Embroidery and Textile Art

Looking back at the Whitworth Gallery trip I remember Do Ho Suh, and I thought perhaps I would do a textile piece, to explore the possibilities that this topic offers.

Researching now, the history of Textile Art, I found the following very helpful:



“A series of articles exploring the history of textile art; we’ll cover vintage and Victorian textile art, world textile art, look at some of the innovators and influencers in the field and explore the history of specific techniques such as embroidery and crochet.” – Direct excerpt from page, accessed 01/04/2016.

Above Left; Gunta Stölzl, Above Right: wall hanging, slit tapestry red/green,1927/28
Image source: Gunta Stölzl Foundation

Gunta, took lessons in the ‘Women’s Department’, ( Later renamed ‘Weaving Department’ ) in the Bauhaus School, she applied her learning from Abstract Art, Visual Thinking and Colour Theory, to create, new, contemporary woven pieces, such as the one above.

Gunta Stölzl was a German textile artist who played a fundamental role in the development of the Bauhaus school’s weaving workshop. She created immense change within the textile field by uniting art practices taught at Bauhaus with traditional textile techniques and became the first woman Master at the school. – Direct excerpt from page: Gunta Stölzl 1897-1983 – accessed on 01/04/2016

I noted she used squared paper to plot out her designs before beginning – The Slit tapestry above is simply beautiful, the shapes, colours and texture seem to pull you in and hold you firm.

Looking into more modern art, I followed my nose and dug up some articles on artists currently using this as a media from which to create artwork.

Here textileartist.org, shows 10 contemporary embroidery artists, the article was helpful and insightful.


Sarah Walton – Embroidered illustration : Image taken directly from page 01/04/2016.

This imagery, above all stood out to me, freestyle drawing with the sewing machine. Or as she would say; Threaded Drawings. I can try this, I add it to my to do list. Rather than using modern imagery though – I am leaning towards cave art style scenes.

Still a bit at a loss at to what actually is textile art and what is craft? I asked around a few tutors and students and basically the vote is out :/ The line between textile and textile art seems to be very fine.

Here: Wikipedia explains that Craft is intended for a purpose, where ART is not. So in saying I just embroidered a piece of fabric for the sheer delight of it, rather than to turn it into a pillowcase or quilting project, there in, lies the difference.

Okay, so I think I have an understanding of the nature of Art textiles. Simply another media, used since ancient times, to express art in a visual way. Along side carved ivories and rocks, in the same vein as drawing on the walls with plant matter.

So, having tried, rather unsuccessfully to transfer blind drawing with paint as a media, I will be sitting at my machine this weekend to crack freehand embroidery and experiment with its use 🙂

Here is a selection of photographs, showing experimentation with hand embroidery, I drew my own freehand sketch onto a piece of even weave fabric. It simply takes too long to work this way, and with being ill, my energy levels are not at all great 😦 But I thought I would share the pics of it coming along.

The piece above, got upgraded from craft to art, in about 25 minutes, thanks to Singers Heavy duty sewing machine I treated myself too, knowing I had a lot of ground to cover in a very short space of time, I am making life easier and faster wherever possible. I used freestyle embroidery to ‘colour in’ which has worked really well, allowing textures to mingle and add an almost lacy effect to her skirt, I sewed over the black ‘night sky’ to reinforce the handsewn threads – yet another texture into the mix, the sky is thick, heavy and bold, in direct contrast to her light and flowing skirt.


A little freestyle embroidery experience, turned out pretty well, not finished but as I am not sure how exactly to continue, knowing full well the piece of  even weave I have used to create her is fairly small and possibly not at all big enough to display as a final piece, I leave her as experimentation and continue with the cave art and of course, my heads crept in there 😀

First – embroidery on A4 paper, nice idea but kept cutting through it, it did add to its charm but I just was not impressed, I moved onto some reclaimed cotton, which as you can see, kept rucking and pinching, again a nice effect but not one  I wanted!

Thirdly I was rummaging around looking for something and I found a stash of 14 count Aida fabric, yes! This stuff is quite firm and holds its shape, so off I went choosing a bright red piece to embroidery my free flow head silhouettes on 🙂 Looks good, then I tried a cave art idea on a black piece too, just to see. I really enjoy the quirkiness of the cave art piece, just free flowing allowing my mind to produce a general shape without being picky over details, really bought out the ‘imaginative’ state that cave artists would have had. all in a fairly good run on the machine.

Then I got very inventive! 


The piece above, is a bit of a mix, this is the dream like sort’ve scene I am trying to create, – geometric shapes being the symbols for maths and science, the driving force of evolution – the idea that its comes ot of a humans ‘head’ or brain, I wanted to depict the stages of evolution, so you see the mallet and arrow – cave man tools, then an animal, depicting the start of farming and domesticated animals, the telephone depicts technology and its impact on communication, but as you can see, I just lack the steady hand and the image is just too much chaos – although it does suggest the ‘dreamlike’ state I wanted to express.

Do I want to add more detail to the minimalist imagery I have produced here? I do not think so, I am not 100% sure on its presence being resounding though, I am torn between trying again but with an entirely different tact, or simply moving past  textile art entirely. But it still pulls me in, so I am thinking, now more than ever, Interior design, that being fabrics and furnishings might still be my speciality.

None of these pieces are screaming at me as a work I want to use to express New Horizons though, its really difficult to say that, because I really enjoyed making them. But that is just how it rolls!  Possibly because I simply do not feel confident that I am capable of pulling off a piece that says what I want to, I just do not have the experience with freestyle embroidery yet. Back to the drawing board! 


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