Wednesday, July 01, 2015

A Matt Smith Exhibition 'Trouble with History'

Matt Smith is a textile artist and ceramicist who has an intriguing exhibition at the Ink_d Gallery in Brighton, England, which opens, July 4 2015.

The exhibition is entitled ‘Trouble with History’ and will feature a collection of textile-based art made from vintage tapestries and domestic textile kits, which have been unpicked, reworked, and subsequently subverted from their perceived norm.

I understand that not everyone is going to be comfortable with the idea of the level of textile manipulation that Matt uses in his work, but this isn’t a quirky exhibition or one that is done for the sake of it, there are some real issues here and they tend to be issues that affect us all, that should make us think, and perhaps even make some uncomfortable.

The results of Matt’s intervention and manipulation is to shift the emphasis of our standard perception of the norm. Without a real focus to the composition, is there a connection we can forge, can we identify, sympathize, or generally empathize with subject matter that seems to be missing any connection points? Does the composition merely become an exercise in disconnection?

To obscure the identity of the subjects of the work, faces and sections of the original compositions that would have been intended to have been that main focus, Matt has deliberately severed any emotional bond we may have formed with the characters that sit, play, love, and so it is in life.

Preconceptions quickly disappear in Matt’s work, we don’t know the age, sex, or skin color of the individuals featured. Without being able to connect with those markers of age, gender, or race we cannot make judgements.

It is a way of getting us to think, to stop a moment and trouble ourselves as to the issues involved in Matt’s work. By removing our complacency of understanding, we have to think about the nameless and the unidentified in history, those who struggled to find a place in societies that were often violently hostile towards them.

By withdrawing from making connections with those in our community that we disapprove of, we in many ways disconnect them from the community, they become outsiders, they become a disapproved lifestyle at best, a plague on the norm at worst.

By losing any significant identity with the ‘different’, society loses interest in what happens to them, they often become rootless and disconnected. ‘Them’ and ‘us’ has been a constant for those who have wished to manipulate the human condition throughout history. If you can remove any personality traits from ‘them’, any empathic connection, any sympathy, or shared experience, then they become a distant, cold, unknown and unknowable entity, and therefore anything can be done to them because they obviously deserve it as they are no longer ‘us’

Matt is interested in issues that surround the identity and stigma so often attached to these states of being ‘different’, which is very often a state that is imposed from without, rather than within. We are all different and we are all unique, but to many societies whether in history, or in our own contemporary world, difference is a controlled substance, and uniqueness is well underplayed.

Matt’s exhibition ‘Trouble with History’ at Ink_d Gallery, Brighton runs from July 4-August 2 2015. More information can be found at the Ink_d website.

Matt also has a comprehensive website which can be found here – Matt Smith

Matt has also been awarded Artist in Residence at the V&A Museum, London, from October 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Look at the Cover of Inspirational 5

It is time to release the cover of the next issue of the Inspirational magazine. That inevitably means that we are getting closer to the release date of issue 5, which we are, it is set for release on July 15.

The cover for this next issue is a piece of work by the artist Algernon Eldritch. Sometimes coming up with covers for the magazine seems really easy, at others it can be a struggle, particularly when you have multiple candidates and you have to narrow it down to one. Often you have to live with your choice for a while, and sometimes you go off the original choice, and then have to find another. However, sometimes the first choice is the only one that seems to work on all of the levels that it needs to, and with issue 5, that was the way it went. 

Algernon's work fits perfectly as a cover and gives a good indication of what to expect inside this next issue. Those who have signed up for the Inspirational newsletter will already be familiar with this cover as it was released to them on June 15. If you would like to get information and updates regarding the magazine, feel free to sign up to the Inspirational newsletter which can be found here.

More information regarding this next issue, as well as the release of illustrations highlighting the work of all eight of the artists featured, will be released first with the newsletter, and then later through the Inspirational/ttb social media platform, which includes facebook, google+, twitter, tumblr, pinterest, all of which can be found by pressing any of the links at the right hand side of this site, just under the photo of me.

