Textiles: Faith Ringgold, Ana Teresa Barboza, & Victoria Villasana
This week we are looking at artists who use textiles in their art through embroidery, quilting, and knitting in mixed media pieces. Sewing can be a hard thing to teach to children but the small amounts of sewing in some of these projects is a great way to introduce them to sewing in a low-stress and manageable way.
Our first artist is Faith Ringgold, born in Harlem, NY, in 1930. She is a painter, sculptor, performance artist, writer, illustrator, and teacher. Much of the art she makes, especially at the beginning of her career, was politically motivated about the struggle of women and especially Black women in the United States. She also organized protests against New York museums for excluding the work of Black people and Women.
She is best known for her Story Quilts which she started creating in the early 1970’s. She began by making tankas, inspired by Tibetan thangkas which are paintings done on richly brocaded fabric. This is when she began painting on fabric.
Ringgold started making story quilts are a mixture of her earlier tankas, quilting, and storytelling with pictures but also with words.
The quilt above and the others Ringgold made to go with it became her award winning first children’s book Tar Beach. If you don’t have this book you can check it out from the library or listen to Ringgold read it aloud in this wonderful video. Each page is a magnificently intricate and beautiful quilt of Ringgold’s that come together to tell the story of a little girl living in Harlem with her family. Tar Beach has won over 20 awards and the original quilt is in the Guggenheim museum’s permanent collection.
For this project we sewed little 4 square “quilts” for each student ahead of time and then in class had them glue pieces of fabric on to tell a story of their own through a quilt. We had the students think of a significant event, a happy memory, a favorite place, or a comforting moment that they wanted to recreate on their quilt. We used liquid stitch glue, which in our experience works better than hot glue or Elmer's glue as both don’t bond fabric together very well. This project would also work great with paper, especially scrapbook papers of different prints/textures for the more traditional quilt border and then scraps of paper to make the story or even painting on the center of the quilt as Ringgold does. Or, if you want to have a more permanent piece, you could find an old blanket at the thrift store or in your own home if you have one and paint a memory or story onto it.
Our next artist is Ana Teresa Barboza who was born in 1980 in Lima, Peru — where she still works. Barboza uses embroidery using yarn and wool to create landscapes that exist somewhere between tapestry and sculpture. She often uses photography, pencil, wood, and pencil sketches in tandem with her embroidery.
Much of her work creates a three dimensional natural space using yarn and wool coming off a canvas, photograph, sketch, or embroidery.
Her art continues in roots, waterfalls, and vines — this is what we asked the students to emulate in their art. For this project we gave each student a piece of raw canvas fabric with some holes punches in it. They planned their artwork and what they would try to bring to life and tied yarn through the holes wherever they wanted to with long or short strings. Then they painted their canvas to make the background for their picture. We did it in this order because we did not have enough time to wait for it to dry and didn’t want them to be tying yarn to a wet canvas. If you have more time though it might make more sense with this project for children to see what they have painted and then continue the painting with yarn off the canvas.
You could also do this project on an embroidery hoop as Barboza does in some of her work. Then you can embroider and sew on the painting as well. Or, if your children or students are advanced sewers they can embroider the entire piece and have yarn coming off the hoop as well. They can also weave, knit, or crochet if they have the skills to do so or if you have a longer amount of time to teach them.
Our students did some really great work though and made original and thoughtful decisions in their own art.
Our final artist is Victoria Villasana who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and has lived and worked in London. She was inspired by the street art scene in East London when she lived and worked there and began leaving her art around the streets of London. She had been embroidering patterns over the top of images of famous people and photographs as a hobby before turning it into street art.
Villasana is interested in the human spirit and how cultures connect with each other in a fragmented digital world. By using images of famous faces and paintings and a traditional art form she brings together that fragmented world through her own Mexican cultural heritage.
For this project we found some images of people and animals in magazines that had been donated to us, mostly national geographic, and glued them to card stock. We then had the students sit on the carpet and punch holes around the faces or whatever they wanted to embroider on their picture with push pins. Then we gave them large tapestry needles and embroidery floss to embroider their picture.
This class helped students use an art form that many people don’t consider an art form. Textile art like embroidery, sewing, tapestries, and quilting are often overlooked and not considered serious art. Through this class we learned about three professional artists who are famous in their fields for using textiles in their art. It can be challenging for children to get the hang of sewing if they have never done it before but it is so fun once they get it and can apply it to so many different art forms.