Research point – Part 4 – How does the work of a textile artist differ from that of a designer, designer-maker or craftsperson? part 2

The section section of this research point was to research two internationally known textile artists whose work I find inspiring.  The two artists are Ferret – a UK quilter whose work I feel goes beyond the boundaries of quilting and into the world of textile artists and also Martina Celerin whose weaving textile art I have just discovered very recently.

I do have the very kind  permission of both Ferret and Ms Celerin to post photos of their work and also to write about them.

Ferret is a female textile artist/quilter whose work I first came across several years ago in a quilting magazine (exact one unknown)) and she has since features in others such as Machine Quilting  and Quilting as well as winning numerous awards both in the UK and in the USA.

Ferrets work consists of both traditional and contemporary quilts but it is the art quilts which for me takes her into the realms of textile art.

Interesting both my chosen artists have science backgrounds with Ferret’s being in astrophysics and space science before she gave that up to work full time as a quilter.  Ferret is very much a self-taught seamstress who has preferred to make her own clothes and who has been influenced by quilters such as Ricky Timms, Eleanor Burns and Caryl Bryer Fallert.

Ferret initially started in corsetry and making Victorian style clothes which she could go out in and due to the cost of the  material (sometimes £60 per metre) used for these dresses she felt she really could not waste the scraps from the large amounts of fabric used and hence figured she should learn patchwork to use them up.

I have chosen 5 images from Ferret’s portfolio on her website to illustrate the variety of her work – she has told me that she is influenced from a wide variety of sources including music, myths and legends and literally anything that appeals to her.  Ferret is also known for her highly skilled use of a long-arm quilting machine which I remember from the article I read on her is squeezed into her small house and takes up a good portion of her living room – she also has a camper van which is both used as an additional sewing space and has her smaller domestic sewing machine and it also serves as a mobile home when she is often away at quilt shows or doing talks.


bad rainThe quilt that I always remember when I think of Ferret is this one based on the book Cancertown written by Cy Dethan and illustrated by Stephen Downey – size is 89 x 63 inches.

The sheer scale of this piece just enhances the colours used and the chaos of the imagery derived from the graphic novel.  I was drawn to the use of the free motion quilting and the applique techniques used but also the fact that this book is set in an alternate universe bearing in mind Ferret’s space science background.

waitIn contrast Wait is a quilt based on a photograph by Alex Treacher and is just 12 x 32 inches – Ferret describes this piece on her website as one that is calming peaceful and waiting for something but what is unknown.  For me this image also has a mystery about it which comes both from the pose and the colours – there is beauty in the simplicity of the image but knowing there is complexity in the design and the making.

The techniques from what I can see are again applique, piecing and extensive free motion machine quilting which are the common themes throughout Ferret’s work.

I like the smaller scale of this peace and also the limited colour palette and the use of chiaroscuro which creates an almost photographic quality to the piece.

This piece came second in the art quilt section as the National Patchwork Championship, Sandown 2007.

phoenix_risingThe third piece is my other favourite  and is 74 x 95 inches in size and called Phoenix Rising – again a combination of applique, piecing and free machine quilting.

The colour palette is very much the opposite of Wait above but with the same black background which is a common theme in several of Ferret’s quilts due to the emphasis it gives to the colours used for the subject.

Having messaged Ferret upon initial completion of this blog to see what she thinks she has informed me that the black background also serves the purpose of letting the viewer ‘write more of the story’ which is a idea I really like and will bear in mind that sometimes a background is not necessary for a piece and a plain one can inspire the imagination of the spectator.

This quilt was the first place winner of the Bed Quilts at the National Patchwork Championships, Sandown 2010.   This quilt although a bed quilt is an art quilt in itself and is one of Ferret’s most striking for me personally – this Greek mythological bird is perfectly caught in both colour and simplicity in flight.  The size of the quilt would give huge emphasis to this image and that black background with very subtle coloured border is similar to adding a frame and matting to a painted piece.

herd_mentality1Although the techniques are very similar to those above Herd Mentality was the first place award winner in computer design at the National Patchwork Championships, 2010 – an interesting note for myself of what can be achieved using computers for design work when I am someone who at present is happy to sit and sketch and work designs on paper until my skills develop.  Size wise this piece is 77.5 x 42 inches – as is apparent Ferret has no set common size in either her art quilts or traditional quilts but is chosen appropriately.

senecaMy final choice of her work is a personal favourite Seneca inspired by a photograph by Monty Sloan of Wolf Park Indiana – there is no size stated as this piece was sold but I am particularly inspired by the realistic and photographic quality of the piece.

Techniques are clearly piecing, applique and free motion quilting again but the quilting seems to have been taking to a free motion embroidery level in the reflection of the wolf.