I am really looking forward to releasing this issue, as I have with all of the issues of Inspirational so far. I am impatient to share this with everyone, but have to stick to the schedule. I am half way through the writing of the magazine and am sticking to the timetable at the moment, which is always a great feeling.

Come the middle of July I will have released five issues of Inspirational, which to me is amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that I will have featured by then forty artists, and I thought the project might fold after the first issue. I feel as if I am beginning to get into my stride with the magazine now, which is a great feeling. Still much to be learnt, particularly when it is very much a staff of one, but it all interesting and it helps to open up my world to an infinite range of possibilities and who is going to turn that down.

All previous issues of the magazine can of course still be purchased from the designated Inspirational Magazine page on this site, which can be reached either by pressing the tab at the top of this page, directly under the Inspirational banner, or by simply pressing here.

Just time to thank all those who have been involved in Inspirational. That will be the artists featured, all those who have bought copies, and those who have helped publicise the project, sometimes all three in one :) Anyway, you know who you all are, and you are all thanked with a great deal of heart and enthusiasm from myself. Thanks!!!

John X

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer - a Celebration of Life

I don't mean to be hemisphere-centric, and for those in the southern hemisphere who are now experiencing winter I do apologise, I hope that your winter is mild and tranquil.

However, as I am living at present in the north, and nature is burgeoning all around me, and the summer equinox is just a few days away, it would not seem right not to revel and note that celebration of life that is summer.

It may be full sunshine and blue skies, or it may be wet with heavy grey skies, it really matters little. Whatever the weather that is given to us, the smells, sounds, and colours of nature in summer are an experience never to be missed, and certainly one never to be taken lightly.

Enjoy and celebrate your summer by connecting or reconnecting with the natural world, a world that you are an integral part of, a world that sees you as a unique expression of itself, celebrating through you the wonder that is life.

John X

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Artists to be featured in Issue 5 of Inspirational

It is that time again, and it is time to release the names of those eight artists that will be featured in issue 5 of Inspirational.

The group of artists this time around entails a good cross-section of contemporary inspirational creative art and includes those working in paint, ceramics, mixed media, textiles, and print. As you will all know by now the Inspirational magazine is happy to cover as many aspects of creativity as possible, not seeing the limitations when there are and should be none.

The eight artists in order of appearance in issue 5 will be:

Algernon Eldritch: This painter works in both the abstract and portraiture. Algernon produces complex, rich, colour-laden, textural pieces of abstract work based on a range of perspectives and experiences of the artist. Algernon’s website can be found here – Algernon Eldritch

Brenda Holzke: This artist uses ceramics and mixed media, producing vessels, sculpture, and wall art. She admits to being a commercial ceramic product designer with the heart of an artist, and it is her creative work that we will be exploring. Brenda’s website can be found here – Brenda Holzke

Sarah Ross-Thompson: This fine art printmaker produces one of printed pieces that reflect the rural landscape of England, and now Scotland where she has recently relocated. Her work is a sensitive and understanding portrayal of the many layered landscape of Britain. Sarah’s website can be found here – Sarah Ross-Thompson

Fenella Elms: This artist works in ceramics and more specifically porcelain, creating wall pieces made up from hundreds of smaller pieces that in turn help to create beautiful flowing movements that are mesmerising and rhythmical in their detail and range. Fenella’s website can be found here – Fenella Elms

Barbara Schneider: This mixed media and textile artist explores abstraction from a range of subjects based in nature. Much of her most impressive work uses leaves, tree rings, the reflections on water as a starting point for later abstraction. Barbara’s website can be found here – Barbara Schneider

Isobel Currie: This artist is an embroiderer who takes the craft into the three-dimensional world of the artist. She is fascinated by the potential of the stitch to be more than it is, and with that remit she has produced beautifully elegant 3D imagery. Isobel’s website can be found here – Isobel Currie

Cas Holmes: This artist works mainly in painting, drawing, and textiles. She creates collage artwork from the discarded and the ‘found’, from both the human and natural world. Cas often explores the boundaries that exist between those two worlds, both literal and conceptual. Cas website can be found here – Cas Holmes

Patricia Oblack: This painter uses layers of colour and texture to great effect, producing hauntingly beautiful abstract pieces, each one evolving separately, much depending on Patricia’s perspective and understanding at the time. Patricia’s website can be found here – Patricia Oblack

I hope you agree, this is a fine selection of contemporary inspirational and aspirational artists, all complimenting and lending each other harmony and balance. I would encourage you to take a look at the links to the websites of the artists, whether you are familiar with them or not. All are producing exceptional work and I feel lucky and privileged that all eight have been so supportive and generous in being featured in the Inspirational magazine.

