The Best Textile Artists – Part 1

Textiles has always been thought as a modern form of art, but if you stop to think of it the craft of weaving goes back nearly thirty thousand years. The art of textiles which embodies tapestries, weavings, carpets etc has really undertaken a massive recent renaissance. Modern textile artists have pushed the boundaries of their craft and working with textiles is now considered as art by many people. The 1970’s started the reformation and textile artists such as Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago battled the establishment to challenge that fine art should include textiles. This blog looks at some of the most prominent textile artists today, that are continuing to push through boundaries and cement textile crafts as indeed art.

Sheila Hicks

Sheila Hicks first came to prominence in the mid 1950’s, she took her art seriously and traveled extensively through India, the Middle East and Chile learning techniques and mastering her craft. Hicks was an advocate of bringing textiles into the world of three dimensional rather than just flat. She wanted people to touch her work and communicate with the art, I think it is important, the wanting: the desire to hold it in your hands, to befriend it, to see if it bites, quoted Sheila. One of her best-known works was Seance in 2014, which represented giant heaps of cotton candy made up of multicolored bundles of fabrics.

Alighiero e Boetti

This Italian artist came to fame in the 1970’s and took many of his inspirations from the skilled hands of Afghan artisans. He was such a frequent traveler to Afghanistan that he decided to open his own hotel in Kabul that was until the Russians invaded and he had to close it. During this time of the early 1970’s Boetti created his famous Mappa series of works, which he continued adding to until 1994. Boetti commissioned 150 embroideries of flags of the world, and because of the ever-changing world political situation, the work has been a constant work in progress.

Faith Ringgold

Ringgold was inspired to enter into the world of textile art by a trip to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It was the display of Buddhist paintings on cloth called Thangkas that inspired her to enlist her dressmaker mother to join her in an enterprise to make versions of Thangkas. This enterprising Harlem resident created her first quilt in 1980 which was named Echoes of Harlem, which portrayed 30 Harlem residents. A year later Ringgold’s mother died, but she went on pursuing a career in textiles in a series of quilts with engaging topics such as the history of African Americans.

Faith Ringgold was quoted as saying that the medium of her work, textiles, helped her deep messages more digestible, and therefore were more widely accepted. These modern-day artists are indeed some of the very best craftsmen of their trade, they have elevated the art of textiles into modern day fine art, and given the craft an elevated position. In part two of our look at the best modern-day textile artists we visit Judith Scott, El Anatsui and Nick Cave.