Land-Language and Material Lexicons in Contemporary Crafts

Imogen Bright Moon, 2023

: Textile : Lexicon : Craft : Material :


(Heron flying south-west above the A23 out over Brighton)

“lick the salt off the Sussex coast”

Natasha Khan, Winter Fields, 2012

Between skein and warp there is potential;

banner, drapery, tapestry, sail;

billowing, hanging, folding, falling, covering, floating.

Spin a stone… capture the time it takes to become a weathered anchor of fossil and flint, a chalk-cake of a sea bed long dried out.

(speaking to those coastal dwellers, arrivals, pilgrims, seekers; can they hear me)

In the fog and spring mist, a quiet falls over the waves, stilling their roar, emphasising their lace-edge of flotsam bubbles and egg casings.

There is a gull; there is a seal, there is a sailboat running east from the Solent.

Here I am, with my Cloths of Chalk, Shell + Clay, lately woven for The New Craftsmen, ready to be shown at Somerset House in less than a week.

Here I am reciting Yeats out to sea, off the Rottingdean Groyne,

“enwrought with golden and silver light” (etc)…

Had I these cloths (which I do), shall I throw them like herring nets into the water, shall I soak them for a third time. And once I drag them back in, ten times heavier for all the saltwater, shall I then spread them under your feet.

Then perhaps, we can speak into Craft, speak into nets and warps and wefts, feel the weight of it all dripping over the chalk, making ancient milk from the dust of rehydrated calcium, revive the Land in a simple moment of poetic license.


How to speak about textiles, how to write about them… contemporary textiles in the arts suffer from an identity crisis, not least to do with terminology and definition of ‘use’.

We are over-familiar with textiles in their many forms, and so in Craft, they occupy a no-man’s land between ART (and even then, the historical definition of Tapestry, for example) and the Domestic; daily familiarity breeds contempt.

When did we stop appreciating textiles and start taking them for granted? –

How did the Craft of Textile Art become less-visible, more-quiet?

Within Contemporary Craft, textiles struggle to make themselves felt;

1. not as solid in form as wood (for example);

let us frame it and created a fixedness –

where is the textile now? –

2. not as defined as a painting;

let us firm up the edges, keep the loom tension

is the loom a frame? –

shall I leave it upon the loom? –

can it be said to be ‘finished’? –

In short, let us try and make it appear not like a textile, but like a painting (framed);

3. let us hang it from a pole and be a ‘hanging’

4. let it be something or anything other than it is

5. let us cut it up,

use it to cover another shape

6. let us appologise for it;

its softness, its fluidity, its drape and unpredictability;

Is that it? –

Textiles are unpredictable

(and need to be made to conform…)






The Textile suffers from a loss of form in the unconscious expectation to be useful; this is the space of tension and of review I find myself exploring today.

Can new works of Textile Craft be accepted as a pure form of material practice, to develop an aesthetic in tandem with allied crafts of wood, metal, clay, which do not seem to suffer from the same psychological constraints; to say, this wool is beautiful, just as one would say;

this wood is a study in form and surface;

this wool is a study in surface and form,

and for that to be (more than) enough.


“colours of absence flooding the hill”

Natasha Khan, Winter Fields, 2012

In my previous iteration as a recovering pattern cutter, I studied Madeleine Vionnet at length and worked into her methodologies for bias cutting; the drape, the hidden space in the weave, the fluidity of structure that has no fear of its final form; embracing PROCESS.

Vionnet’s process takes time, time is a vital medium in her process. The way to achieve her exquisite drape involves many steps, not least of these is time.

The work of the textile is in constant process, and time is the most valuable asset to the Artist in Craft.

The Textile then benefits from the CONFIDENCE OF DEEP PROCESS; it is a product of its own needs.

In developing my yarns, at first very roughly-blended, more recently refined to a process of painterly merging, the possibility of creating tonality combined with texture was a deep-dive into colour-work, sometimes so subtle that an absence of colour is the result, however a depth of tone replaces the more obvious shading of earlier works.

The time to work into one’s developing processes allows new aesthetics to emerge.

Spun / Unspun clouds, adding air, light, weightlessness integrated with gravity.

Adding light, or luminosity, amplifies texture and reflectivity.

Increasing shade, deepening tone, emphasises shadow, fold and dimensionality.

Combining these two elements, those of light and shade, and their many iterations, is a design methodology all of its own;

(“of night and light and the half-light”)

No sketch exists before the work (as an alchemical amalgamation of processes), combines ITSELF. The volition and movement of the Work to know what it is becoming.

Somewhere between the skill and the trust, is the Craft.

If Craft has its own language, it must be the language of time;

The Artist in Craft speaks the languages of time, skill, material and memory (of the land).

The Artist in Craft is a librarian and archivist of the embodied languages of time.


The Art of Craft is aching to be left alone.

Permission to be itself, time-worn, time honoured.

The noble Heritage of skills and repetition to create something familiar yet fresh.

No external imposition, but a self-unfolding from within its own unmanifest form.

Artist in Craft as the translator of something beyond material practice.

Whilst at the same time, totally embodying the intangible that is,

Material practice,

Made tangible.

You can observe, witness, touch, smell the end results of this liminal trade;

My hands, this wool, The Muse.

Artists in Craft have a symbiotic sympathy with their materials;

Tools become parts of our bodies, second nature.

Our workshops more home than our beds;

and time, time to make, time to feel,

and tea, never ending cups of strong tea.

Then, after all I have spoken, throwing the works up into the air to catch the south-westerly;


Imogen Bright Moon

Brighton, England

Spring 2023

Cloth of Chalk, for The New Craftsmen “Grown in Britain”, Collect Art Fair, Somerset House, March 1st-5th, 2023


Quotations from WB Yeats poem Aedh Wishes for The Cloths of Heaven c. 1899

The New Craftsmen https://www.thenewcraftsmen.com

Elaine Sheppard Bolt https://elainebolt.com

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