Research Point

Research Point

Caroline Herbert-Carter 512924 – Assignment 4 Choose 2 International textile artists whose work you find particularly inspiring?

Finding inspiration from International artists that are interesting was difficult, due to the vast collection of textiles across the world. The majority did not relate to the direction I wish to pursue. Two artists that emerged from this research were Toshiko Haruichi MacAdam and Annmieke Mein (

I like the work of Toshiko which is very organic and structured, relating to the theme of my work ‘the microscopic world’. However the colours used are too bright, and not right for what I want to produce.

Annemieke’s design shows softer colours and the way machine embroidery is used gives dimension and is preferred.
annemiekeOne idea generated is using soluble fabric sculptures or a wall hanging heavily stitched, with raised hanging organic shapes.

Categorizing these artists, is not simple, having subtle differences between them.
Fine artist            craftsperson      illustrator             designer/maker             designer

‘architect’            Craftsperson      ‘sculptor’             designer/maker               designer

What category does each ‘artist’ belong. An artist is a fine arts practitioner who creates paintings or sculptures but could be considered designers. As except for commissioned work they decide what to paint.

“Every human being is a designer…. Many also earn their living by design- in every field that warrants pause and careful consideration between the conceiving of an action, a fashioning of the means to carry it out, and an estimation of its effects.”
NORMAN POTTER From, “What is a Designer: Education and Practice”

Whilst this is true, designers need to be critical of other peoples work, creating positivity out of negativity to pursue goals and generate new designs or ideas. Therefore problem solving is essential to discuss, understand, and interpret the needs and wants of the customers and the purpose intended.

Traditional artists and craftsmen use inherited methods, usually handmade or requires repairing, occasionally adapted to produce modern interpretation of original idea. This is where the designmaker comes in, shown by Toshiko Macadam. Artists, designers and design makers tend to follow trends,  are creative, able to draw, with a good attention to detail. All have craft backgrounds with a general understanding of techniques.

Research is important for an initial idea however the craftsman has to understand the techniques to produce authentic work. Generally, all of these overlap somewhat.   I would consider that all of these different ‘artists’ could teach each other different ideas, whether the actual product or design.

Annemieke a traditional artist uses light and shade combined with colour combinations give the impression of watercolours or impressionistic oils, almost devoid of colour. This ‘absence’ draws you to the heavily stitched surface, showing depth, light and colour, magnifying the realism of the work. The stitch work used is black or sepia similar to fine penmanship, whether hand or machine embroidery.

The work is very distinctive using various techniques, from sculpting, padding, stuffing, embroidery and hand sewing. So the question is she a craftswoman, designer or artist, well actually there is a crossover, creating working designs and layout, colour palettes and materials whilst using traditional techniques.

Annmieke could also be described as a ‘sculptor’.  In 1984, her work ‘Barnacles’ caused controversy as appeared to look like a woman’s labia and seen as a ‘feminist statement,’ which was not the intention said, It is interesting for me to realize that no shape in nature is entirely novel; so many forms are repeated constantly, others only rarely.”

In comparison, Japanese artist, Toshiko uses traditional methods such as knitting, crocheting and knotwork, traditionally a female handicraft or craftwork, initially working with Vinylon (a cheaper alternative) but prefers Nylon. The structure is an important consideration in the planning of this type of work and needed careful consultation with structural engineers. Again, there is a crossover, between crafts and designer maker.

Toshiko explains that ‘When I am using my hands, my brain focuses, the image becomes clearer, technical solutions come to mind’. All are handmade by Toshiko and bespoke, here the title designer blurs as designers get someone else to produce their designs.

Toshiko questioned herself and wanted to know ‘What does it mean to apply ‘surface’ design to textiles? At its most basic, what is a ‘textile’?’ this is where Gaudi’s inspiration took form. Toshiko’s work could also come under the category of architecture, however, not in the traditional sense.

One of her early pieces was Fibre Columns / Romanesque Church completed in 3 weeks was inspired by Antonio Gaudi, whose work used gravitational forces using weights to calculate designs. Gaudi’s design ideas came from the fluidity of water and the organic shapes within nature. Which is where Toshiko realizes the correlation of physics and textiles? Gaudi’s design were influential and is shown in the weighted balls on elongated designs, which show strength and structure and are more architectural than ‘art’.



