Is Embroidery Art?

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James Hunting considers the question – Is stitch art?

His answer – If we want it to be…..

‘It is art’

This is one of those statements that engenders so much discussion and debate, most frequently started by, and involving ‘fine artists’ or practitioners who have followed a ‘fine art’ qualification or pathway. Personally, I think the debate is more what is art and how can something be judged as art or not?

I think this depends on the motivation and intention of the maker/artist/practitioner. Many practitioners within textiles do not want to be called ‘artists’ as it holds too much baggage- a presupposition that it is badly made, it is going to be abstract, it needs to come with a long, over-written and needlessly complex statement, and a rejection of traditional skill and making knowledge.

I do feel that, strangely, we can be our own worst enemies in this debate, there is a tendency of reverse snobbery evidenced in the use of language we use to talk about our work and the way we talk about our practice, a tendency to self deprecation. If we continue to use phrases like ‘just playing’ or ‘I find it so relaxing’ as well as ‘quirky’ and ‘fun‘ we must think of the consequences. All of these phrases give permission to the viewer and reviewer to dismiss the work. if we ourselves do not present it as serious why should anybody else.?

This is not intended as an article that judges the motivation of any maker. I feel that the world of textiles and stitch provides a huge arena for fulfillment and creative satisfaction for many people; so too does water colour painting, oils, sculpture etc . Our practice is one of many creative media that allow people to express, relax, lose themselves and enjoy. It also allows people to challenge, question, make statements, and change….

My personal choice is to make art that uses stitch as my media for expression. This is because the making is part of my work, the sensuality and physicality of the act of stitch, the involvement of holding the fabric.

Am I an embroiderer? ‘Yes’ in two senses…. Professionally I am as I can sell my knowledge and manual dexterity to produce an embroidered outcome. Artistically I use embroidery as my media, so yes I am but if I stop using embroidery I am still an artist…

The biggest hurdle that we as textile artists face is to overcome gallery opposition to showing textiles, this should not stop us submitting or approaching them and over time with the creation of our own appropriate language to talk about our art, our work will be seen alongside all art forms without having to ‘hide’ our textile training.

To find out more about James Hunting and read his artist’s statement on his website go to

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