Creative research

Researching for ERTF exhibitions

There is no right and no wrong way to research your designs and interpret exhibition themes. Your pieces must be genuine and original, they must come from within and, while you might be influenced by other artists, the nature of art is that it should give individual voice to its creator.

That said, it may be helpful to have a few hints and tips. ERTF members exhibit regularly and normally with a specific  theme and title in each instance. Part of the joy for members – and our visiting public – is discovering how the varied and diverse techniques that fall under the heading of textile art have been used to interpret a theme.

1.     Make yourself aware of any constraints – can 2D and 3D work be submitted and are there size and weight constraints? When is the submission deadline? All of these aspects surround your design considerations with practical requirements

2.     Which particular aspects of the chosen exhibition theme interest you? Take time to explore a topic to find an aspect that grabs your imagination. This will only be a starting point but it is a good launch pad to take you through to completion of a piece

3.     Once you have identified an area of interest, what textile art techniques will help you interpret the area and create a design? Do you have a signature technique and enjoy experimenting with that, or do you vary your techniques to help interpret the aspect that interests you? 

4.     Collect and incubate your ideas. Some artists find the use of sketch and sample books essential, but not all artists use them. There is no right or wrong. Some artists start with no sense of a finished work in their mind but start to draw, stitch, design some samples and gradually find a concept emerging. 

Other artists start with a clear mental image of a final design – and then have to work out how to get there. Often this involves sampling; trying out applications of approaches and techniques. Create collections of ideas, colours, textures etc. 

However you work, this experimental stage is often surprising, intriguing and creative. New thoughts, inspirations and ideas emerge. Allow time for this stage and enjoy it. It is the point of the process at which your own personal creative voice comes through.

5.     Look at other artists’ work, visit exhibitions, google images etc.  Talk to artist friends. It’s often amazing how, once you are thinking about a topic, you will see good ideas coming from lots of directions – and be inspired by artists working in different disciplines. There is a problem-solving stage to much creativity; other artists may unintentionally help you solve your own issues and prompt imaginative leaps

6.     Think about your own artistic journey. Do you want to push and challenge yourself in taking a particular technique further that previously, or combine techniques differently. Perhaps you want to try something new or just aim for further mastery of a familiar approach? 

7.     Don’t be afraid to set ideas, sketches, samples etc. aside if they are proving distracting or aren’t really contributing. They may be useful for another project and don’t have to be abandoned entirely

8.  Finally – consider keeping a note of your thinking as you go. This can be very helpful when you come to write your artist’s statement as well as reminding you, if there are times when you feel a little bogged-down in planning and experimenting, of your creative intentions. The notes will also remind you of what you were doing at various stages. Happy accidents often happen in art and you may want to return to a discovery later on.