Contemporary Textile Artists in Australia

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.

Textiles artists work in many ways, using a variety of materials and styles. In this lesson, you'll learn about several contemporary Australian textile artists.

What Is A Textile Artist?

Look around you. Do you have rugs and curtains in your home? Textiles are something most of us see every day.

Some artists use colorful textiles to make art
colorful textiles

Textiles are materials made by connecting natural fibers like cotton and silk or synthetic fibers like polyester to make a whole object, perhaps a piece of cloth or fabric. So, textile artists are artists who create art using textile materials like fabrics, fibers, yarns, and threads. They use textile-making processes like knitting, in which two large needles are used to loop and knot one continuous yarn into fabric; and weaving, in which two threads are interlaced at right angles on equipment called a loom. Some textile artists also use sewing processes like embroidery, embellishing a surface with colorful decorative stitches; and appliqué, sewing small pieces of fabric together on a larger fabric surface to create a design or image.

Australia, a continent and country in the South Pacific, is fortunate to have a wealth of talented contemporary textile artists. Working in traditional and nontraditional ways, and often combining techniques like weaving and embroidery, these artists create beautiful and fascinating works. Many of these artists are internationally known, exhibiting in museums and galleries around the world. Some live in their native country while others are constantly on the move, searching for new inspirations.

Let's explore the work of several contemporary Australian textile artists.

Contemporary Australian Textile Artists

Susie Vickery

An Australian native, Susie Vickery began her career as a costume maker, concentrating on tailoring men's outfits. But after moving to Kathmandu, Nepal, in the late 1990s, where there wasn't much demand for costume design, she became interested in embroidery.

Today, Vickery combines techniques like embroidery, appliqué, and printing on fabric. Her work addresses contemporary issues like globalization and the plight of traditional textile workers. In some pieces, Vickery uses the same embroidery stitches she often used in tailoring. In other embroidered works, she creates striking images that look almost like linear drawings. Vickery also creates art by sculpting three-dimensional objects like sewing machines from sewn and embroidered fabrics.

Always on the move, Vickery divides her time between London, Australia, and Mumbai.

Tammy Kanat

Tammy Kanat lives and works in Melbourne, Australia. She began her career in jewelry design but later moved into textiles. After experimenting with weaving and enjoying it, she refined her weaving technique and studied methods of tapestry-making at the prestigious Australian Tapestry Workshop (ATW). A tapestry, by the way, is a large wall hanging made by using textile processes.

Today, Kanat creates innovative wall hangings, rugs and carpets, blankets and furniture objects. She's inspired by nature and works in bright colors in a wide range of fibers, including chunky wool yarns. Unlike some artists, Kanat doesn't pre-plan her designs. She begins weaving with a set of chosen colors and sees what happens. The art evolves as she works.

Kanat has also collaborated with businesses like Cadrys (an Australian rug company) and Anthropologie (a retail chain) to create a range of textiles for retail customers.

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