Swedish tapestry design of the early twentieth century was known at the time as probably some of the best woven artwork being produced in Europe.
John has a wide working knowledge of art and craft textiles and is now a full time writer with a great interest in the historical development of textile based design, decoration and craft. Since 2008 he has been producing The Textile Blog a comprehensive educational resource that gives regular insights into all aspects of the history of textile design, decoration and craft.
Swedish tapestry design of the early twentieth century was known at the time as probably some of the best woven artwork being produced in Europe.
Illustration: Andre Mare. Bookbinding design in parchment. You have to ask yourself sometimes why would anyone pursue a creative career. The question might well seem rhetorical, as most reading this will doubtless be involved in the world of creativity in some form or on some level.
Illustration: German surface pattern design ideas, c1939. Design tends to be, by its nature, a positive and optimistic statement. True, there are always exclusions, guns, rockets, and land mines also have to be designed, but I would hazard a guess that those designers involved in the armaments industry have a difficult headspace to inhabit, if they even think about it.
Although Stolba's work came in a range of styles, the imagery for his textile work is very much based on the natural world, however stylised it may appear.
Illustration: Leon Bakst. Textile design, c1922. Leon Bakst is a name that will be forever associated with Serge Diaghilev, Vaslav Nijinsky, and the Ballets Russes. Although Bakst was trained as a fine artist, and did in fact produce fine art work systematically across his career, he is much better known for his stage sets and costumes for the Russian ballet.
Illustration: Photograph by the author, 2014. Recently I was sitting beside some running water and watching the current running through some river weed. I could see the water flowing through the weed and as it did so it was leaving air bubbles behind, some of which attached themselves to the weed, while others flowed slowly through the weed, eventually rejoining the run of the stream.
It is often surprising to note how many crafts and disciplines artists and designers either worked in or designed for, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century
Newbery became head of the Glasgow School of art in 1885, before that he had been teaching at the Design School at South Kensington in London.
It is always interesting to observe the need we humans have for decoration in all its aspects, covering a whole plethora of our daily lives, from the deliberate through to the accidental. When you actually stop and take notice, you realise that decoration, despite the rigours of Modernism and its official frowning upon secondary decoration in all its forms, is everywhere.
The decoration and pattern work of past historical eras has always had a following of one sort or another. Some used examples to copy directly, perhaps with the intention of infusing a contemporary era with the perceived splendour of the past, other used examples as a starting point for new individualised work, whilst others wished to study examples from the past in order to try and gain some insight into the cultural world of the past.
Floral pattern work was always an important part of Mughal decoration, whether it be architectural, or painted on a manuscript, or printed on a textile
The two rug designs illustrating this article were produced by the German architect and designer Bruno Paul. They were executed within the first decade of the twentieth century and show an element of minimal pattern work which was still relatively unknown in Europe during this period.
Decoration in its many forms gives instant and gratifying visual pleasure. It is one of our oldest legacies and has been a firm and constant companion throughout our development as a species as well as the more specific creative aspects of our development.
Biophilia is the concept that humans have an innate biological need for a consistent connection with nature for their physical, mental and social well-being. It is this connection, or lack of, that gives us either a harmonious balance within ourselves, or a build-up of frustrations, alienation, illness and aggressive and unbalanced behaviour.
British designers, and particularly those involved in the textile industry, had been either literally copying or producing Anglicised versions of Indian pattern work for generations.
The work of artist Andrea Vail is dedicated to, and uses a number of formats, disciplines and traditional crafts. Common themes run through her varied work which are as significant and fundamental as the history of our species.
Morris undoubtedly cast a long shadow within the decorative arts of Britain and much of his ethos concerning the meaning and integrity of hand production is still with us today.
English, as opposed to British copyright laws of the nineteenth century, Ireland and Scotland were treated separately, were deeply flawed for a number of reasons, particularly those concerning textile design.
The work of the Austrian artist and designer Adolf Bohm and his sensitive and intuitive understanding of the natural world.
By understanding the beauty of the flower, its colour, shade and line, where it sits in the environment, whether it is in shade or full face to the sun, what plants it prefers to be next too, the attraction it holds for bees and butterflies, its scent, its movement in the breeze, all of these elements now become part of the overall experience
In some respects, hard geometrical pattern work, which gives to all outward appearances, the impression that it comes entirely from the human imagination, is still routed in the visual and sensory observation of the natural world.