I look forward, as always, to writing the articles, putting the magazine together, and launching it for July 15. The front cover will be revealed soon, it has all been set out, I have lived with it for a while, and am happy with the way it looks. Feel free to sign up for the Inspirational newsletter, as those who have will get to see the front cover before it is released generally online.

Please be aware that issues 1, 2, 3, 4 of Inspirational are always and permanently available for purchase. With a now combined number of 32 artists available over the four issues, from Elizabeth Bunsen to Carol Nelson, all are available from the Inspirational/ttb site and can be reached by pressing the Inspirational Magazine tab at the top of this page.

Thanks to everyone for their support of Inspirational, you will probably never know quite how much it has meant to me.

John X

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Flying the Inspirational Flag

Just thought that I would give everyone who passes by this site a little update as to what is new and what has been happening, and why the changes.

You might have noticed that the site has had a bit of a makeover, I have gone from green to blue, and most significantly, I have added a definite 'Inspirational' to the site, ttb having now dropped off the banner altogether. The site's address is still 'The Textile Blog', and that won't change of course, at least until I move myself at some point to a website rather than a blog, that move draws inevitably closer the more involved I become in the Inspirational project. 

Much of the changes I have made and am in the process of making have to do with intention. Why change a tried and tested formula? There was nothing wrong in many ways with The Textile Blog as it was, nothing intrinsically wrong with the way things were, but life paths are never static and we all have to move with the direction we feel is the way we need to go, and mine has decided to move towards the contemporary, rather than the historical, to be looking ahead rather than looking back is now my path.

I am becoming more enmeshed in the world of contemporary art and artists in its broadest spectrum, so much so that I have decided to lay aside the historical altogether. I now help to promote the work of contemporary artists through my social media platform: twitter, facebook, google+, tumblr, pinterest, and even ello! I have a couple of judging gigs later in the year, judging the work of contemporary textile/fiber artists, and of course there is the Inspirational magazine, which has now become an integral and regular part of my life.

Something has come together in my life, all of the diverse strands that were important in their own right, have begun to come together and things for the first time are actually beginning to make sense to me, this life path had a reason after all, who knew!

Being able to help artists even in the limited and small ways that I do, gives me such a buzz, there is nothing better than helping to spread the word, vision, perspective of both the individual artist and the arts in general. To help people understand that creativity is central to the core of who we are as a species, that it makes us who we are, that it is definitely not a cosmetic addition, some extra-curricular activity that should be seen as peripheral to who we are. That is my perspective and that is certainly not going to change, even if other things do, in fact it will probably grow!

I can only thank all of those who have helped me to get to this point in my life, you have all been so supportive and so inspirational to me, and from all corners of the planet as well, how unbelievable is that! With my facebook site getting closer to the 10 000 mark, and with the other social media sites in their thousands, it is heartening to know that the creative arts are such an important part of people's lives, particularly in the difficult times we are going through and have yet to go through. There is always the larger good, always the need to be positive and focused towards the future to come, building on intention, and that is such an important part of the outlook I wish to promote.

So anyway, I thought that it was time that I started to physically nail my colours to the mast, fly the flag of Inspirational in the big blue sky, and even though the new banner may appear to be just the word Inspirational with a bit of blue sky attached and not terribly significant, it means the world of intention to me:)

John X

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Life, the Universe, and Everything!

With half the planet going into summer, and the other half going into winter, today seemed the right time somehow to talk about the sheer magnitude and beauty of something that we seem to take for granted, that is the cycle of the seasons, and therefore the cycle of life.

