I make no apology for highlighting here two works with minimal actual textile content; none at all in the case of the first – a drawing which I’d like to show you because it has strong personal meaning and was instrumental in many ways in my own development as a textile artist. It’s a drawing in coloured pencil and watercolour (below) by artist Paul Ameys, given as a wedding present years ago. To be honest, it was lost on me at the time – I simply didn’t get the sketchy abstracted nature of the scene with its hedges and trees, although loving the subject matter. Over the years that followed, as I studied art history and then textiles, I grew into it and gradually came to love the piece – for its energy, movement and sheer joyfulness.
I also think it has a lot to tell us about drawing for textiles; look at that wonderful mark-making – you can feel the artist’s excitement in getting this down on paper. The tree forms and branches are simply scribbles and squiggles, some marks hard and really etched into the paper, some light and hardly visible at all. This single drawing was one of the foremost reasons for starting Textiles 1 many years ago – I wanted to learn to draw with expression like this and feed that into textile format.
This sentiment was brought almost full circle recently when I encountered the work of textile artist Rosalind Wyatt at Art in Action. Held at Waterperry House and Gardens in Oxfordshire each July for four days, it is one of the biggest arts festival in the country and a wonderful opportunity to speak to artists (in all sorts of media) as well as viewing their work. Interestingly, Rosalind Wyatt (who is one of the UKs most revered textile artists) studied Japanese calligraphy before going on to complete an MA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. A lot of her work uses flowing forms, including embroidered words (which I will come back to at a later posting).
In this textile work on handmade Japanese paper Rosalind retains that same sketchy feel of the previous drawing. Japanese calligraphy is a skilled and painstaking art form but has a quality of somehow looking totally spontaneous at the same time. If you look at the bottom of the work (which is of the gardens at Waterperry) you can just see the machine sewn embroidered stitches which float ever so lightly over the surface. Again the lines look almost casual, an afterthought, but in actual fact are a real study in deliberate control over materials and medium. One question it also raises is, how little textile content does a piece need to still qualify as textiles?
While you ponder that one (and I’m not sure there’s a definitive answer) have a look at this small sample piece by OCA student Katie Taylor (machine stitching on torn fabric strips). Not all work has to be a finished piece to achieve something special; many samples are humble little gems in their own right. Based loosely on drawings of a rose, notice how even the exterior strands fraying at the edges add to the rounded, full blown effect. Katie’s work is already highly identifiable, with this strong element of movement flowing through nearly all her work.
This sample looks quite spontaneous, even casually done, a scribble on top of a scribble, but look at that all important movement, enhanced by the rich colours of gold on red. Your eye is drawn outwards to those frayed edges which take on the quality of drawn lines. Nothing is over done, noting shouts at you, but there is a fine balance between that casual quality and what is actually very good control over materials. It has that certain something which we’ve all after in our work, which can make textiles so poignantly life affirming.
Trisha Goodwin, Textiles tutor