The German architect and designer Peter Behrens is more usually identified with either architecture or product design. He is firmly locked into the Modernist cause and although it is admitted that he produced work in a range of disciplines, this is often put down to a relatively early phase of his life before he set out on the road of Modernist architecture in particular.
Illustration: Aleksei Zinovief. Wooden buffet design, 1906. It would be fair to say that each and every incarnation of the Arts and Crafts movement, whether national or regional, added a unique cultural quality to each individual interpretation of the movement, and I would be the first to champion that uniqueness.
Illustration: Mark Rothko. No. 14. Curiosity may well be a species trait, we are after all where we are today, and know what we know, from the micro to the macro world, because of a collective curiosity about the world in us and around us.
The carpet design work of the Hungarian designer and educator Paul Horti, gives a good indication as to how the creative designer can both work within a decorative movement, as well as being able to maintain a measure of individual integrity.
One of the oldest forms of vehicle for decoration is that of ceramics. The moulding of clay has such a long association with human cultural history that it is often thought to be one of the first expressions of human creativity.
Lace as a craft and discipline has always struggled with its almost symbiotic relationship with fashion. No textile discipline, apart perhaps from embroidery, has been so wrapped up in the vagaries of the fashion world.
Borders have always been a great form of creativity for textile pattern and decoration enthusiasts. Whether it be constructed or printed, the border has given an extra dimension to textile pieces, be it costume, personal or domestic. This is particularly so with embellishment, through either embroidery proper or applique. It is embroidery that was often specifically chosen as a finishing touch to an outfit or domestic textile piece.
If you make a search online for the word 'creativity' often, you will come up with a business reference. The business world has adopted the term 'creativity' as a means of imaginatively cajoling its work force into higher productivity and therefore, more profits, probably one of the worst definitions of creativity, at least for a creative.
Georg Hulbe, or Georg Ernst Friedrich Hulbe to give him his full name, was a craftsman in the traditional manner. He worked mostly in leather and was by trade a bookbinder. He spent all of his life in Northern Germany, a native of Kiel; he later moved to Hamburg, he also never wandered far from his speciality work in leather.
In many respects, creativity is based on the observational world around us. For hundreds of thousands of years and untold generations, that would inevitably have been the natural environment of flower, leaf, insect, animal, and indeed human.
Illustration: Annie French. 'Open the Forest's Gates', 1908. The illustrative work of the Scottish artist Annie French has to be some of the most atmospherically charged work from the Edwardian period. French had been a student at the Glasgow School of Art under Francis Newbery.
Illustration: Kathe Mertens. Wallpaper design, 1930. Wallpaper design is often overlooked as a viable and interesting textile discipline. Many textile designers, as well as artists, architects, illustrators and more, have been involved in wallpaper design over the years.
Illustration: William Morris. Granada woven textile design, 1884. It is always interesting to note where a designer gained their inspiration. Often it comes from more than one source, and as careers develop sources can become more complex, or indeed simplified, depending on the character of the individual.
Illustration: Sydney Smirke and Decimus Burton. Restoration painted archways at Temple Church, London, 1841. There has always been and probably always will be controversy and intense arguments over the idea of restoration, in any of its forms. Some see restoration as an improvement on incomplete remains, giving us a feeling of what the original building, interior or exterior, might have given when in full working order.
Illustration: Helen Paxton Brown. Embroidered sideboard cloth, 1910. Helen Paxton Brown was one of the group of embroiderers that made Glasgow one of the main centres of contemporary embroidery in Europe during the early years of the twentieth century.
Illustration: December illustration for the Ver Sacrum calendar for 1903. As this is the last month of the year and as we, in the northern hemisphere, are in the depths of winter, I thought it might be good to round off the year with some imagery concerning December.
Illustration: John Jack Vrieslander. Carpet design, 1899. John Jack Vrieslander was a German fine artist who graduated from the Dussldorfer Academie in 1898. Like many fine artists across Europe during this period, Vrieslander also produced work in a range of other disciplines outside of fine art painting.
