Textiles have a long place in art history. The combination of textiles and art can be traced back to ancient times when it was primarily used to clothe people or keep them warm. But as trade routes were established and production techniques improved—particularly during the Industrial Revolution—artisans and artists began experimenting with creative expression with the likes of fabric, thread, and yarn.
Many artists who create groundbreaking textile work are women. It should come as no surprise; textiles are often relegated as crafts, and crafts are often seen as “women’s work.” But because these artworks tend to skew heavily female, amazing artists don’t get the recognition they deserve. This is slowly changing as attitudes towards art continue to shift.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’ve highlighted five amazing contemporary textile artists who use their work to shine a light on marginalized people, the state of the environment, the power of intuition, and more.
Check out these contemporary textile artists to celebrate during Women’s History Month.
To create her incredible quilt art, Butler layers fabrics and pieces every element together—down to a tiny glint on an eye. If this sounds like a meticulous process, it is. Some of her larger quilts, which measure over seven feet, can take her over 200 hours to complete. She finishes her work on a long-arm quilting machine.
Butler’s work sheds light on what is dimmed in the scope of history. “My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years,”
“I am inviting a reimagining and a contemporary dialogue about age-old issues, still problematic in our culture, through the comforting, embracing medium of the quilt. I am expressing what I believe is the equal value of all humans.”
Barragão’s textured rugs, tapestries, and wall hangings utilize discarded textile waste as a way to offset the detrimental environmental effects that this industry creates. “The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world,”
Using approaches including latch hook, crocheting, embroidery, knitting, and more, the various techniques translate into beautiful work that implores us to consider how we treat the planet before it’s too late.
The cross-stitch textiles are themselves things she finds from flea markets and vintage stores. By using them in this contemporary fashion, she is celebrating the women who created them by hand. Their beautiful work goes uncredited, as cross stitch and other embroidery are often disregarded as simply being “women’s work.” In Stina-Wikander’s format, however, they take on new meaning.
“Covering is a slow process and I am very meticulous because I want to pay tribute to the women who have made the embroideries and also because I have a bad conscience for cutting them up,”
“[Her] textiles engage upon a search for belonging,” her website states, “studying the Black female body, personal identities and a connection to Black history.” The colorful works utilize text and motifs including big cats and cobra snakes. “Repetitive ideologies of powerful creatures are embedded as talismans within Simone’s work: enhancing upon otherness and the Black body’s relation rooted in a kinship of power and survival. Simone creates narratives through cultural mythology, history, and personal landscapes.”
Kanat is deeply connected to her art, and it is reflected in her textiles. “For me, weaving projects a mood,”
She is also open to experimentation and allows everything to unfold naturally. “My work is intuitive, there are no plans, it just evolves and my hands start to dance with the threads,”