We often pretend, or unknowingly ignore the rhythmic physical wobble that is the planets seasonal cycle. We wear shorts in summer and throw on a coat in winter, but apart from that we are often largely indifferent to so many outward signs of the seasons. It is not a fault as such, the human world can at times be an all-consuming one leaving little room for stillness, contemplation, even the taking of a breath. 

The frenetic pace of the human world seems in some ways to be an outward sign of insecurity, of a self-loathing, or at least an admittance to the smallness of human life, its briefness compared to the longevity of the planet. However, insecurity does not have to be a fact, it is just an assumption, an emotional perspective, as all life is sacred and valued, and therefore of importance.

Taking moments out of our self-induced frenzy is the key to a better understanding of who we are in the grand scheme of things, but also it is a way of tuning into the balance and harmony of the planet. Taking moments to stop and savour is good for our well-being, good for our psyche, good for the larger soul of both the individual and for all of those around us.

The understanding of the rhythm of the seasons is a lesson in change and continuation. The planet changes subtly from day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment. Plants grow, blossom, fall back, animal life can be animated or sluggish, youthful or mature. 

A daily walk will always be one that has change, no matter how subtle that change may be, it is a part of its remit, its essence, its way of meaning. The sun casts a unique shadow one day and not the next, the breeze crosses your skin one day and can be missing the next. Everything is a moment, always a moment, and then that moment of utter uniqueness is replaced by another, and then another, and another.

However, within the ever changing physical and ambient landscape, there is also constancy. Underneath that change of moments is the universal rhythm of the constant, the heartbeat that is yourself, the planet, and of the larger awareness of being, all infinitely and endlessly connected and all sharing, feeling, and understanding the rhythm of change within constancy.

All physical life has a uniqueness from moment to moment, the buzz of the insect, the flap of the bird, the footfall of yourself, nothing will ever be repeated from that moment, but all of those unique moments are part of the everlasting whole of moments. Such is the mystery and majesty of life, and such is our mystery in being placed within it.

If we can, within the busy schedule of our human world, take one of those moments of life, and take a slow breath in order to relish and understand that moment, then we have done more with our lives in that moment than all the moments of rushing around filling our lives with the fake importances that are such a part of the human world. 

It is not a matter of relinquishing the busy artificial world that we have created, or even of dropping out of the culture, it is a matter of moving the importance of understood moments up into the level of acceptance and acknowledgement. The true reality of life is not the yearning for a new phone, but of watching a bee flit from flower to flower, not of working towards that promotion, but of feeling the sun on your face. Even though the new phone, and the promotion are events that can be important in our lives, they are not the ultimate moments, as long as we are aware of that, then the world should be on its way towards a better place.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Can Artists Change the World?

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of the now 32 artists that have been featured in the Inspirational magazine. I have tried to pick artists that have come from different disciplines, have different lifestyles, and travel along different creative life paths. However, they all have similar intentions and that is to project their unique view of the world, through their artwork and out into the world of the viewer.

It is always wonderful to be able to see so much artistic work being produced, and we should feel ourselves lucky to be living in such extraordinarily creative times. It says much about a species that has so many problems, and so many potential problems, that it can find the effort to produce work that has depth, understanding, and sensitivity to both the human species and to the planet that they inhabit.

There is something significant about the creative work being produced today and that is that much of it seems selfless. By that I mean that the ego tends not to be as engaged as perhaps it was in the twentieth century. I am not saying that significant work wasn't produced in the last century, it obviously was and we should be grateful for the amount of effort that was put into innovation and experimentation during that century, but we seem to be in a period now where the name and ego of the artist plays a secondary nature to the perspective and projection of the work itself, and that can only be a good thing.

Artists seem to have become much more sensitive, much more aware of the finite balances and harmonies of the planet, understanding that nature is not just something out there, but that it is an integral part of our essence, of our souls if you like. 

Life is all about connection, and it is the spreading and widening of those connections through harmony and balance that will take us from the world of the difficult adolescence of our species into one where the adult begins to flower, to flourish as never before. 