Like Gaudi’s most famous building, the Sacrada Familia, Toshiko’s brightly coloured installations are a source of awe for people. The only difference is that it is created for children.

Toshiko thoughts on why the pieces were created were overshadowed by
What do I value in life?

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why do I create these works?
  3. Why do I pour so much energy into my work

When reading this, it made me question what I would like to produce.

Toshiko’s organic structures evoke a dreamlike world, which is calming and as an adult quite envious of the playgrounds created. It generates energy and is true to what she believes her motive to create such structures.

This idea is shown in later work. For example, When asked about architecture, her response was that her interest was ‘Most of my artwork involves architectural ideas or references. I am interested in how form is created through tension and the force of gravity including the weight of the material itself and textile structures. It is the intersection of art and science – like geometry – which we observe in nature.  But I don’t think of myself as an architect.’

The shapes created fits in with my theme of the microscopic work as I prefer the rounded shapes as they ‘flow’ as opposed to harsh angular lines. Having researched this I now need to adapt my original thinking. I had never considered working on a big scale, so maybe this may be the direction I need.

Being dissatisfied with what she was producing, began to look at the reasons behind this. Whilst exhibiting a piece a 3d openwork piece, children climbed into her sculpture and a realization of why she had created the textiles was the connection between it and people.

Her research began in play areas in Tokyo and found few places children could enjoy and explore. She likened her creation as a ‘womb’ where the natural movement and materials would enhance the experience for children making them feel safe and to play freely.

Toshiko’s motivation was that this challenging environment would be something the children would remember, into adulthood and be inspired to create something for themselves. However, the installations have limited shelf life deteriorating over time, just like life. And that was her connection to her work.

Toshiko’s structures use traditional crochet stitches, traditionally a female handicraft, which could be considered craftwork, transformed into huge installations, are then considered fine art. The design process comes from using her hands and the ideas are transferred to the piece produced.

So there is a fine line here between craftsperson and designer maker.

Annemieke uses her artistic discipline of painting, first thought of as fine art but almost breaks into illustration on fabric with depictions of wildlife. Annmieke uses talents for crafts within her work, whether, stumpwork, padding or quilting. So what could she be classed as craftsperson, designer, artist, designer maker! This is difficult, as they all of cross over and blur the edges. So the answer is not so clear cut.

Textiles are not viewed well within the establishment. However, my feeling is that if we draw from the past and understand how things were made and the importance of this, then the potential for innovative products can stem out of this. Toshiko has done just that. A simple technique is used creating something not only incredibly beautiful and complex, but useful.

Annemieke has used the simplicity of what we see around creating stunning pictures in her work. She has used embroidery to create complex work, with techniques more in keeping with a craftsperson. So whatever ‘category’ they are classed in, cannot be defined conclusively.

How do you view textile art?
Initially when posed with this question, my view wasn’t particular one way or another. However, I became interested in how textile art is constructed and materials used? In addition I was intrigued how colour enhances the techniques used and is so different to the flat surfaces of traditional paintings and lacks tactile qualities. My reservations were how useful these textiles were. But having looked at the trends I have reconsidered my opinion.

After discovering Toshiko Haruichi, my interest in other aspects of art has been heightened. As the saying goes ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, this can be said loosely of art.

Her work is fascinating however; I dislike the contemporary art of the unmade bed by Tracey Emin. Whilst appreciating it was the idea that was accepted by the art world as people related to it. I don’t consider this art as textiles have to be created with skill and creativity.

Textile art has been a big part of my life, creating clothing and costumes for my children. I like the uncertainty of what direction it would take me, pushing the imagination where nothing seems to be wrong, whereas a portrait has to be perfect.

In my opinion, textiles have a lot to offer the fine art establishment, and is now being recognized as to its importance?

‘Fanfare for fabric as two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight’\
‘Finally, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves’

The Tate Modern housed an exhibition of textiles. The curator of the museum Magnus af Petersens said ‘we can see that many galleries are showing artists who have worked with textiles’. He went on to say that there is a realization of the complexity of the work undertaken.

