Textile production focuses on the use of spun wool, hair, flax, cotton, silk, or other fibres in weaving, tapestry, braiding, knitting, or knotting to make long sheets, rugs, or strands, resulting in a variation of painting on the wall or freestanding sculpture on the floor. Textiles consist of interlaced, networked fibres and can be heavy carpet or even woven furniture. It is subtly different from the lighter but more processed cloth or fabric. Traditionally, it has been an art method (usually delegated as ‘craft’) much more popular with women than men—though this started to change in the 1960s and 1970s.Read More
There are three individuals in particular who are regarded as pioneers of textile practice: Anni Albers, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and Sonia Delaunay.
Studying at the Bauhaus Institute, Weimar, in the early 1920s, Anni Albers (1899–1994) could not join the glass workshop as she was a woman and chose textiles instead, which she found that she enjoyed. In 1925, she married artist Josef Albers and moved to Dessau with the Bauhaus (and Walter Gropius) for the school’s re-establishment the next year. Albers became Head of Weaving in 1931, one of the few women to do so. In 1933, the Albers fled Germany with the rise of the Nazis and, with the invitation of the American architect Philip Johnson, taught design at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, United States. Albers exhibited widely throughout the US and became the first textile designer to have a survey exhibition at MoMA in 1949. Known for her experimental combinations of different types of fibre, she was also an important writer on textile design.
Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) was a pioneering textile designer closely associated with the Zurich Dada and Constructivist movements. She was known for her fondness for blending fine and applied arts. In 1928, Taeuber-Arp and her husband Hans Arp became French citizens and moved from Strasbourg to Meudon, near Paris, where she designed their home and some of its furnishings. The couple was interested in non-figurative art and Taeuber-Arp published a Constructivist magazine, Plastique, between 1937 and 1939. They fled the Nazis in 1940, returning to Switzerland in 1942. Taeuber-Arp died the following year from carbon-monoxide fumes from a malfunctioning stove.
Part of same social circle as Taeuber-Arp was Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), a Ukrainian artist who, with her husband Robert and others, founded Orphism around 1912—a colourful, breakaway variation of cubism that emphasised abstract geometry, light, and colour. Multi-disciplinary, Delaunay explored painting, textile design, blanket patterns, costumes, furniture, and car decoration, and became the first living woman artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre in 1964.