Floral textile artists
In the realm of textile and fiber arts, the floral motif has always been a popular design choice; stylistically, there is a rich and varied history of its utilization. Examples are found worldwide, in cultures stretching from ancient China, Medieval India, to contemporary artists involved in grand metropolitan art circles to this day.
Despite its long-standing usage, there is no shortage of innovative ways for artists to explore this imagery. These textile artists inspired by flowers (sometimes referred to as floral textile artists) specifically highlight new and fascinating methods of bringing such a storied motif to life.
Michael Brennand-Wood is an exciting voice in the realm of floral textile art. His work is hypnotizing and radiant. For the past 40 years, Brennand-Wood has worked in textile and wood, developing an interest in the field at a very young age, inspired by his grandparents. Brennand-Wood’s grandmother worked as an industrial weaver, and he would be fascinated with the samples she brought home. His work is generally supported by a wooden base, which was spurred by his engineer grandfather, who would tinker with wooden projects in the yard.
Brennand-Wood blends these two crafts, creating spectacular fine art pieces that have most recently centered around floral imagery. He has moved into computer-driven embroidery, often utilizing radiating symmetry of overlapping flowers. His floral textile designs highlight aspects of the history of ornamental weaving and embroidery in an exciting fashion, captivating viewers from all walks of artistic life. There is also a quality of depth to the work, which can sometimes be ignored in the fabric field. This plays wonderfully with the medium, as distance from the pieces can provide an entirely different perception of what they are. Also, his work tends to play off the perception of textile as being a woman’s medium, and he strives to play off these gender roles. In the 1990s, he focused on lace, and what new meaning and subcontext can be created by a material that is so loaded with a female cultural association.
For the past decade and a half, Melissa Zexter has been utilizing embroidery to bring a new dimension to her photography. This method is incredibly powerful, and she has brought it to great effect in developing layered depth in her work. The embroidery on her photographs serves a dual purpose: both to obscure and create. In a field so dominated by digital manipulation, Zexter opts instead to craft something physical, a melding of the two-dimensional with the very tactile thread.
Her latest work combines photographs of haunting women with abstracted floral forms overlaid. The women are often wearing veils, which highlights the traditionally feminine features in a way that invites the viewer in to personal introspection on the lives of these women. These figures are simultaneously both strong and delicate.
Susan Brubaker Knapp
An eloquent quilter, Susan Brubaker Knapp creates intricate pieces based of photography. Not a classically trained artist, Brubaker Knapp has developed her craft through a lifetime of trial and error, beginning by working with her mother as a child. She still has the first quilt she made, from when she was only 10 years old, and her family keeps it as a functional blanket to this day. Before working full-time with fiber, Brubaker Knapp worked as a writer (her degrees are actually in English and Journalism), and as a graphic designer.
It is apparent through her work that she has a background in design, as her crafting as a floral textile artist is immaculate. Her work, however, is much more suited for wall space. Despite no formal training in art, she has found a niche in creating intensely crafted works that express fully the colors of the world, often working with macro photography. The petals of the flowers she sews overlap in such a way that her color fields have a life of their own, interacting with their neighboring sections.
From the Isle of Wight, Lindsay Taylor (a textile artist inspired by flowers) takes her lead from the lush botanical life of Britain’s forests. She will bring home twigs and leaves from when she walks her dogs. Before moving into fine art, Taylor created wedding dresses by hand, converting her shop into her art studio, and still creates much of her work to be wearable.
Her stitched work is texturally rich, utilizing many different techniques to achieve a lushness that gives an amazingly detailed depiction of these plants. Her work is unlike that of any other artist out there, and she has a hand in the creation in all her pieces, from the hand-dyeing of the fabric, through embroidery (both free-machine and by hand), felting, and quilting. Some of Taylor’s most effective work are teacups made to appear like flowers. The veins in the leaves and petals are meticulously crafted, and represent in a way that, while not photo-realistic, create the true sense of the plant.
This west coast Buddhist is not only a floral textile artist, but Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of the few Americans creating what is known as a thangka, a traditional form of painting or embroidery, produced with a patchwork of cotton or silk. She has been lauded by the Dalai Lama for her work in this revered artistic form. As Buddhist culture reveres the blooms of flowers, particularly the lotus, Rinchen-Wongmo often incorporates this imagery into her work.
The lotus flower represents many things in Buddhist art, as a beautiful creation that springs forth from the swampy earth. This is the inherent dichotomy of the Earth; the same world that creates chaos and disorder also allows for the peace and knowledge the religion seeks.
Rinchen-Wongmo was the subject of the documentary, Creating Buddhas: The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. The film highlights her history, as well as her virtual apprenticeship program. As traditional Tibetan craft has required a physical presence, the artist has attempted to circumvent that by offering a program centered around text instruction, coupled with teleconferences and Skype calls. And it seems to have made a significant impact, and should hopefully be able to start a widespread knowledge of the artform worldwide.
Check out some of our previous interviews and articles featuring more floral-inspired textile artists:
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