Displaying and hanging textile art
Subject of a recent TextileArtist.org article and co-author of ‘Connected Cloth’ (with Cas Holmes), Anne Kelly has some experience of both curating exhibitions and submitting art to galleries solo and in groups. We’re extremely grateful to Anne for sharing her expertise in this article, which presents her practical advice for hanging textile art and aims to help you display your work as successfully as possible.
Presenting,displaying and hanging your work as a textile artist has the potential to be challenging and at times confusing! There are such a variety of formats for different scales of work and media that it can be tricky to decide which one works best for you and your pieces. In our forthcoming book ‘Connected Cloth‘, Cas Holmes and I explore a range of options and some of these are documented in the section ‘Connections and Collaborations’.
Free-hanging textile art
Conservation plays an important part in the display of textile pieces. It is crucial to consider where your work is going to be seen and what the conditions of that location are. If your work is free hanging it will need to be securely fastened to a wall or overhead support. This can be done effectively using fishing line, which is available in a variety of strengths.
When hanging textile art, the line will need to be attached also to a vertical support which is suspended through your work to ensure that it hangs straight. A placket or narrow pocket running though the back of your piece can include a flat piece of wood or plastic, which can then be strung up using the fishing line.
I’ve recently started using electrical cable housing which can be bought cheaply online, as it is flat, light, rigid and straight.
How to frame textile art
If you feel that your work would be benefit from framing, there is also a minefield of options! The most conservation friendly method is to use acid free mounts and attachments; these and the frame would have to be built by a specialist framer. This can be pricey and is not always necessary.
It is always important to stress (when framing textile art) that your work should be hung away from moisture and direct sunlight, as you would always do for any art work. The presentation of your finished work is critical to the public perception of you as a textile artist. If your work is beautifully presented, potential purchasers are more likely and able to envisage it in their own surroundings and are more able to appreciate the work itself. Here is a photo from the same installation – looking beautiful.
Mounting textile art
Another option is a compromise but one which I think works quite well. You can mount your pieces onto blank canvases which are widely available in art and craft shops and online.
The work needs to be measured and made to fit the canvas size, with a 4-5cm border all the way around it. The work can then be positioned on the centre of the canvas and with the canvas turned upside down and the edges of the work can be staple gunned into place. It is important to fold the edges of your work neatly, so that there are no bulges, especially with thicker fabrics.
Box framing is another pricey but effective option. Occasionally it is possible to find Box framing on the high street, and you would need to tailor make your piece to the size of the frame. The box should be deep enough to ensure that the glass does not touch the work, which can be attached to a piece of board using stitch or acid free tape. It gives a greater sense of depth and makes the work look like it is ‘floating’ if it is attached to a separate piece of card which can then be glued to the supported mounting board.
Displaying small pieces
Small pieces can be as challenging as larger ones to present, as the aim is to draw the viewer in for a closer look.
Suspending your work on fishing line or string, wool or thick cotton is a good option. The string will need to be sewn or tied through the work, and spacing it can be tricky, but it does look effective.
Check the gallery specifications
When you are displaying your work in a gallery, it is good practice to check the hanging system in advance and ensure that your work has the correct attachments before you install it. Security is a consideration and I would recommend public liability insurance for all exhibiting artists – most galleries insist on it. When exhibiting in a really large group, as in the recent small format challenge ‘Freedom, Freiheit, Liberte’, which has been touring Germany and Eastern Europe for over two years, the organiser will often take charge of the display. In this panel, Gudrun Heinz has sewn the contributions onto backing cloth in an effective arrangement.
It is important to measure up and visit your venue frequently before exhibiting as a site specific piece can be effective, as in this installation by Cas Holmes at Farnham Maltings gallery, as part of our joint exhibition ‘Natural Histories’.
Often a variety of formats can also be effective, as shown at our later joint exhibition ‘Domestic Mapping’ at Maidstone Library Gallery, sadly no longer in use.
This mixed presentation was also effective and worked well at an artists open house ‘Polish and Pin’ in Hove.
Displaying your work on a blank background or neutral cloth can be useful for photographing it and getting a sense of how you wish to present it.
In this short piece, I have tried to share some observations from experience. There are many more ways of presenting your work and I hope this article will act as a forum for further discussion of the topic.
- Anne Kelly www.annekellytextiles.com is currently exhibiting at Trinity Town and Country Gallery, Tunbridge Wells, until September 29th. Go to http://www.trinitytheatre.net for opening times
- Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes’ first ‘Connected Cloth’ exhibition to coincide with the publication of their book, ‘Reflections’ is on at Cranbrook Library exhibition space until October 23rd. Go to http://www.cranbrook.org/library.php for opening times.
- You can see more about ‘Connected Cloth’ and the joint work of Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly on their blog http://resonanttextile.blogspot.co.uk.
There will be a feature on Anne and Cas’ new book coming soon on TextileArtist.org.
|Respected textile artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly have enjoyed a productive and inspirational collaboration for many years, and have a wealth of experience in devising and running community textile art events and gallery exhibitions, as a pair and separately. Connected Cloth acts as a guide to set up artistic groups, sourcing venues, working to a unified vision (including setting ground rules and working practices), producing group exhibits. This fascinating book will encourage you to connect with other practitioners as well as take your own work to a new and exciting place.|
Which methods do you prefer when hanging and displaying textile art? Let us and our readers know in the comments below.