How far do you feel it has been accepted as a medium for fi­ne art by the fi­ne art establishment?

Craft historically was not accepted by the art establishment. During the Da Vinci era, apprentices were taught a craft from an accomplished master, which could take many years.

Artists were paid per square inch and called skilled artisans, but lack of recognition caused the sculptors and artists to rebel rising to acclaim due to a book called, ‘the lives of the most excellent painters.’

Craftsmen produced functional, repetitive items and were considered inferior to artists who produced beautiful things. The status of craftsmen was diminished and gained the title of artisans, rather than artists as the work produced was considered minor or decorative arts and not so highly valued. Which in my opinion was wrong, as these skills were just as important, if not more so. Carpenters and builders for example would build houses to live in, showing the importance of ‘simple’ skills, and is demonstrated in the resurgence of traditional skills.

In many parts of the world, there is no distinction between art and craft, it is just cultural art. Whether decorative or utility, it is just accepted. It is classed as primitive as it has remained traditional, throughout the generations, suggesting that they could not be innovative. Personally I think this is a narrow minded. Someone would have had to create this in the first place, and adapted throughout the generations however slight. Especially with materials that need to be used and what are available possibly due to environmental issues.

For example, Nordic textile artists remain true to traditional values and crafts. Through the work produced the feeling is they can convey stories from the past for generations to come. This link to the past has somewhat been lost in the Western world until recently when importance of traditional crafts, that are being lost are being revived. Shown around the world with government incentives to encourage the craft based heritage.

There is a certain snobbery within the fine art world. Paintings and sculptures remain the elitist of the arts. Whilst textile art is resigned to the title of design and craft.
Another consideration, why crafts are devalued, is that they represent domesticity and considered woman’s work, which is not the case. However there are much more men practicing traditional crafts. Today, textiles remain mostly as minor ‘arts’. But there is a move to preserve traditional crafts learning from them. Many contemporary artists are using the craft based techniques to create innovative new ideas.

Textile artists and fine art artists, definitely have a divide, reflecting in the price that someone is willing to pay. Fine art paintings can fetch a lot of money. Tracey Emins bed was sold by Charles Saatchi for £2.2 Million! Another consideration, when collecting textiles, is that they deteriorate over time, which may well put people off the initial purchase.

Prejudices against textile art still exist, but may be due to lack of historic evidence showing the value of the work that can be produced.

Examples of prejudices within the art world.

For fifty years there has been slow progress within textile art. During the 1960s and 1970s there was movement of fiber artists, who tried to bring craft and art together as one, which was viewed with strict opposition. There is no reason other than this to suggest that textiles are just not accepted, because they don’t conform to what the art ‘establishment’ deem it to be. For example, Cezanne who was a fine art painter was shunned by the art world for being different.

For ideas to formulate, theory and practice is needed to demonstrate
‘New art emerges on the ruins of old culture’

This statement reinforces change of attitudes which are beginning to emerge in the art world as shown in London recently.

The initial question asked to research 2 international artists, and found that although their work is very different in techniques, the basic principles are the same. This sounds contradictory but shows the crossover between craftsmen, designers and design makers.

Both artists produce work that is people orientated and is indicated in the desire to help children to ‘grow’ and make people aware of our environment. Annemieke quotes ‘through my textiles, whether sculptures, wall works or wearable, I hope to make people more aware of our native species while expressing my love and concern for our native environment’.

Through this research, I have thought about why I want to create something and how it makes me feel.

The research undertaken was particularly useful, discovering unknown textiles artist and new techniques. It was discovered that the fine art established still has an aversion to the textiles genre but that they are slowly accepting that it is a medium that is here to stay and evolve which is shown in the success of acceptance of textiles within London galleries, usually resigned to small galleries and other outlets.

I felt that i got a bit carried away with the research, as there was always an interesting fact to pull from the artists work. The artists chosen have intrigued me, to the point that i may do some work on a bigger scale than I would have ever done.

Having always enjoyed research this was an exciting part of the course. New techniques learnt, to learn and a vast world of textiles to explore.


About huggywitch

I have been doing textiles for a number of years and recently started my degree. I have always had an interest in theatre costume design and this is where my passion lie.
This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 4. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s