15 Ways to be Inspired as a Textile Artist

One good reason to be a part of a collective is sharing creatively. We learn from and support each other. Recently we had a great discussion about inspiration, and where and how we get it.

Here are the 15 ways that help us at seam get the most inspiration:

  1. going to exhibitions, festivals, museums and showsGill Hewitt is still inspired from an exhibition she went to in Australia three years ago. It is always worth taking a chance on artists who you haven’t heard of before, and if you hate something ask yourself why, and ‘what could I do better?’.
  2. observing your environment, natural or urbanAngie Parker is inspired by the brilliant colours in the graffiti she sees near her home in Bristol.
  3. taking photographs – a great way of zooming in on a detail and recording your observations. All of us at seam use photographs as a way of taking visual notes for colours, textures, patterns etc.
  4. researching other visual artists and designers – not just textile artists, consider painters, graphic designers, performance artists etc. I love Austin Kleon’s idea that you can establish your own artistic genealogy by researching who influenced the artists you love. Julie Heaton is influenced by Kayce Zavaglia, Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville.
  5. researching into textile history – textiles has such a wonderfully rich history to draw on that is ripe for reinterpretation. Linda Row is currently researching historical texts on natural dyes by Brunello and Sandberg.
  6. reading and writing – exploring ideas in language as well as through textiles. My piece Border was partly inspired by the unsettling descriptions of tropical gardens in Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Writing helps me clarify my concepts.
  7. playing with materials and/or techniquesAnna Glasbrook loves the beginning of a project, being in her studio with the radio on and playing with possibilities.
  8. experimenting and sampling – moving on from playing with materials, using an experiment or sample to ask more questions and push you further. Basic knit and purl make up the bulk of Desiree Goodall’s work but by altering the tension, number of stitches used, needle size and yarn weight in a single sample Desiree is able to experiment with adding contours and shapes without any seams.
  9. drawing – a great way to observe and record. Joy Merron’s cut-out shift dress was based on her drawings of chrysanthemums.
  10. finding materials Joy Merron’s work This Mortal Coil started with Joy finding single-use plastic bottle tops gathered from the beach.
  11. responding to client(s)Kate Bond has written a blog post about how she held workshops with staff and patients to take into account their ideas and opinions for one of her commissions.
  12. creating mood boards – bringing disparate images and ideas together to make something new. Kate Bond loves working with mood boards.
  13. responding to a space – where the work will hang or sit can spark an idea. Angie Parker has just exhibited at the Bargehouse in London. Its exposed brickwork and gorgeously shabby walls have inspired Angie to create an even more luxurious textile for next year’s London Craft Week.
  14. looking at images – there are such rich sources of images: books, magazines, Pinterest and Instagram; our Instagram Challenge #SeptTextileLove is a great place for textile inspiration.
  15. talking through your ideas – sometimes talking to fellow artists helps you to organise your ideas and they just may point out something you have over-looked, or hadn’t thought to put together.

Have we missed anything out? I am sure we have, but ultimately our list could just have one item: Be curious, observe, and keep asking ‘what if?’

How and where do you get your inspiration?

Penny Wheeler