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Interpreting Themes in Textile Art review by Cas Holmes

Textile artist and author Cas Holmes reviews Interpreting Themes in Textile Art, the new book by Cherilyn Martin and Els Van Baarle, which explores the varied ways of interpreting ideas in cloth.

By Cas Holmes

I have known the works of Else van Baarle and Cherilyn Martin for over 30 years since I first worked with them at a textile event near Munich so it is with delight I review their book Interpreting Themes in Textile Art. They co-exhibit and develop projects along various themes which encourages engagement and discourse in their practice yet at the same time strengthens their approach and inimitable styles in their work as part of a ‘creative dialogue’.

This insight into their practice is shared with the reader as a means to develop ideas and techniques. Throughout the book they reveal how the same topics centred around a variety of subjects from the memory of time and ancient culture to the marks left by man on stone can be explored through different media from dyes and paint to collage and mixed media.

walls inspired textile art

Walls as inspiration: Walls #4 by Cherilyn Martin. Batik silk, mixed fabrics and paper, machine quilting and embroidery. Chinese Memory #4 by Els Van Baarle. Paper, wax and fabric. Above: A piece from the series Letters from a Friend by Els Van Baarle.


Foundations are laid from the first chapter where creative process is discussed as part of an individual vision. Exemplified by approaches you can take in choosing themes it encourages you to map your ideas and look at compositional and colour choices which can help develop your ‘voice’.

This is followed by clearly laid out chapters centring around the core themes of the book. Chapters 2–4 takes you from the inspiration to be drawn from the surfaces of gravestones and walls to the ancient echoes found in the architecture and objects of Pompeii.

Memory, story and a connection to objects are the themes discussed in chapters 5–7 from textural memories to be found in cloth, the books we hold in our hands to the articles of daily use.

Throughout, this imaginative and compelling book is exemplified by projects and the artists’ work from wax resist dyeing, encaustic collage to surface rubbings and transfers from which you can develop your ideas and processes.

In her foreword artist and writer Marie-Therese Wisniowski states that ‘The techniques they (the artists) have mastered and the concepts they have explored will linger beyond their generation’.

There can be no higher recommendation.

interpreting themes in textile art

Interpreting Themes in Textile Art (Batsford) by Els Van Baarle and Cherilyn Martin is out now.

Explore more work by Els Van Baarle, Cherilyn Martin and Cas Holmes:

Els Van Baarle
Cherilyn Martin
Cas Holmes