The world of textiles is a fascinating place. Tapestries have been present in our history for as long as records of humanity exist. At first, textiles weren’t focused on looks but on practical purposes. Today, we come in contact with textile art every day. From the clothes we wear to the objects that decorate our home – textile art is something that can be simultaneously beautiful and useful.
Since weaving practice is so old – it’s been hard to define what it actually is. At the beginning of its long history, weaving was seen as a utility and has been associated with women practices. The postwar period in design and art history shaped our views on textile as something that can also have no discernible function aside from aesthetics. And while this is still the case today, with the help of some visionary creatives the world of textiles reinvented itself and is present in our everyday lives.
In the 20s Bauhaus school of art and design was founded and there was a special workshop dedicated to pursuing the boundaries of textiles with pioneering artists such as Gunta Stolzl, Anni Albers, Otti Berger and many more female design icons of the 20th century.
With their textile theories and modernistic approach, for the first time ever in design history, textile art and weaving were seen not only as practice and something to do when you have spare time, and textiles were considered as an artistic medium.
Gunta Stölzl, who became head of the weaving workshop and whose abstract textile hangings were featured on walls throughout the school, embraced textiles as a medium.
‘We wanted to create living things with contemporary relevance, suitable for a new style of life. Huge potential for experimentation lay before us. It was essential to define our imaginary world, to shape our experiences through material, rhythm, proportion, and form.’
Having visited factories to learn about industrial fiber and dyeing technology, Gunta experimented with the integration of industrial materials such as cellophane, and metal, with reversible fabrics and the use of fabric in acoustics. We think it’s really fascinating considering we are talking about the 1920s.
Otti Berger was one of the most influential women to study and then teach at the Bauhaus. Like Albers and Gunta Stolzl, Berger was forced to study in the textile department of the Bauhaus because she was a woman and wasn’t allowed to try other workshops such as painting or architecture. She took on creating textiles with pared down, geometric compositions that gave her weavings a minimal, abstract sensibility. Berger was a genius, becoming one of only a few Bauhaus artists to have her designs patented while transforming the way textiles are viewed as an artistic medium.
Textile as an artistic medium
In the postwar period, with global socio-political, economic, educational and cultural changes came the overall acceptance of modernism, Bauhaus design philosophy, and textiles as an artistic medium. We owe a lot of that to Anni Albers, also a Bauhaus student whose career peaked in the United States of America as a lecturer and a teacher of Bauhaus modernist textile theories. Her books “On Designing” and “On Weaving” are still considered a valuable source when studying textile theories and weaving theories.
Anni Albers brought wonder to weaving and recently Tate Modern showcased her works in a major retrospective. Among monumental grid-like wall hangings that took months and months to make, room dividers and rugs, Anni also wrote essays that consider the nature of textiles. Thanks to Anni and her essays, lectures, and weaving practice – textile was accepted as an artistic medium and opened doors to a whole new world of possibilities when dealing with fabric, thread, and yarn.
Anni Albers retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern
When we talk about textiles in a contemporary context, we must mention Kvadrat – a leading Danish textile innovator constantly pushing the boundaries of textile. We’re sure that you have had previous contact with Kvadrat upholstery without even knowing. They produce contemporary high-quality textile and related products for private and public spaces. Kvadrat’s extensive collection meets the designers’ and architects’ needs all over the world and they helped created iconic architectural developments such as the Museum of Modern Art NYC, The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Guangzhou Opera House in China.
This time we are focusing more on their collaborations with artists architects and designers. Verner Panton, Nanna Ditzel, Tord Boontje or the brothers Bouroullec, Olafur Eliasson and Saville are just some of the names that can be found on Kvadrat collaboration list. But the company goes way beyond the standard designer/client and artist/commercial arrangements and these collaborations tell a story about the use of textiles, color, and architecture.
Bouroullec brothers are often mentioned with Kvadrat as their particular functionalism goes really well with the company’s aesthetic. We’ve already talked about Kvadrat ready-made curtains and mentioned Kvadrat when we looked closely into Bouroullecs’ design philosophy. One of the examples is also Salone del mobile Milano 2012 wherein celebration of the longevity and success of Hallingdal, Kvadrat invited emerging artists and designers to create something new. Kvadrat’s ongoing collaboration with the famous artist Olafur Eliasson just shows us what can be created when an artist is given a chance to explore new materials and new technologies.
Textile properties are really stunning and we can’t wait to see what awaits us with new technologies and with companies such as Kvadrat that constantly push their own boundaries.
At GIR Store we have a specially curated collection of Kvadrat products – rugs and ready/made curtains. Visit us at Trešnjinog cveta 5, and take a look for yourself.