Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Textile Book by Colin Gale and Jasbir Kaur pub 2002 Berg

Reading further on in this very ambitious book, I have reached a series of chapters about the different types of textile worker. Well, some of them anyway. The chapters are entitled The textile designer, The Designer-Maker, and The Textile Artist. I found this slightly annoying as the repeated thesis of this book is that such distinctions are more about the market than the practice of textiles.

Having said this, it was useful to have some distinctions drawn, if only to contradict them. So it seems that a professional textile designer, has most of their work being driven by a fairly strict brief, and while they can be freelance, they are often employed by an organisation to do this job. And that some organisations train their textile designers in the house style. I was interested to find out that Liberty designers are trained in botanical drawing. It sounds as though there is limited scope for individuality here.

The book goes on to say, and give some interesting examples, that someone starting as a textile designer can go on to apply their design skills to other areas, and that this can lead to the separation of the design process from the making process, for profit reasons.

Designer- Makers appear to be largely from the affluent West, are more often motivated by the physical sensations of making, and the mastery of their craft. They tend to sell their produce to specialist markets or as luxury goods. This description did make me wonder about the skilled craftsmen and women of non-Western cultures. Presumably they are driven by similar satisfactions and their produce is appreciated by people with disposible income in their own countries. I do not really understand why there is a difference between this and US/ European craftspeople.

Finally, the textile artists. What this book says about this agrees with my impression that there is not yet a clear idea of what this actually means. There was some discussion as to whether it 'should' mean the equivalent of fine artist, or whether, since textiles have something particular about them, the wish to be accepted as a fine art is in fact a wish to limit ones practice to someone else's rules. Perhaps for culturally elitist reasons. I suppose that since anyone can call themselves a textile artist, it will eventually mean the group of people who wish to do so. The book rather reassuringly went on to say that since most fine art, and most textile art, is in the 'low to middle' art section of the market, such distinctions are somewhat moot.

I don't know quite where I stand on this. I deliberately chose to do this particular textile course because it resembled a fine art foundation course, rather than the craft-based courses which predominate. I wanted (and definitely still want) to find out what twisted path my creativity will take me on, rather than learning to more accurately produce a particular style or technique. Believing that what I make expresses something about me that may not be expressible in any other way. Or may be most effecively communicated in this way. Even that I may learn something about the inner me by seeing what 'comes out'. The emphasis, therefore is much more on ideas (concepts I suppose) and following subjectivity than on technique or even the finished product. This is not something that can be coded for and done by someone else. And while I am in awe of master craftsmen of many kinds, and I am attracted to the physical qualities of textures, fabrics and yarns, I do not see myself dedicating myself to mastering a craft. Unless, of course, that turns out to be a necessary step in my journey to express my inner truth!

So, it looks as though I fit best in the textile artist definition, at least at this early stage in my creative development. Although of course I have a great deal of learning to do before I can really call myself that! But having said that, I do feel uncomfortable with the Cinderella Art model of textile art. That if only the fine art establishment looked this way without prejudice they would see how fine we are. I am guessing that if we are really 'fine artists' then we will not restrict ourselves to textiles only. Because what we are doing is not 'Textiles', it is 'Ideas'.

After getting this far in The Textile Book, I thought for a while in my sketchbook about how the use of textiles as a medium can carry a message in itself. And I suspect that this is a much bigger subject than I have understood yet. More surfing for textile artists required I think...

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