In my investigation into the work of the textile artist, I have been reading the following books as a starting point:
Cole, D. ‘Textiles Now’ 2008 Laurence King
Kettle, A. & McKeatng J. ‘Machine Stitch:Perspectives’ 2010 A&C Black
Springall, D. ‘Inspired to Stitch – 21 Textile Artists’ 2005 A&C Black
Quinn, B. ‘Textile Designers at the Cutting Edge’ 2009 Lauence King
Work is broadly divided into construction, printing and pattern development, and stitch techniques. Whilst reading these books I have been pondering on the definitions of an artist versus a designer and it is actually quite a challenging distinction at times as there is a large overlap between the two (Zandra Rhodes writes eloquently about her journey from artist to designer in her book). Rather than relying on dictionary definitions I have explored the differentiating characteristics as I thought this was more interesting and I would learn more in the process. These are broad definitions and there are exceptions to every rule.
In my mind, an artist is usually pursuing a personal vision and, through use of external resource material or exploration of media, has a message or view to convey in their work. The work as an object is usually one-off and unique, although not necessarily hands on in its production. I was thinking particularly of computer programmed jacquard loom tapestries such as those by Grayson Perry, where the actual production has been carried out by a third party under very close supervision and direction by the artist. Textile art as opposed to a design is an object that exists in its own right, that can stand alone. This definition is stretched to its extremes when it comes to installations. Most installations can be constructed and adapted to new spaces, retaining their intrinsic properties.
A design is where art takes on a functional element and adaptability for various applications. It mainly concerns patterns and prints, or functional objects such as clothing or furnishing. The functional element means that there is a consumer focus that may necessitate a level of compromise as ideas and constructions are limited by wearability or practical concerns. Individual artistic control can be retained, but designers can also move into partnerships with others developing a ‘house style’. Collaborations do occur in art but less frequently. In terms of mass produced designs, the designer has less control over the production and reproduction of their design than an artist would retain.
As I am discovering new artists and designers, I will be writing a series of posts focussing on some of my favourites with the research point questions in mind to analyse their work.