Constructed Textiles Designers

Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Do you have a favorite sweater or woven blanket? Have you ever thought about who designed them? In this lesson, explore the work of several constructed textile designers.

What Are Constructed Textiles?

Beautiful colorful textiles are all around us. We wear them and decorate our homes with them. Some textiles have patterns printed on their surface with inks or dyes, but others have designs incorporated into their structure. The people who create these designs are called constructed textile designers.

Before we learn about constructed textile designers, let's cover some basics. Constructed textiles are made by processes in which threads are connected in some way to form a textile. A textile is a flexible material made by interlacing threads made of natural fibers like cotton or synthetic fibers like polyester.

Constructed textiles are among the oldest types of textiles, and they've been made for thousands of years. Processes used to make them include knitting, which uses large needles to work together one or more continuous yarns; and weaving, which involves interlacing vertical and horizontal threads on a piece of equipment called a loom. In your home, you probably have many examples of constructed textiles, including things like blankets, rugs and sweaters.

Constructed textile processes including weaving

So, constructed textile designers are people who create patterns that are worked into the structure of knitted or woven fabrics.

Constructed Textile Designers

Now let's learn a bit more about some constructed textile designers.

In the late 18th and 19th century, the British Isles was home to several textile manufacturing centers, and many designers were associated with those places. Among them was Joseph Neil Paton (1797 - 1874), a weaver in Dunfermline, Scotland. He created elaborately patterned tablecloths and was affiliated with Erskine Beveridge and Co. He also sold weaving patterns to other firms in Britain. Another designer, Scottish weaver Alexander Morton (1844 - 1923) created patterns for sheer madras fabrics and semi-sheer muslins with open-work designs (which means the fabric had open spaces in it for air to pass through). Morton established Alexander Morton and Co. in 1874.

Alexander Morton pattern woven in silk and cotton, circa 1887
Morton pattern

Weavers At The Bauhaus

In the late 19th and early 20th century, Germany was another center of constructed textile design, due in large part to an influential art and design school called the Bauhaus.

Gunta Stölzl (1897 - 1983), a German woven textile designer, studied art in Munich and helped develop the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus. Stölzl created rugs and wall hangings using ideas related to color theory, or the study of how colors interrelate. She was also influenced by abstraction. Abstraction, an idea that developed in art in the early 20th century, used geometric forms and patterns in imagery that resembled nothing in the real world. Stölzl's woven works were full of bold colors and pulsing geometric patterns.

Weaving by Gunta Stolzl
Stolzl weaving

Anni Albers (1899 - 1994) was another German textile designer who studied at the Bauhaus. She wanted to go into glassblowing, but became a weaver instead. She became head of the weaving workshop in 1931 and later taught at the influential Black Mountain College in the United States. Albers experimented with basic weaving processes and materials, and, like Stölzl, was influenced by geometric forms and abstraction.

Less well known than Stölzl or Albers was Otti Berger (1898 - 1944), born in Croatia of Jewish heritage. Otti also studied at the Bauhaus and for a while was temporary head of the weaving workshop there. Her patterns were light, colorful and based on geometry. She later opened her own weaving shop in Germany, which was successful until she was forced to close it before World War II (due to her being Jewish). She died in Auschwitz in 1944.

Example of woven textile design by Otti Berger
Otti Berger textile

Constructed Textiles Today

Today, a new generation of constructed textile designers is exploring many interesting ways of designing textiles. Designers around the world are combining different construction methods and working with non-traditional art materials and processes.

They include people like Sophie Roet, a European designer who studied at the Royal College of Art and worked at Studio Edelkoort in Paris. She combines elements of old and new, using traditional Indian weaving methods while incorporating new and unusual fibers into her designs, including thin metal fibers into silk and metal coils into cotton.

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