Could YOU do that with an alphabet block?

I have long been fascinated by textile art; I love its tactility, its ‘hands on’ quality, its fragility and potential for decay. It seems so human. Those of you who know me will already be aware of my love for feminist art’s appropriation of it as a medium; the use of a traditionally ‘female’ modus operandi as a means for describing what it means to be a woman, always looked at, always objectified. 

Lately, cocooned as I am in a house in Stockport with little to do and even less cash, my thirst for such things has been ‘reawakened’, if I may use so grand a term, and I have been reading a book called (rather literally) ‘Contemporary Textiles’. Fascinating. The pieces are ‘shot through’ with humour, with sexuality, with nostalgia…and – they look beautiful.

I’m sure most people go through life without giving a second thought to the nature of textile art, but I still think it is an under-promoted medium, and one which has as much ability to inspire emotion and reactions as a well-taken photograph, or a cleverly-constructed installation.

First up, Andrea Deszo, whose delicately hand-embroidered pictures say much about die-hard assumptions and traditional values inherent in the raising of girls:

Andrea Dezso, Lessons From My Mother

Anila Rubiku’s intricately-made houses are beautiful, yes, and literally luminous, but the domestic scenes depicted on the outside of each house bring the realities of life to the surface:


Anila Rubiko, House of the Rising Sun

Tilleke Schwarz, a personal favourite, stitches incredibly intricate pieces of what I can only describe as ‘textile graffiti’…

Tilleke Schwarz, 100% Checked

Tucker Schwarz’s work is much more delicate, to the point where it looks like it might disintegrate in your hands. It gives me a feeling of unease, somehow, as though the embroiderer has been interrupted, and never got to go back to finish her sewing.

Tucker Schwarz, Just You Wait

To say that Moira Chester’s Nail Dress depicts where ‘fashion meets art’ would be to do it a disservice, I think. But I do love the fragility of the dress ‘caught’ by the rusting nails.

 Moira Chester, Nail Dress

On the subject of dresses: I think Janet Cooper’s dresses – handmade, and covered with ephemera and mementoes – are beautiful. Remember those fancy dress costumes your mum made for you? Get whimsical for a second, and imagine that she could’ve sewn our memories into them, too….
Janet Cooper, Assemblage Party Dress from my travels to Rome, France and Japan

Susie MacMurray mussel shells with red velvet are simply stunning, and – I think – have a soupçon of sexuality. I shall say no more about that…

 Susie MacMurray, Echo

And…finally. Melissa Ichiuji, the artist I wish I had the guts to be.  Her figures, usually women in some expression of their ‘femaleness’ are created from old tights, false teeth, soft furnishings…but the one thing you can count on is that they’re always unsettling.

 Melissa Ichiuji, School Girl

All images taken from ‘Contemporary Textiles: the fabric of fine art‘, 
edited by E. Monem, Black Dog Publishing, 2008

7 thoughts on “Could YOU do that with an alphabet block?

  1. Fabulous. I've got a book called radical lace and subversive knitting, I love the way the artists in it have taken such a traditionally female pasttime to make such beautiful and bizarre things. My knitting tends to stick to the mundane and functional but there is also something wonderful about the artisans that create some of the fabulous yarns I yearn after. Listen to me waxing lyrical…

  2. That’s one of my very all time favourite books…. (I’m doing a project and I’ve just been searching for Susie MacMurray’s velvet mussels installation to put on a tumblr sketch book, and it’s brought me back to you!!)

    • That’s so weird – you can’t escape me!! It’s a fantastic book, but looking back at this post, I’d probably get into trouble with copyright. Fascinated by Susie M, though…and by your tumblr sketchbook! xx

  3. nope. not one bit. LOVED seeing the full Mrs. Bossa! in my opinion it’s the person who truly puts themselves out there who has the most compassion for others. when you know how hard it is to post a shot of not-model-off-duty you, you won’t make back-seat criticisms of someone else’s outfit post.

    wonderful post- and congrats on sharing all of wonderful you.
    PS: the quotes of your bloggers comments are so true and look so good in this typed fortune cookie format.

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