Judith Rowley: the voice of experience for textile artists…

Judith Rowley is passionate about textile art and developing her practice. She enjoys sharing tips with others and was only too happy to talk to ART BLOG about her work…

Can you outline your process from initial idea to finished work? What are the stages along the way?

I may at first be responding to a challenge or exhibition title, or will undertake research. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being inspired by something, or thinking how to respond to a challenge set by someone else.

Thinking time can last for a few weeks in the worst case scenario. Time for visual research may take the form of reading, jotting, doodling, photography or drawing. Then I move to colouring – either painting or crayoning to determine colours. Collage aids design.

Sampling is the best way to determine the right fabrics, fibres and skills to be used in a project. When the appraising is over, you should know where the project is going and have in the mind’s eye the whole metamorphosis!  During all of this, the title of the piece needs thinking out.

If you just go headlong into a project without proper preparation then you will only get frustrated and waste resources,  and in the case of silk it might cost you dearly!

What would you say to someone interested in exploring textile art who is just starting out?

Have the confidence to experiment; keep all work in a book and if results are good write down why it worked for you. If it did not work, then learn how you could improve.

Use quality materials for the best result. Cheap does not inspire! Always aim high, and learn from others. Home in on the skills that you like and develop them to a good standard rather than trying to be a Jack-of-all-trades.

You draw inspiration from a variety of sources. Can you talk about the respective forces at work? 

You may do a literal piece like a still-life or a more conceptual piece where you are conveying a message like fear or celebration, bereavement or danger.

How do you interpret literary or musical works? 

I might want to create an atmosphere with an abstract piece. For example, I have done a piece in response to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony, very abstract in woodland colours.

My piece for a Birmingham Art Circle exhibition was inspired by C. S. Lewis’s Land of Narnia.

It’s abstract, and depicts the light from the lamp and the cold of the snowy landscape. It also has a pair of children’s shoes to represent Lucy stepping into the snow. My work represents her first glimpse of a land where it’s “always winter and never Christmas…”

How does being a member of various societies and groups help you in your work?

It’s always good to meet people and make friends with like-minded artists, sharing skills and ideas, learning from each other and bouncing ideas off one another, discussing work-in-progress as well as finished pieces.

You also get to experience different people reading different thoughts from your work, some of which you may not have thought about yourself.


Judith Rowley: detail from ‘Requiem for the Children of Aberfan’

What does the RBSA mean to you?

The RBSA to me is all about being part of a co-operative, and helping a cause that you believe in. The gallery is an oasis of peace.

I like being involved as a Friend as I feel a small part of the cultural scene of the city. Birmingham is a great city!

I also enjoy the challenge of entering work for exhibitions. Sometimes I am successful. If not I have to try again and try harder!


I enjoy sharing others’ success and I was delighted to win the Maguire Jackson Prize in the Metropolis Exhibition. I was really heartened to see more textile artists had work in the show.

I like to think that the Prism Textiles Exhibition Another View in which I exhibited 2D and 3D work really encouraged such artists and helped to place Textile Art high on the agenda!

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