Ferret is a woman who is able to cross over from quilting into the textile artist through her ability to draw with thread and fabric –  mainly cotton fabrics and leather  and with an extensive thread collection.  She has had an exhibition at the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham and at the time of writing I am aware she has been back there this year demonstrating on a long arm machine for a company she now works extensively with.  Her applique techniques (both raw edged and turned) as well as the use of faux anbd normal trapunto and clear variety of genres take her work from those traditional quilts to what is described as avant garde and she learnt her original portrait technique from one Marilyn Belford who wanted her to do a portrait quilt but Ferret persuaded her to let her do a cat instead!   Ferret is not afraid to experiment with colour, scale or technique and is clearly never going to be someone who specialises into one particular genre.

My grateful thanks must go to Ferret for her permission to do this piece and use of her photographs for this blog.

Martina Celerin is a textile artist I have only very recently come across and totally by chance on Facebook.  Her work has immediately appealed in the fact it is using weaving as the primary technique and this section of the course is concerned with weaving.  Like Ferret Ms Celerin has given me her kind permission to post photos and do this piece on herself.

Martina Celerin was originally from Prague in the Czech Republic but emigrated with her family to Canada when just a young girl.  In Canada Martina later gained her doctoral degree in plant sciences and she accepted a postdoctoral position as a molecular geneticist at Indiana University.

However in the same year that Ferret started quilting (2002) Martina decided to go back to her roots as an artist with the support of her husband and sons and initially started in oil pastels and acrylic painting before gradually realising that she found the art work too flat for her tastes.  She initially experimented with gluing objects on to the work and painting over and from there decided that she wanted to create her own canvas – weaving and needle felting gave her the effect she so desired.

Martina has found that she can incorporate colour, textures, shapes and objects into her work and really push boundaries as she her self describes.  Martina on her website further describes the resulting textile pieces as ‘3D tapestries’ which is a totally accurate description – she takes images that could so easily be flat normal but still beautiful woven tapestries and transforms them into three dimensional images.  For me her work seems to be a cross-over between tapestry and almost textile sculpture creating a work that is reminiscent of the sculpted friezes of antiquity but with added textures and colours (bearing in mind those friezes were often coloured too!).

It is hard to choose images that illustrate the variety of work and also the skill that goes into Martina’s pieces as they are all quite incredible.  Martina often incorporates objects such as stones, metal pieces from cars or bikes or even shells or beads and has an extensive collection of all sorts of items as well as laces, hemp, wire as well as a wide and varied variety of yarns in different weights and colours.  Martina is a textile artist who strives to create beauty from ‘discarded and unwanted things’ as she herself states on her website – her inspiration comes from a variety of sources including her own imagination, family memories or as is obvious from her work nature itself as well as the simple capturing of an idea which as textile student I am starting to really understand.

12257251036_6dc7941632_hI find this piece delightful – Over the Hills and through the Woods – 30 x 40 x 10 inches. This piece appears to have a base of weaving with a variety of yarns and then further dimension added with needle felted trees and crocheted or knitted leaves – the yarns in the background add texture and also depth particularly with the limited colour palette.

In depth the piece is 10 inches so you get a real sense of how three-dimension this work is – it is simple in composition but still striking in the fact that you feel you want to walk along the path through the wood and it is one that is full of calm emotion.

28628339471_9de5903a05_bIn contrast this work is one of a simple summer scene of sweetpeas growing against a trellis in the garden – My Sweet Peas – 18 x 26 x 3 inches.  The depth is considerably smaller and only really due to the used of the trellis and the sweet peas delicately scrambling over it – I am wondering what the trellis is made from but it could be simple plastic boning used in corsetry or even just stiff cardboard or vilene which is covered in yarn.  The flowers themselves along with the seed pods and leaves appear to be needle felted and the tendrils possibly covered wire.  I love the fact that the background is a relatively simple weave in yarns that go from dark to light from the bottom to the top with the composition being delightfully simple but giving a real sensed of joy particularly in the use of the bright fushia pink used for one of the favourite summer garden flowers.

28600331662_13247485c6_bIn Car-Nation (18 x 26 x 3 inches) Martina has kept to the simple weave in the sweet pea image but this time in blues and browns and added pink carnations which appear to be needle felted but the leaves are apparently cut pieces of brass flashing that are wrapped with yarn. I am wondering if wiring is used or stiff interfacing of some nature to enable the leaves to curl in the way that they do.

12509742_10205222514951157_6766448081618492954_nThe roots appear to be covered wire and then Martina has used a variety of car parts which she has attached using wire to the background – this image raises questions for me over whether this is an environmental statement of how much metal we do in fact bury or throw away and contaminate our soil with in the light of the huge motor industry or an effective way of recycling that metal we would dispose of and turning in into something quite beautiful.  The second image of a piece of weaving in progress which shows how Martina has attached some of the metal – sometimes weaving around and sometimes attaching on the surface and this is something perhaps I can bear in mind and learn from with my ideas for my final project.

12257146626_cae994646b_nGoing back to the theme of trees Martina created Family Portrait – 30 x 30 x 5 inches – this uses silver birch trees as the central theme.  The grey woven background seems to have been done first with the green of the grass in a textured yarn – I am wondering how Martina has done the trees as they seem needle felted but look as if there is a core to create the form of the trees. After emailing Martina she has very kindly informed me that the trunks are stretches of old shoelaces, cords and strings that she wrapped with yarn – a clever idea to create such a realistic effect The foliage strikes as a possibility of crochet or knitting  with the smaller branches appearing to be covered wires.

