Using Textiles as Art
Many antique textiles have become too precious to use for their original purpose: dowry textiles such as suzanis, colourful Asian ikats, needlepoint for upholstery, embroidered silk clothing, tribal weavings. Today, designers and collectors preserve and mount these beautiful pieces for display as wall art. In their unique way, the textiles demonstrate skill, beauty and cultural traditions. Textiles can also provide a large volume of art at a far better price than a painting.
Dealer, Molly Hogg Antique Textiles, at The Decorative Fair
Antique needlepoint framed and displayed with a cluster of curios – shells, coral, a carved lion and antique taxidemy bird. Dealer, Odette Welvaars, at The Decorative Fair.
Early C20th Chinese Silk Embroidered Panels, exhibitor Kiki Design.
A traditional tapestry hung behind a C19th banquette. Dealer, Magus Antiques, at The Decorative Fair.
Domestic textiles also celebrate female artistry of past centuries: many of these pieces would have been created by women for their own or their family’s use. Their labour-intensive endeavour to create practical yet beautiful textiles can be admired and appreciated by us today.
Formal tapestries and rugs were woven originally as art but also combined beauty with practicality (warmth). Needlework pictures, samplers and objects such as bead work baskets and animals, or three-dimensional stump work, popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries, used for mirror frames and caskets demonstrate the skills of women with leisured hours. Commercial decorative textiles also make wonderful wall coverings, such as Asian embroidered silk panels that were created in response to a European demand for the exoticism of the orient from the 17th to early 20th centuries. Other traditional textiles and fragments that are popular to frame, or if larger, mounted on stretchers, are block-printed cottons and linens, hand-painted cloths showing, for example, the famous tree of life pattern, cheerful Indian chintzes, tribal weavings like Fante flags, Kuba fibre mats and Ewe cloths, bark painted cloth from Papua New Guinea and the South Seas, and hand-painted Chinese and other Asian silk fragments.