The Best Textile Artists – Part 2

Following on from our first blog looking at the best textile artists in the world, we look at more enterprising crafts people who are elevating the world of textiles into the higher echelons of art. For many years people working in the medium of textiles have been looked down upon from the high art police, but this is no longer so. We look at the work of Nick Cave, El Anatsui and start with the American artist Judith Scott.

Judith Scott

A fellow of the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, Scott started creating her work in textiles in 1987. It was a visit of the great fiber artist to the Art Center, Sylvia Seventy, that inspired Scott to take textiles seriously. Her style is to work quickly, she wraps up fabric, yarn, assorted fibers around everyday items such as chairs, brooms, shopping trolleys so that they are transformed into something completely different. Such a venture may take her weeks to complete and her devotion to her craft poured into her work. Born with Down syndrome, Scott had to overcome many prejudices and problems along the way, she was also deaf but her courage took her through to make some fine art.

El Anatsui

Born in Ghana, Anatsui creates highly unique work and replaces traditional thread and fabric with other more unusual materials such as copper wire and bottle caps. He explains his choice of materials by saying, is that the poverty of the materials used in no way precludes the telling of rich and wonderful stories. Most of El Anatsui’s work is abstract in form, but he makes pains to make a narrative of his work including his early experiences in Ghana. Anatsui works with a large team, over thirty people who crush and manipulate different random metallic materials.

Nick Cave

Nick Cave is mostly famous today for his elaborate Sound Suits, futuristic costumes that can either be worn by performers or take pride of place in art galleries. Interestingly Cave is an Alvin Ailey trained performer himself, which probably explains his particular interest in this field of art. His works are all intended to withstand movement and to be worn, no glue is ever used in their making, every soundsuit is sewn, and they are designed to make a musical sound, in essence every soundsuit is a unique musical instrument.

The materials that the artist uses are mainly recycled household items, such as doilies, handbags, buttons, human hair, feathers and twigs. So far there have been over five hundred soundsuits that have been created. Their form draws inspiration from a variety of textile traditions including African ceremonial costumes, Haitian voodoo dolls and they can be playful or serious. Cave began working with textiles as a child, he stated being raised by a single mum with six brothers he had no choice but to make his own clothes rather than have hand-me-downs.

All these great artists have a great love of textiles, they come from completely different backgrounds and countries but the one thing that links them is the love of their craft, and creating something beautiful and meaningful out of material.