John Hopper

Writer on contemporary and historical design, decoration and craft

United Kingdom

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.

The Textile Blog: Empathy and Connectedness with Nature

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.

The Textile Blog: Curiosity and the Creative Artist

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 Textile Blog: The Artist and the Critic

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.

The Textile Blog: The Vital Connection with Nature

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.

The Textile Blog: The Genuine Article - Following Your True Path

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.

The Textile Blog: Complexity and Simplicity, Viewer and Viewed

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.

The Textile Blog: Creative Art: A Shared Projection of Individual Perspectives

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.

The Textile Blog: The Woven Work of Stanley Bulbach

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.

The Textile Blog: The Work of the Artist Fanny Zakucka

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.

The Textile Blog: Costumes for a Masked Ball

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.

The Textile Blog: Mindfulness, Nature and Observation

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.

The Textile Blog: Eduard Josef Wimmer-Wisgrill, Fashion, and the Wiener Werstatte

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.

The Textile Blog: The Fantasy World, the World of Reality, and the Creative Arts

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'.

The Textile Blog: C. F. A. Voysey, Textile Design and the Pull of Nature

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.

The Textile Blog: The Embroidery Work of Anton Hofer

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.

The Textile Blog: Art Nouveau Styled Textile Work of Paul Lang-Kurz

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.

The Textile Blog: Gustav Klimt, Fashion, and Working in Other Disciplines

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...

The Textile Blog: The Textile Design Work of Jacqueline Groag

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.

The Textile Blog: Wallpaper Pattern Work as an Inspirational Source

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.

The Textile Blog: Why Would Anyone Pursue a Creative Path

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.

The Textile Blog: The Black on White Work of Ernst Moritz Engert

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.

The Textile Blog: Paul Klee, an Inspirational Artist for the Textile World

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.

The Textile Blog: Symbolism: The importance of Symbols in Pattern

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.

The Textile Blog: The Textile Design Work of Lilly Jacker

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.

The Textile Blog: The Theatrical Costumes of Ellen Terry

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.

The Textile Blog: Creativity and Winter - The Cycle of Nature

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.

The Textile Blog: The Positive Power of Human Creativity

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.

The Textile Blog: Edward Burne-Jones and the Legend of the Briar Rose

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.

The Textile Blog: The Decorative Landscape of All-over Pattern

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.

The Textile Blog: The Human Community of Commonality and Creativity

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.

The Textile Blog: William Morris and John Henry Dearle: Individuality or Collectivity

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.

The Textile Blog: The Medieval Restoration Work of Sydney Smirke and Decimus Burton

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.

The Textile Blog: William Morris and Italian Textile Design

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.

The Textile Blog: Textile Pattern Work of Leon Bakst

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.

The Textile Blog
The Link Between Nature and Creativity

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.

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Georg Hulbe, Applique Screens, and Innovation Within Tradition

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.

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Talking About Creativity

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.

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The Embroidered Border and Talk of Experience and Creativity

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.

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Lace as an Accessory to Fashion

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.

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Ceramics, Art Nouveau and Surface Pattern

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.

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The Art Nouveau Carpets of Paul Horti

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.

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Nineteenth century Books on Decorative History

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.

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Peter Behrens and Decoration as Contemplative Symbol

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.

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Pattern as an Expression of Personal Individuality

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.

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The Textile Design Work of Leopold Stolba

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.

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Abstract Decorative Pattern Work

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.

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Owen Jones, Decoration, Pattern and the Observation of Nature

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

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Floral Decoration in Mughal India

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

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Biophilia, Nature and Decoration

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.

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The Human Pleasure in Decoration

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.

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Textile Design and the Copyright Law of 1842

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.

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The Victorian Observation of Indian Decoration

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.

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The Continuing Relevance of William Morris

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.

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Swedish Landscape in Fine Art and Tapestry

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.

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The Symbolism of Personal Memory. The Artwork of Andrea Vail

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.

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The Designer and the Process

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.

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The Dynamics of Craft

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.