Understanding the textiles world 5: the textile artist

How do I think the textile artist differs from the designer maker or crafts person?

After scouring the internet for definition of the above roles, it is clear that no-one can really define any of them. It appears a crafts person is viewed as someone with dedicated skills, that produces a practical end result in a certain discipline, for example, a weaver or furniture maker.

Where as I imagine the designer maker is more inventive, creating new ideas, trying new things, experimenting with new techniques and disciplines. Historically there was a clear distinction between the designers (who came up with ideas) and the makers / craftsman / mass production factories (who made the ideas). But this is now blurred as designers want to get more hands on added to the interest for custom made products, as pointed out in a Guardian article.

I perceive a textiles artist to be more of an artist than a craftsperson, so some who produces aesthetical art, rather than a practical object. They will use textiles (fabric, fibres, yarns) as a medium to produce art, rather than use the textiles to make an end product. They obviously need design skills and craft skills, but it’s their idea of the end product that is different.

I currently feel my decision as to if a piece is textile art or textile craft, is by imagining if the piece would work in a different medium ... for example a stitched image by Lauren Diciccio would also work (although not as well) in paint = therefore it is art.

To find 2 artists I find inspiring, I started looking at http://www.62group.org.uk

Rachel Gornall uses colour, pattern, shape and light to create bold bright works of art. Her techniques include hand dyeing, layering, cut-outs and stitch, to produce work from large wall hangings to small pieces. I see her work as very design based and the way she explains her concept behind each piece is very arty.

She says "The instinctive colour statements I create evoke perceptions of time, feeling and place. They explore the rhythms and patterns of nature, as well as changes in light and colour, inspired by my local river in London, the shorelines of Britain and travels in Latin America. I am particularly fascinated by moments of revelation and transition, a conscious understanding of a new way of seeing things – changing light, changing colour, changing reality."

However whilst I love her work, I fail to see this "arty" side of how it relates to nature or "evoke perceptions of time, feeling and place". Maybe this is something I will learn in time?


Jeanette Appleton uses needlefelting, stitching and transformation of materials to create delicate works of art, both using hand and machine. Her work uses a lot of translucent materials, enhanced with layers of felt, stitches and mark. She is inspired by "researching historical and contemporary issues of the nomad and land". I feel her work is far from craft, as the results are purely decorative.

I view textile art in the same way I would view fine art, or a sculpture. It evokes the same feelings, it's just made out of a different media. If making something out of clay is art, I can't see how there is any difference if it is made from felt, or threads. I don't feel the fine art estiablish has the same attitude, and they is still a snobbery around textiles. I was recently watching a TV show Show me the Monet, in which expert judges criticed work. Not surprising any textiles based work, was said to be just a craft and not real art. A stitched image (Man and Topiary by Isabella Burns) was classed as simply decorative, yet a pile of painted driftwood (Fetish Totem by Kevin Lee) was art.


Personally I find art makes me feel really uncomfortable. I can appreciate something for what it is, but find it hard to read "arty" meanings into things. The above work by Rachel for example, she describes her work to "to evoke perceptions of time, feeling and place" ... fair enough if this is what inspires her, but I find it hard to see how artists can label work in such a way, as they tel you how it is meant to make you feel. In a  recent conversation with a fellow student, I was told I would learn this appreciation... but I'm not sure I want to become one of those (what I see as) pretentious artists!?

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