‘Aesthetic Appreciation’, words used by Constance Howard, in her book ‘Inspiration for Embroidery’, published in 1966 by BT Batsford – and in my opinion, the crux and core of understanding design.
‘Technical skill is only part of any craft, with which progress is limited, but ‘how to make something’, without building up aesthetic appreciation and a sensibility in taste, is worthless’, wrote Constance Howard.
And how right she was. I’ve just finished recording a new episode of the Stitch Safari Podcast titled ‘Constance Howard – The Influencer With Green Hair’, about the impact this green-haired, British embroiderer had on 20th-century embroidery and textile art.
Her message was so simple – ‘the popularity of embroidery has increased during recent years, and with this, a higher standard of design and workmanship has developed, but there is still much scope for the encouragement of originality in ideas and the ways and means by which design and pattern making may be understood more fully.’
This concept should be shouted from every rooftop, and be at the back of the mind of every aspiring textile artist – developing originality is about understanding our own unique aesthetic sensibilities.
And, in my opinion, the only way to do that is by working alone, making mistakes, overcoming them, and being motivated by an ocean of enthusiasm – all based on our own unique, individual aesthetic.
Aesthetic appreciation is the extent to which an element is enjoyed because of its beauty or other factors associated with our own individual preferences.
Learning to understand that is vital to any developing artist – because our individuality is what makes us unique, leading to the creation of unique work. Add to that technical proficiency and you have something quite special indeed.
Yet these basics are often overlooked or dismissed.
I think it’s become too easy to be continually taught, where someone else has problem-solved all the obstacles so that it’s simply following someone else’s ideas. That promotes learning in those just starting out, however, it does not promote growth in those wanting to move forward.
Too, too easy. Far better to teach yourself, and discover the trials, pitfalls, and joys of design development, along with the application of techniques appropriate for purpose – all with your unique tastes.
So, looking back at this sage advice from a woman who dared to differ with her green hair and foresightedness, is of great value still.
How I love that.