Textile artists interpreting the city

Textile art offers fresh interpretations on a theme, playing with qualities of light and texture through careful choice of fabric and thread, wool, and a host of found materials.

So it is no surprise to find some particularly creative responses to urban life by textile artists at our Metropolis exhibition.

Exact renderings of cityscapes are, of course, impossible in this medium – though the judges stated they weren’t looking for picture postcard views. What you get instead are thematic works playing with viewpoints and moods, social commentary and culture.

Our textile artists are some of the finest in their field, with multiple awards between them. You can talk to Margaret Fairhead in a Meet the Artist session on September 9 at the RBSA gallery. Our demonstrations give you the chance to ask working artists about their techniques.

My three pieces are the first in a series of works entitled ‘Seen (scenes) from the train’.

I travel frequently from Birmingham to mid-Wales and the series starts with these urban conurbations, eventually continuing through to countryside views and then river, estuary and seas.

The New Street Station piece has applied fabrics to a background which is then both machine and hand-stitched over. The Chiltern line and Curzon Street pieces were first painted on to a fabric ground and then freely stitched by machine to create the various colours and textures.

Margaret Fairhead

Last Train Arrivals, Old Curzon Street Terminal, The Chiltern Line

Meet the Artist: Saturday 9 September, 11am to 1pm and 2pm to 4pm, RBSA Gallery, 4 Brook St, B3 1SA.

Cynthia Pearson, 'City Lights'

Major Tim Peake sent photographs of the earth back to us from the International Space Station. They were truly inspirational!

I was particularly interested in the views taken during darkness. My favourite was of Italy where the shape of the south of the country was so clear, and the major cities stood out in bright white, blue and orange lights. Quite spectacular.

I have been researching the imagery of maps for some time, and looking at the way in which towns and cities develop at key points in the landscape.

My textile piece does not imitate any specific city – but it has the elements common to many.

Cynthia Pearson

City Lights

Lindsey Marshall, 'Eros Thanatos'

This piece is a response to thoughts about life and death in an urban environment. The two words, although separate, are interwoven and connected.

The use of mainly black, white and grey plays on the association of these colours with life and death and the urban. The words Eros Thanatos are embedded in the design, but although the lettering is an underpinning, fundamental element of the work, it is not necessarily intended to be legible or obvious.

The main structure is woven tapestry using linen, cotton and wool with some metallic and boucle yarn. The connecting bridge is cotton and synthetic fabric with machine stitching.

This piece was exhibited in the Small Tapestry International 4 exhibition in the USA (Louisiana, Delaware and North Carolina), 2015-16.

Lindsey Marshall

Eros Thanatos

This work sums up my emotional response to the city I lived and worked in for 13 years. There is the soulless corporate world running alongside one where communities thrive.

Art, culture and music are celebrated, and youth culture rubs along with established institutions. The more you look and experience the city life the more you discover and appreciate the vibrant buzz of being in the metropolis…

My original collage on paper was starting to look a little tired so I began to play with a fabric-based version. Just like a city, this version has evolved.

The buildings have changed slightly and the scene has developed. The paper ‘stock exchange’ cutting and the crossword from the financial pages seemed an appropriate addition, as did the delivery card, which forms the red skyscraper in the back row.

All the buildings were individually created and then the final design was machine stitched onto the canvas backing. The backing was then stitched onto mounting board to maintain tension before framing.

Kate Andre



This was the fourth in a series of textile pieces inspired by the view from my loft window – from Kings Norton we can see the city centre.

It was produced on a course where we were looking at wearable art. This jacket won Highly Commended in an RBSA Open exhibition.

Techniques include machine embroidery using Angelina and dissolvable plastic and appliqué and mixed media in the yoke of the jacket. I incorporated some fancy knitting yarns, and printed on the organza used on the shoulders.

Most of the fabric came from Birmingham Rag Market, which has an enormous range of unusual fabrics, a lot of which are ends-of-rolls.

Sarah Cage

Night City IV

Many times I have driven across Spaghetti Junction on the way to the concert halls, theatres and galleries of Birmingham. And every time I have looked with interest at the park and lake by the side of the road.

The loops and links and circles appeal to me. In my textile pieces I like to use sweeping curves and tiny details. I studied the maps of the road and depicted them with photographs, paint, and hand and machine embroidery on fine fabrics.

Beneath the motorway are waterways, wild life and wild flowers, railings and graffiti. I walked along the towpaths and heard the huge roar of the traffic overhead. The massive supporting columns made me think of cathedrals.

Helen Appleby

Spaghetti Junction: flyover and under

Totems are a familiar sight on the street of any modern city. They offer a sense of place… I first saw city totems in Bristol a few years ago and they are now a regular feature of city streets in general.

I like the whole concept and 3D shape of the totems so I have used this as the characteristic of my 3D work. I have used both sides as the base for depicting the vibrancy and vitality of the city.

Each panel celebrates a different aspect of city life and inspiration was drawn in the main from Birmingham, Coventry and London.

The panel Commercial City is Number One Snow Hill, The Farmers Market is in Coventry and Sustainable City is inspired by cycling to work in London.

Floral City represents the summer flowers in Victoria Square Birmingham and City Networks is the London Underground network map!

Judith Rowley

City Totems, Maguire Jackson Prize

Tales from the Metropolis is a series featuring artworks from the current Metropolis exhibition, sponsored by Maguire Jackson, which runs until September 30 at the RBSA gallery.

#embroidery #city #birmingham #collage #textiles #gallery #tapestry #artists #makers #arts #exhibition

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