Fibrostos and Fibristas, text and textiles are more part of our art than we realize. We weave a tale, spin a yarn, lose the thread, hope our bones knit when broken, embroider the truth, tie up loose ends, get stitches for wounds, or in our sides from laughing and hope with every fibre of our being. And every time we talk or write about what we do, we are involving text, implicit or explicit.
Text: late Middle English from Old Northern French texte from Latin textus ’tissue, literary style’ (in medieval Latin, ‘Gospel’), from text- ‘woven’, from the verb texere (Oxford Dictionary)
Text, texture and textile all come from the verb texere which means ‘to weave’.
Lisa Porch explores ways in which contemporary stitch can be used to enhance surface decoration .
Narrative can be poetry, prose or pictorial. We illustrate some of our personal experiences in paper and fabric collage (most often) including words, or embroider to emphasize popular sayings, commemorate historical or familial events and personal views. Text and textiles have a long history in combination with propaganda, chronicle and lineage.
Susan Lenz often incorporates text into her art, from the Decision Portraits and the Grave Rubbings series to new works such as the “I Do/I Don’t” installation:
Jessica Rankin combines the word with sheer materials: “The text assumes an abstract quality, executed in capital letters that call to mind the embroidered works of Alighiero Boetti. Taking the form of random thought patterns, these strings of words slip into phrases that avoid narrative structure from one to the other” (quote from White Cube)
Jessica uses text as imagery, rather than as pure text: movement and focus are emphasized.
Rosalind Wyatt uses text extensively in her work, with much passion and clarity:
Using text in your textile art doesn’t mean it always has to be legible or even a recognized language. Your lexicon could include personal symbols, invented writing or altered fonts. It doesn’t have to be directly related to the subject, can be sub text or clarification depending on the concept and intent.
Use your own poetry and stories:
You might find you are able to articulate ideas and then translate into cloth and thread as well. Pick a favourite poem, though I recommend you try originality because of copyright issues. Try mirror imaging text, distortion, different stitches to emphasize each letter, word or mood they convey to you.
You can free hand it, write it first on the fabric: tip make the writing slightly larger than normal, at least in spacing, or letters may become too squished to be legible–which can work too! Use preprogrammed or free motion on the machine, applique it, discharge it–no technique can’t be used for text *and* imagery. Put it on paper, plastic, fabric and metal. Cut it up, destroy it, add it. No one will ever be able to duplicate it!
(Last 3 images are details of my own work.)
Arlee Barr is a Canadian artist, working primarily with textiles. She describes herself as curious, eccentric and just a little opinionated. Surrealist in thought, Fauvist at heart, Arlee likes the eclectic, explorative and absurd. Sprinkled around the interwebs, she can be found hanging around her fantastic blog.