Art can play its role in that transformation, artists are the examples of this change, they are the guides if you like, towards a better understanding and a better life harmony. The more connections that artists can make, the more their work can be seen, discussed, understood, the more this most fundamental understanding can spread.

So can artists change the world? You bet they can, and they are in the process of doing so one individual at a time, and for that we all have to be forever grateful. Artists are the flag-wavers for the new world to come, I am confident and assured of that, which is why there is a ttb, and why now there is an Inspirational.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Issue 4 of Inspirational is released!

Illuistration: The cover of issue 4 of Inspirational featuring the work of Frikkx

Today sees the release of issue 4 of the Inspirational magazine. It seems hard to believe that we are at issue 4 already, but then again it seems hard to believe sometimes that this project ever got the gift of life, and for that I am grateful. I am grateful to all those who have bought copies, to those who have supported the idea of Inspirational, and of course the now thirty two artists that have been featured.

This time round is the turn of another eight artists who are: the fiber artist Betty Busby, the digital artist Frikkx, the textile artist Helen Terry, the ceramic artist Jessica Jordan, the painter Joan Anderson, the mixed media artist Karen Margolis, the sculptural artist Nnenna Okore, the painter Carol Nelson. A great and rich batch of inspirational and aspirational artists, from a range of disciplines, all portraying their unique view on the world through their varied work.

Illustration: A glimpse of the article featuring the work of Betty Busby

I am so glad that Inspirational is out there and still working for people. Anyone who knows me and knows ttb will also know that I am adamant about promoting the positive over the negative, about promoting and expanding the positive effect that the creative arts can have on our outlook as individuals as well as our outlook as both communities and as a species. 

The role of the artist is a vital element in what it takes to make us human. To be able to see, understand, and interpret the world within us and without us, to project that perspective into the simple, the complex, into the intimate, into the overarching concept, is a celebratory wonder that can never be tarnished, no matter how dark and stunted the cynic.

Artistic self-expression is in our lifeblood, it is the essence of who we are as a species and who we are as the sentient intelligence that we so clearly are. We are all reflectors of the cosmic awareness, and those who take up the creative arts are pinpointing that awareness and expressing it thorough thoughtful sensitivity and understanding. 

Illustration: A glimpse of the article featuring the work of Carol Nelson

Although some may be happy to engineer the arts into the 'extra-curricular' corner, it will always win out in the end :)

Issue 4 weighs in at 157 pages with 150 full colour illustrations. It can instantly be purchased and downloaded, along with all the other issues of the magazine, from the dedicated Inspirational Magazine page, which can also be found right above this article next to the Home tab. Also, please feel free to sign up for the Inspirational newsletter to get all the news as to the latest on the upcoming issue of the magazine.

Talking of the next issue, issue 5 will be available from July 15 2015, until then I hope that you enjoy issue 4.

Have yourself a great day


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Inspirational Issue 4!

One week until the release of issue 4 of the Inspirational magazine (May 13), so it might be nice to give you all a short introduction as to what to expect in this upcoming issue. 

The eight artists featured in this issue are: the fiber artist Betty Busby, the digital artist Frikkx, the textile artist Helen Terry, the ceramic artist Jessica Jordan, the painter Joan Anderson, the mixed media artist Karen Margolis, the sculptural artist Nnenna Okore, and the painter Carol Nelson.

This gives the magazine a good mixture of disciplines and styles, with each artist having their own unique understanding of the world around them and how they interpret that understanding. There will also be an article called 'The Infinity of Expression' as well as the usual 'First Word', and 'Last Word'.

This issue will be about the same size as issue 3, which came in at 175 pages with 151 colour illustrations, the magazine will either stay at about that size, or possibly larger, but not smaller.

I am quite excited about this coming issue, as I have been about all the issues so far. I think that Inspirational is beginning to make headway, beginning to find its place in the world, and for that I can only be grateful to those who have bought the magazine, those who have been featured in it, and those who have promoted it, and for that I am truly thankful.

