alone in struggling with resistance. Here, I aim to help you identify the forms resistance can take in order to facilitate the first step towards conquering it and engaging with the necessary daily grind it takes to reach your potential and break through perceived limitations.
I will also be forever grateful to Suzanne Taetzsch for introducing me to the following Martha Graham quote, which puts why we create (no matter the artform) into sharp perspective:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest.”
Our interview with stitch artist Caren Garfen was one of the first to be published on TextileArtist.org when we launched the site back in 2012. We’d been greatly impressed with Caren’s work at the Knitting and Stitching show, where she was exhibiting alongside mum (Sue Stone) with the renowned 62 Group of Textile Artists.
Who better to describe what Caren does than the artist herself?
“I use textiles as a backdrop on which to put forward concepts relating to women’s issues in the 21st century. Artworks have included a never-ending ‘tea towel’, ‘textile’ wallpaper, and ‘window blinds’. I use meticulous hand stitch and silkscreen printing to convey my message”.
Viewed over 15,000 times, this article by regular contributor Carol Naylor, has provided invaluable insight for many aspiring artists in the process of submitting their work to galleries and exhibitions.
Carol is not only one of the UK’s leading machine stitch artists, but she also has a wealth of experience as a curator. Here she talks us through the do’s and don’ts for having your artwork accepted into an exhibition. There are top tips on writing your application, responding accurately to the required criteria and sending high quality images in the required format.
In mid 2013, we ran a mini-survey in our newsletter to find out what the biggest challenges faced by contemporary textile artists are. We had a great response and the issues raised were extremely varied. One of the most commonly-felt challenges for artists just starting out on their textile journey was finding an audience.
We asked 23 successful textile and fiber artists (most of whom had been previously interviewed on TextileArtist.org) for their top tips in this area. This widely shared and widely read article is the result!
There’s excellent advice from the likes of Nigel Cheney about the skill of defining your work and defining who it’s for, as well as words of wisdom about collaboration from Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn.
I defy you to not find some little gem in this cacophony of opinion!
This article is part of a brand new series (From conception to creation), which we’re developing in response to direct feedback from our audience. You told us that, although you love the interviews with artists for the broad overview they give of their journey, inspirations, influences and techniques, you want to go deeper into the processes they use to create a single piece of work.
Published just a couple of week’s ago, this is already one of our favourites. Not only does it explore the work of someone we cherish (our mum), the journey of her piece The Unknown Statistic is both fascinating, in terms of how it was made on a purely practical level, and moving, in terms of the inspiration behind it.
This is amongst my favourite articles on TextileArtist.org purely for the controversy it caused and the passion it evoked. The conversation in the comments section is actually far more interesting than the content of the article itself (I can say that because I wrote it!).
To give you an idea of what’s in store, here’s the initial comment from Arlee Barr (an artist who has since been featured on the site) that sparked the heated debate:
“Pinterest is a haven for copyright abuse, leads more people to it than the artist through Google searches, and unfairly tags those of us who report copyright violation as spammers, yet lets the abusers continue with a mere dainty slap on the wrist. You could present the other side of the argument by directing readers to the Anti-pinterest blog http://pinterest-out.blogspot.ca/2013/06/as-predicted.html and having them read *all* of the entries.
Not all of us are as enamoured by the theft of our images, particularly when copyright’s basic premise is that the artist alone has the exclusive right to distribution. It is not PR, it is not flattery to pin. I find it really disturbing when well known artists plaster copyright notices all over their own sites, then blithely pin other’s work”.
Cas Holmes has been kind enough to share her expertise with TextileArtist.org on many occasions and the response of our audience is always overwhelmingly positive. Back in 2013, she outlined her thoughts on the subject of finding inspiration for textile art.
Specifically, she offers an insight into how travelling to the other side of the world would likely inform her future work. What’s wonderful about this piece is that Cas not only gives advice from her own perspective, but also offers a glimpse into how she encouraged the other artists she worked with in Australia to find their own unique influences.
This piece provides even more value when you team it with Cas’s recent article exploring international working.
Sam came up with this wonderful idea for a series of articles based around the equipment used by some of our leading textile artists. Rachel Parker was the first practitioner to be featured.
What’s fascinating is to see how Rachel, who is still very much in the beginning of what we’re sure will be an ever-flourishing career, makes use of both traditional and non-traditional tools in her practice.
This article sparked excitement from our audience and a demand for more of the same!
Which articles on TextileArtist.org have you found particularly inspirational, helpful or insightful? We’d love to know – leave a comment below.