9218558750_dea0f00abfAs a complete change in theme I am particularly taken with is Blowing Bubbles (29 x 45 x 3 inches) and from initially looking Martina has used some kind of plastic or glass balls for the bubbles (they look like the empty Christmas type decorations you can find in craft shops) and these have clearly been incorporated during the weaving of the background. As with the birch tree trunks again in the same email from Martina she kindly informed me that the bubbles are hand blown glass balls that have loops on them and that they came in various sizes so I can only presume that as she incorporated them throughout the weaving she has additionally secured them at the back of the piece. The background is woven in a variety of blues very simple to create a relatively smooth sky with the person added in needle felting – the hair is simple brown wool and unless I am mistaken there are false eyelashes used for the eyelashes themselves.  I note the use of an actual bubble blower which has clearly been saved.

As can be seen by the small selection of works I have chosen Martina’s work has a common theme in the techniques used but with the variations required for each piece and the different object and yarns that are carefully chosen.

From my research I have noticed that Martina uses a relatively simple frame balanced on an artists easel which gives a good working height whilst enabling her free movement – I had imagined her frame to be much more complex and this gives me confidence in my own simple one.

I note the scale of Martina’s pieces seems relatively consistent and ranging from 18 – 30 inches approximately in size and 3 – 10 inches in depth so this is obviously a size range that really works both in terms of design and composition.

Overall her work speaks of someone who has found her personal voice in a textile art that suits both her personality and her wish to use colour, yarns and textures and shapes and like Ferret is uniquely her own.

My grateful thanks to Martina Celerin for her kind permission for the use of her  photographs and to do this blog piece.

Both Ferret and Martina have used their materials to express their concepts – Ferret is able to use fabric and thread and her skill in free motion machine quilting to create the imagery she desires and Martina is able to do the same in weaving in a very different way.  The two artists express a personal voice that is unique to them and instantly recognisable.

The final questions of the course material ask how I view textile art and do I think about it in the same way as a painting or piece of sculpture and also do I feel it has been accepted by the fine art establishment?  this is perhaps where the fact that I have been doing History of Art alongside this course really helps.  I view textile art as a very different form of art – it is taking the tapestries and embroideries of the past as well as the clothing and creating art in a way that our ancestors could never imagine.  At the same time though when you look at the clothing of  Elizabeth I and the rich embroideries seen in the textiles including on items such as the robes of the church or even now in the couture houses of the modern era is that all textile art but just not directly recognised as such? we speak of those items as ‘works of art’.

I find textile art something that is very exciting – it takes painting to a different level as you paint with dyes, fabric paint or fabric, threads and yarns and therefore you are able to use a variety of techniques that create pieces that really fire your passion or as a spectator there is something for everyone from a very small discreet piece to something large and striking whether simple or complex.  Due to my studies in art history I do think about textile art in the same way as paintings or sculptures – it is a different art form in the same way that when photography was developed it became a new artistic expression.   Although textile art only really developed in the 1960’s Gunta Stolzl was one textile artist who clearly started considerably earlier.

As for whether I think it has been accepted by the fine art establishment unfortunately I think is some way off really being the case – the establishment still appears to still have a hierarchy  and photography still has to fight for acceptance in many ways and textile art as an art form is much younger than photography but it is starting slowly at least to happen.  It will take time but I do feel eventually it will gain full acceptance but this has to happen at the very top of the hierarchy for it to fully filter down. There are large stitch shows getting ever more media coverage and there are new magazines that are appearing alongside more established ones  as well as the vast range of books on artists and techniques that are further enhancing the status of textile artists and their works and this can only be seen as an excellent move in the same way the invention of printing and books took the artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods and since to a wider audience.

As well as Ferret and Martina above I am also a fan of Kaffe Fassett as a textile artist and designer-maker and also Jinny Beyer (an American quilter/designer-maker) as well as English quilters such as Linzi Upton (she did the most extraordinary and superb quilted yurt) and all 3 of these artists are truly textile artists in their fields and I can name countless others in those fields but now I am really starting to get to know other textile artists whose work covers different techniques from weaving, to dyeing, to stitch and to a combination of painting on silk to a variety of fabrics and I think it is a very exciting time period to live in for textile artists.


Dimensional Weavings. June 23, 2013. Des Moines Art Festival, here we come! [online]. [Date accessed:  August 2016].  Available from:

Ferret Fabrications. Date unknown.  Ferret Fabrications [online]. [Date accessed:  August 2016].  Available from:

Martina Celerin. 2014. Martina Celerin Dimensional Weaving [online]. [Date accessed:  August 2016].   Available from: 2016. History of textile art: Gunta Stolzl (1897-1983) [online]. [Date accessed:  August 2016].  Available from:

YouTube. Date unknown.  Ferret [online]. [Date accessed: August 2016].  Available from:


This entry was posted in ASSIGNMENT 4, ASSIGNMENTS, Coursework, Part 4. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s