Inspirational is a great coming together of individuals who share a common bond, the promotion of the artist as more than an extra-curricular activity, an understanding that the creative arts are central to who we are, and of great importance for our own well-being, the well-being of the planet, and the well being of our future.

With this coming issue Inspirational will have featured 32 artists so far. It is a lot of work on my part, and can be stressful at times, but I do so think this project is worth doing and so I will continue adding artists to be featured, I am already thinking of candidates for issue 5!

Thank you everyone for supporting Inspirational and I hope that you enjoy this issue when it reaches on May 15. 

This issue and previous issues of Inspirational are always available for instant download from the ttb site. Sign up for the newsletter and you will be kept informed as to all future issues of Inspirational.

Thanks for your time.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

International Fiber Arts VII

Illustration: Kathleen A. Loomis 'Crazed Suburban Dream' Best of show (2013)

I just wanted to draw your attention to an event later this year, as well as a new departure for me. The event is the International Fiber Arts VII being held between October 22 and November 28 2015 at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, at Sebastopol, California. 

The departure for me is that I have been asked to be one of the jurors, I didn't see that one coming, but I am thrilled to be taking part, as much as I am thrilled to be doing something new and interesting, something to add to the great tapestry of life.

Illustration: International Fiber Arts VI (2013)

The event is biannual, all of the illustrations for this article are from the last event in 2013. It seems to be a very open event, accepting entries from a broad spectrum of fiber art designations, so it includes two and three-dimensional work, as well wearable and installation art, both traditional and contemporary outlooks are welcome, as well as traditional and untraditional materials, it is really good to see one of these events where the viewpoint is so open to both tradition and innovation.

Illustration: International Fiber Arts VI (2013)

International Fiber Arts VII is open to anyone across the planet, irrespective of their geographical position, which to my mind is always a great and positive place to be, and entries can be accepted until September 1 2015. By the way, as a judge I am nearly incorruptible :)

I have no intention of cajoling any of you into entering, but it would be great to see some of the people I both know and admire being seen at this event, though it should be known that as a judge I will be near incorruptible :)

Illustration: James Arendt 'Ellie' third place (2013)

More detailed information of the event and entry requirements are shown below. Good luck, I wish you all the best:

CALL FOR ENTRIES for International Fiber Arts Vll

CONTACT:                        Catherine Devriese
                                    707/829-4797 M - F 10 am - 5 pm

SEBASTOPOL: Sebastopol Center for the Arts
International Fiber Arts Vll is a juried exhibition presenting a distinct approach to innovative and traditional fiber techniques, and a contemporary concept for the use of traditional and unusual materials. The chosen work invites the viewer to experience the many facets of fiber art.  Accepting both two or three-dimensional pieces including wearable and installation art. Accepting entries from international and US artists for this outstanding celebration of fiber arts.
The exhibit is held every two years at Sebastopol Center for the Arts (SCA).  Fiber Art Now magazine ( is joining SCA in presenting this 7th biannual exhibit.

$500 Best of Show, $200 Second Prize, $100 Award of Excellence from Fiber Art Now, Coordinators’ Merit Awards, and a membership to SCA

Lia Cook ( combines weaving with painting, photography, video and digital technology. Her current practice explores the sensuality of the woven image and emotional connections to memories of touch and cloth.
John Hopper ( has a degree in textile design. Since 2008, he has produced The Textile Blog, an inspirational site for artists and makers, covering many aspects of the world of creativity within art and craft.
Kyoko Kumai ( ) currently is an Honorary Professor of Nagaoka Institute of Design in Japan. She is in museum collections and exhibits internationally, notably at the 1987 13th International Tapestry Biennial Lausanne, Switzerland and 1998 9th International Tapestry Triennial Lodz, Poland.

The entry fee for SCA members and Fiber Art Now subscribers is $15 per entry or 3 entries for $35. For non-members and non-subscribers $20 per entry or 3 for $50.

DEADLINE for submission September 1. 2015

EXHIBIT DATES: October 22 – November 28, 2015
Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 High Street, Sebastopol, CA 95472. 707/829-4797