TextileArtist.org: New Site For The Fiber Zeitgeist
May 23, 2014
TextileArtist.org made its online debut in late 2012.
Get the backstory on this outstanding new resource for anyone working in textile media from co-creator Joseph Pitcher in an exclusive interview for SDA NewsBlog. – Ed.
SDA: How and why did you create TextileArtist.org?
Joseph Pitcher: My brother Sam and I wanted to create something together. We were looking for something that we were mutually passionate about; a topic we could add value to and create an online community around.
The trouble was we’re very different in terms of interests and skill sets. I’m an actor and Sam is a graphic designer. The one thing we have in common is an unfaltering respect for what our mum, textile artist Sue Stone, has achieved in the last 10 years.
After a hiatus of nearly 30 years (in which time she was running a business and raising a family), Mum went back to her passion and started stitching again. The tenacity, skill and artistry she brings to what can only be described as her true calling is awe-inspiring.
As Sam and I started to attend more and more textile-led exhibitions, our appreciation of the art form grew. We became genuinely intrigued by what went into the process of conceiving and creating the work.
We also became aware of something I’m sure most of your readers are familiar with; a kind of snobbery towards textiles in the context of art. We were truly astonished. The talent, imagination and technical aptitude of the artists we were meeting was being under-valued.
With that as our impetus, TextileArtist.org was born. Our original mission was to showcase the very best textile artists from all over the world, with the secondary aim of promoting textile art as a medium equal to ‘fine art’.
The site has developed somewhat since then and we’ve certainly diversified, but the core objective remains the same. Our mission statement defines our site as “a place for textile artists and art enthusiasts to be inspired, learn from the best, promote their work and communicate with like-minded creatives.”
Did you perform a “gap audit” and identify makers working in textile media as an underserved niche online?
Yes. We felt that textiles were brilliantly served by a range of print magazines – but not so well represented online. I guess you could say we performed a ‘gap audit’ although in all honesty we weren’t very systematic about it.
What we didn’t know was whether there was even a demand for an online community. We also weren’t entirely sure whether we were going to be aiming the site at artists, art enthusiasts or both. We went along to 2012 Knitting & Stitching Show in London to do a bit of research. This also provided a great opportunity to enlist some of the brightest UK-based artists as flagship interviewees.
The response we received was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, which spurred us on to get started.
What factors helped you shape the range of information you offer?
Because neither of us are textile artists ourselves, we initially planned content based on the advice of a small group of artists from The 62 Group, including Mum.
As the site has grown, we’ve looked more and more to our audience for guidance. In the newsletter, on social media and on the blog we often ask readers what they’d like to see on TextileArtist.org. We’ve also surveyed artists about their biggest struggles and challenges. We then address these issues, either by enlisting the help of an expert in the appropriate field to write for us, or researching like crazy.
We’re constantly testing new types of content to see what garners the best response from our audience. We also do ongoing keyword research to see what people are typing into Google in relation to textile and fiber art; this helps us widen our reach.
After your first year, who is your biggest audience?
Fairly early on we started asking people when they signed up to the newsletter whether they were artists or art enthusiasts, so we know with certainty that our audience is made up overwhelmingly of textile artists.
To begin with we were hedging our bets a little with the content, but now it’s very much aimed at practitioners. So, although our goal is still to promote textile art, we also offer creative and professional developmental guidance. We’ve had guest articles from experts covering a range of subjects from submitting art to galleries to hanging textile art.
As we’re both tech-savvy and very familiar with online promotion (from our various lines of work) we also cover lots of ways for textile artists to use the internet as a selling tool. We recently released a series of free tutorials with the aim of making it really simple for artists to build their own online portfolio website.
How is TextileArtist.org different? What does it offer that others do not?
I think we offer an environment that is both familiar and surprising. Artists are in the company of their peers on TextileArtist.org, but hopefully they’re also being exposed to fresh ideas and innovation in textile art as well as new ways of thinking about how they operate both creatively and as business-people.
The resource we’re building is not only about artistic inspiration; we are committed to helping artists get the most out of their work once it is made. That’s one of the reasons we started the web design strand of the site at websites.textileartist.org to build online promotional platforms for individuals to specifically showcase their textile art.
Knowing what you know now, would you have done anything differently?
I wouldn’t do anything differently. We’ve made some mistakes, of course, and we’ll make many more; that’s how we learn what works and what doesn’t.
Building the site, working with such talented artists and seeing the community grow has been a true privilege.
Joseph Pitcher (UK) runs www.textileartist.org with his brother Sam. The aim of the site is to elevate fiber art to a level at which it garners a similar respect to ‘fine art’, to promote talented practitioners in this field and to offer inspiration and advice to artists on a number of related topics.
He is an actor, director, voice-over artist, inventor of the board game Game for Fame, art enthusiast and son of textile artist Sue Stone.