Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas – Introduction

Having received my new course material last week I’m now ready to get started.  The manual starts with a good concise introduction to the history of textiles, some of which I am fairly familiar with and some not so much.  I found two things of particular interest, both of which I have looked at in some depth.

The Paisley Pattern.

Having previously researched this I found reference to it probably originating from the Boteh (Botteh or Buta), a droplet shaped motif similar to half of the T’ai Chi symbol, the Indian bodhi tree leaf (Asiatic fig), or the mango tree.  It could even be interpreted as a palm leaf, a cluster of leaves or a flower bud.  There are claims that the Boteh can be traced back to ancient Babylon where a teardrop shape was used as a symbol to represent the growing shoot of a date palm.  The palm provided food, drink, woven fibres for clothing and shelter and so became regarded as ‘ The Tree of Life’ with its growing shoot being gradually accepted as a fertility symbol.

King Akbar the falconer

Akbar the Great

The first known designs showing the stylisation we have come to know as the Paisley pattern come from the Mughal Empire in India.

This image of Akbar the Great (reigned 1556-1605) clearly shows the teardrop prominently displayed as do many other paintings of the era.  Akbar was succeeded by his son Salim (reigned 1605-1627) with Mughal painting probably reaching its zenith during this period.

Shawl 1786

Shawl 1786

In the early 18th century, a town called Paisley in Scotland had developed hand-loom weaving and later in the century it became famous for its shawls.  These were silk and cotton copies of Asian shawls sent back by Scottish and English soldiers serving in India.  Over time this effectively destroyed  Kashmir production and they moved to other forms of textiles, mainly hand stitching.

Today we find this pattern widely used in all forms of modern textiles and other art forms from clothing through bags, homewares, wrapping paper, furnishing fabrics, sculptures, painting, drawing and so on, not forgetting Persian carpets which have portrayed this image in many decorative forms over the years.


These wallpaper designs show two quite distinctive interpretations of the shape, one being very stylised with a feathered style edging whilst the other is clearly and accurately outlined to give a much stronger and definite shaping.

Yinka Shonibare

I was thrilled to read the section about Yinka Shonibare as I was fortunate to view his international travelling exhibition in late 2008 which started in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  For anyone not familiar with his work it is worth visiting his website to check him out.  The first thing you will see is the vibrant front screen which is a delight to the eye.  It showcases a beautiful close-up of some of his wildly coloured fabric flowers and provides an insight into some of the wonderful Dutch waxed printed cottons he uses.

Leisure Lady (with ocelots) 2001

Leisure Lady (with ocelots) 2001

What a talent!!  I’m not going to go through his resumé or explain  about his inspiration or reasoning for his works as this can all be easily found on his site but what I do want to emphasise is the sheer array of work he immerses himself in.   His variety of skills is extremely wide encompassing sculpture, painting, drawing, film, photography and more.  I particularly like his life-size sculptures and the costuming is absolutely first class.

How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) 2006

How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) 2006

To be able to wander through multiple rooms in the gallery, not knowing what I would encounter next, was a thrill.  He is clearly very accomplished, has a sense of humour and puts his message across well.

Flicking through his website I was reminded of his wall art which I had forgotten.  How could I?  They are gigantic pieces with enormous interest throughout.

Again on his website, I was struck by his drawings.  I’ve struggled with collage and this type of abstract design.  I’ve looked at several artists work recently trying to either understand or interpret their work for myself.  Whilst at Hazelhurst Gallery a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be joined by one of the art tutors and we examined a new work by one of the tutors which I thought was very interesting but couldn’t fathom how one might get to a position to be able to create such a piece.  I hope to use some of what I learned, and continue to learn, in my own pieces as I progress and evolve my own practice.

This introduction to Textiles 1: Exploring Ideas has been very worthwhile and I’m ready to start.

http://www.creativewallcovering.com (no longer an active URL)
Yinka Shonibare images – from postcards purchased at the exhibition MCA 2008



About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
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