Illustration: John Henry Dearle. Iris textile design, 1887. Much is made of a name, the individual whose creative work can be tagged, underlined, and then placed neatly into the pages of history. The Textile Blog itself falls into that category, with its Designer-led page alphabetically noting those who have been mentioned, when they were born and when they died.
Illustration: John Singer Sargent. Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889. Theatrical costume has always been an important creative outlet for those involved in the textile world. The range is seemingly vast and can include dance and opera as well as theatre, and nowadays also includes the hugely popular and influential TV and film world.
Illustration: Paul Lang-Kurz. Printed cushion design, 1900. Art Nouveau has such a definite style that it is hard not to instantly recognise it in whatever form it takes. In many respects, it is the antithesis of the artificial, the symmetrical and the engineered, in other words it projects into the world of nature, a world of seeming casualness and limitless asymmetrical pattern work, rather than that of the human.
On Saturday (November 16) I was involved in the Slow Textiles My Nature Symposium, which dealt with ideas and issues surrounding textile designers and artists approach to the natural world.
Illustration: Gaston de Latenay. Landscape. From the larger society down to single relationships, many support the creative arts. However, many don't and the negative is often the louder and listened to more frequently than the positive. Doesn't make them right though.
Illustration: Silk brocade from Regensburg, Germany, 12th century. People often think that pattern for decoration is either a random coming together of 'prettiness' or a jotting down of observations by the designer. While this may well be true of a certain amount of pattern work, in the history of decoration it can only be said to be a small part of the truth.
Illustration: Heinrich Dolmetsch. Examples of Arabic decoration, 1887. The other day someone accused The Textile Blog of exploiting decorative work outside of my own immediate culture, for profit. Now anyone who runs a blog within the creative field knows that very few are ever more than vehicles either to expose themselves as creative individuals, or to help inform others.
Illustration: Jozsef Rippl-Ronai. 'The Lady in Red' embroidery in wool, 1898. (Google Art Project). 'When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.' John Muir The Hungarian artist and designer Jozsef Rippl-Ronai produced the 'Lady in Red' embroidered hanging in 1898.
Illustration: Emanuel Josef Margold. Decorative panel, 1910. Although it is often intriguing in pattern work to play with space and non-space, allowing areas devoid of pattern to work within the decoration, it is also interesting to see how pattern works when all space is filled, leaving little in the way of zoning, so that all the pattern work covers all of the space.
Illustration: Edward Burne-Jones. The Rose Bower, 1890. There are always many avenues for which an individual can gain inspiration and no more so than in the world of dream and fantasy. Whatever medium you work in story-telling throws up so many possibilities as to style, so many narratives, and so many questions.
Illustration: Eduard Josef Wimmer-Wisgrill. Costume design, 1914. The Austrian designer Eduard Josef Wimmer-Wisgrill was one of those designers who most obviously focused his talents in one direction, fashion. He ran the fashion department at the Wiener Werkstatte from 1910 to 1922. From 1918 to 1921, he also ran the fashion department at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna.
Illustration: Paul Klee. Wald Hexen (Forest Witches), 1938 (Google Art Project). Creative influences can come from every angle and every dimension, whether from the natural world, the human artificial world, or a combination of both. Inspiration can also come from other creative individuals, whether from the historical past or contemporary practitioners.
Illustration: Gustav Klimt. Portrait of Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein, 1905. The Austrian fine art painter Gustav Klimt, a firm favourite inspirational artist for most of those involved in the creative textile world, was a great advocate , as were many in his lifetime, of the ideal of creativity as a whole, a world where the lines between fine art, design, and craft were either irredeemably blurred, or better still, dismantled altogether, where one creative individual could cross over...
Illustration: Fanny Zakucka. 'Klavierunterricht', 1903. Fanny Zakucka, or Fanny Harlfinger-Zakucka as she is sometimes known, her husband was the artist Richard Halfinger, was an Austrian fine and graphic artist of the first half of the twentieth century.
Illustration: Lilly Jacker. Embroidery design, 1927. A new year and a new designer. This time it is the turn of the Austrian textile designer Lilly Jacker. Jacker produced a range of textile-based work through a period including the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Her work included designs for printed textiles, embroidery, fashion costume, and wallpaper design.
