Research point – Part 4 – How does the work of a textile artist differ from that of a designer, designer-maker and craftsperson? part 1

In the course material we are asked to research the work of the textile artist starting with how you think the work of the practitioner differs from the designer/designer-maker or craftsperson  and whether there is any “crossover in terms of approach or the way each uses ideas or textile processes” and then going on to research two different internationally known textile artists.

For me the starting point is what do I consider textile art?  I am not a newcomer to stitched projects or items as my own background is a mix of embroidery, dressmaking and quilting but do I consider each of those textile art in themselves? certainly for embroidery as that can take many forms from the traditional to the contemporary and is intertwined intricately with textile art.  Dressmaking in itself is not textile art but many textile artists use their skills in this area to enable themselves to work items of clothing that become works of art in themselves.  Then what about quilting? there is a very traditional background to this craft but there is a growing and exciting form of contemporary and art quilting that I believe belong to this genre – the quilters and artists have moved away from the traditional designs whether hand or machine quilted and are experimenting with innovative techniques and designs as well as incorporating cross-media ideas.   I am also aware of the silk painters, those in work with felt and weavers amongst others now who may work on just one specialized form of textile art whether for wall hangings, three-dimensional projects or clothing or as is seen with the quilters a combination of different textile media.

One of the books I have ordered during the duration of this course by Wendy Dolan has introduced me further to the idea of exploring the possibilities of combining embroidery (hand or machine), painting and layering to create exciting textile pieces and this is also apparent in the book on mark-making by Helen Parrott – both books have become invaluable resource books for me.

Going back to the question posed how I think the work of the textile artist differs from the crafts-person, designer-maker or designer? The way to directly answer this is to define each set of skills:

  •  Firstly  it seems that for many a crafts-person has skills that are based on instruction and the understanding of the mechanics of their chosen craft – it is based around knowledge of the subject that enables the person to create their craft by hand.  Also the crafts-person often has an understanding of the history and tradition of their craft such as the understanding I myself have of the history of quilting or embroidery;
  • a designer-maker is literally someone who does both the design work and the making of the design and who is able to bring together two different sets of skills, creative ideas and skills into a finished project;
  • a designer is obviously someone who designs the project but does not go on to making the product although their involvement may continue for instance in fashion the designer may oversee the creation of the clothes and be on hand if any alterations in the designs are needed;
  • a textile-artist is someone who uses thread, stitch and fibres with the possibility of dyes or paints to create a textile piece.

There are clear differences between the different skills used for each mentioned above and any cross-over in terms of approach for me really is seen with the designer-maker or textile artists as textile artists will design and create their project with much the same manner as a designer-maker in say the carpentry field will – starting with sketchings of initial ideas, playing with designs, finished designs, choosing of materials, first steps and reviews of possible samples, going on to work on the finished piece and of course the end result.  The crafts-person on the other hand will often be following perhaps set patterns or varying them to their own choosing in such a way the designs become their own but I have also seen through visiting and and also being a trader at craft shows in the past there is often not the higher level of design work that is seen in textile art or the designer-maker’s works – sadly the word ‘crafts-person’ has become diluted by mass produced ‘crafts’ at craft shows.  Skills for the textile-artist or designer-maker have been developed much further in my opinion and are often free from the restrictions that craftspeople seem to have but that is not disputing the high level of skill of the crafts-person or the designs they have produced.

Do I consider there is any cross-over in terms of the way in which each uses ideas or textile processes? yes and know – if I look at purely textile crafts including quilting, embroidery etc I do see crossovers in techniques such as reverse quilting or using embroidery stitches in crazy quilting (which I am now starting to see more as textile art rather than quilting personally as there are no restrictions based on tradition but rather tradition dictates each is as individual as the person stitching).  However the ideas and textile processes a textile artist can use are much more varied and their ideas and processes will be developed beyond the realms of what is deemed craft although both are done by hand – a textile artist seems to be one who has taken a chosen textile craft and developed it using artistic skills to a different level in much the same way as in history architects separated themselves from the craftsmen and elevated themselves to a higher level.

At this point I feel I must state that a master craftsman is classed as a craftsman/woman but to become a master stonemason for instance the person would have either served an apprenticeship or in the modern day perhaps studied to degree level or even above – I mention this to distinguish the fact that historically even the craftsmen were skilled to an extraordinarily high level and it is their history that is now influential on the skills and knowledge practiced by skilled craftspeople today who are in their own right artisans of their craft.  These craftsmen and women are often fighting against the above mentioned dilution of the word ‘craftsman’ by the mass production of hand-made products and are trying to keep the traditions of the past alive and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation.


Dolan, W. 2015. Layer, Paint and Stitch. Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Search Press Limited.  Date unknown.  Makers’ Yard – What do we mean by designer-maker? [online]. [Date Accessed:  August 2016].

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. 2015. designer [online]. [Date Accessed:  August 2016].  Available from:

Parrott, H. 2013. Mark-making in Textile Art. London. Batsford

planethandmade. Date unknown.  Artist or craftsperson [online].  [Date Accessed:  August 2016].  Available from: 2016.History of Textile Art:  Gunta Stolzl (1897-1983) [online].  [Date Accessed:  August 2016]. Available from:




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