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Maggie Grey: Biography, Techniques & Textiles

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.

Melted plastic and machine embroidery. Stitches and slashes of color. Textile artist Maggie Grey uses all these elements in her work. In this lesson, explore Grey's life and work, and learn about her techniques.

Biography of Maggie Grey

Have you ever experimented with different art materials? Sometimes, putting things together in new ways leads to exciting, interesting discoveries. Artist Maggie Grey certainly follows such a path.

Textiles artists use materials like embroidery thread in their work
Embroidery thread

Maggie Grey is a contemporary British textile artist and an important innovator in textile techniques. A textile artist creates art using fabrics and processes like sewing, knitting and weaving. As a child, Grey loved to draw but didn't do much sewing. It wasn't until later in her her life that she found herself moving into textile art.

Maggie's first spark of interest in textiles came when she was living in the United States. While her husband was studying for a graduate degree at Ohio State University, Maggie visited the Ohio State Fair. There, in an exhibit building on arts and crafts, she saw examples of traditional embroidery and needlepoint work. It inspired her to learn how to create art with decorative stitches.

Over several years, between having a child and moving to different locations, Maggie took classes in needlework. While her first works were fairly traditional, she eventually started to experiment with different materials and processes using computers, moving toward what would become her unique style of textile art. Eventually, she became known as an innovator and a leading contemporary textile artist who has given workshops and exhibited work internationally.

In addition to being an artist, Grey is also a writer. She began writing about textiles after helping to develop textile classes and programs for the Royal College of Art Schools Technology Program. That work led to more writing. Grey is the former editor of Embroidery Magazine and was the editor of Workshop on the Web, an online magazine that ran for 17 years, full of information and tutorials related to contemporary textile art. Grey has written more than ten books on textile art, including titles like Stitch, Dissolve and Distort and Paper, Metal and Stitch.

Textile Techniques

Maggie Grey's textile art is a fascinating mix of colors, techniques, and textures. In wall hangings, three-dimensional soft sculptures, and large works, she plays with traditional and nontraditional methods of making and decorating textiles. Some of her works are installations, spaces in which viewers walks into a room to be surrounded by her art. One example, titled Blues Chapel (2008), used wall textiles and objects to create a whole chapel space that explored religion, African-American themes, and women's lives. Truly, Grey is a mixed media artist, one who uses more than one art medium to make art.

Grey sometimes uses a computer to create the designs that will become textiles. Using graphics software, she blends colors, forms, and shapes. Sometimes, the works have representational images and objects in them, but at other times they are completely abstract, which means they don't resemble anything found in the real world. When a design is done, Grey transfers it to fabric via digital printing and then uses a wide range of techniques to create the finished piece.

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