Illustration: Natalia Goncharova. Costume for the ballet Liturgy, 1915. The Russian artist and designer Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova studied first sculpture and then fine art painting at the Moscow Academy of Art in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Illustration: John Hopper. Perranporth beach, Cornwall, 2014. Individuality is an important part of who we are, our uniqueness is an expression, a creative perspective of the self. Although much is talked of the negativity that can be the ego, I think personally, that characteristics and experience of the individual are important.
Illustration: Jacqueline Groag. Printed textile design, 1930. It is time for another article and another designer. One of the most famous of Post War British textile designers, Jacqueline Groag was actually born Hilde Blumberger in Prague in 1903. In 1937 she married the Czech architect Jacques Groag, hence the more familiar surname.
I am always amazed when out walking at how nature seems to throw up so many possibilities for creative work. The list seems endless, from rocks, to water, to plant life, to sky. Combinations of elements always seem to work well and today I want to share with you some quick photos I took whilst wandering around some local woods.
Illustration: Ernst Moritz Engert. 'Salome' cut paper illustration, 1915. Much is made of colour in art, design, decoration, and craft, as it should be. Without colour, many of the forms of creativity that we have become used to as humans, would be arid and without substance.
Illustration: Unknown Egyptian portrait of a woman. Recently I have come across a number of online creative individuals who have stated that there is no point to history, no point in looking back, that the only thing that really matters is the present.
Illustration: Anton Hofer. Embroidered ecclesiastical vestment design, 1911. Perhaps a new name to many, the Austrian/Italian designer Anton Hofer produced work mostly in the design discipline of textiles, though did produce work in other disciplines including book design, furniture, ceramics, and even stamps. However, it is with textiles and more specifically embroidery that Hofer is best known.
Illustration: Stanisław Wyspiański. Rose design, 1895. It is hard to know what to term Stanisław Wyspiański. He was considered as both a playwright and poet, as well as a fine art painter and designer.
Illustration: C. F. A. Voysey. Textile bedcover design, 1888. (LACMA Collection). Charles Francis Annesley Voysey was one of the stalwarts of English architecture and design in the first part of the twentieth century. His influence was widespread and fundamental to many and his work is still admired today.
Illustration: Ann Macbeth. 'Once Upon a Time' illustration, 1902. I have always had trouble identifying with the accepted definitions of both fantasy and reality. My Collins English dictionary has a good definition of the word 'fantasy', it terms it as 'a far-fetched idea', 'imagination unrestricted by reality', 'a daydream'.
Illustration: Fritz August Breuhaus de Groot. Costume designs for a masked ball, 1927. I always love introducing relatively new names and faces to The Textile Blog. The Designer Index page is getting longer and longer, but I don't make any excuses for that.
Illustration: Stanley Bulbach. 'Agate Stream'. It is always interesting to see how different creative individuals approach their work and their medium, but it is often just as interesting to see where these individuals originated, where they gained their core influences, and what sent them along their unique creative path.
Illustration: Marcello Nizzoli. Embroidered panel. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the creative arts and nature are significantly linked, some would say inextricably. We are of course a part of nature, always have been and always will be.
Illustration: An Autumnal Morning. Photo by John Hopper, September 2014. As we approach autumn/fall, at least in the northern hemisphere, we start to think about battening down the hatches for the coming winter.
Illustration: Gustav Klimt. 'Medezin', 1897. I think a lot of people today are looking for the genuine article in many forms of life including the creative arts. Perhaps for the first time in our human history we have today an extremely articulate world population, one that is fully aware of when and how they are being fed with formulas and pretences, understand when something is untrue, lacking in integrity.
Illustration: William Morris. 'Columbine' textile design drawing, 1876. Some people maintain that being involved in the creative arts is one of the most individualistic approaches you can take as a human being.
Illustration: John Hopper. Single flower, 2014. Each flower and each leaf that we see is a complex phenomenon in its own right. There are so many individual machinations that allow a leaf or flower to appear in the material world, to inhabit a space, however fleetingly.
Illustration: Small transient homage to nature. Photo taken by John Hopper, 2014. When I personally walk within the natural environment, I hear the trees swaying in the breeze, hear the water rushing over boulders, the complexity of bird song, and the flitting buzz of insects, I can always sense a continual presence beneath all the layers of sound, a foundational manifestation of nature, one that exudes that quiet, stillness, rest, being.