The Ways in Which Weaving And Embroidery Have Been Used As Forms of Art

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For centuries, the art world has mainly viewed painting and sculpture as true art forms, while considering weaving and embroidery as mere crafts. However, in recent years, there has been a shift in attitude towards these mediums as more individuals are beginning to recognize their innate value and artistic expression.

One reason behind the dismissal of weaving and embroidery as art forms may be due to the fact that they have historically been associated with women and domestic labor. As such, they were not considered suitable for the realm of fine arts which has long been dominated by men. Additionally, the ephemeral nature of fiber art made it challenging to preserve and display, leading to further difficulties in gaining recognition.

Moreover, the modern art movement of the 20th century highly favored abstract, minimalist, and conceptual art forms, which left little room for the intricate and detailed works that are characteristic of weaving and embroidery. However, in recent years, a new wave of contemporary artists and designers has emerged, and they are revitalizing these traditional mediums to create cutting-edge and critically acclaimed works.

Why Were Weaving And Embroidery Not Accepted Forms Of Art Until Recently?

For centuries, weaving and embroidery have been seen as useful and practical skills, rather than as art forms worthy of appreciation in their own right. While other forms of artistic expression, such as painting, sculpture, and even ceramics, have been widely regarded as art, weaving and embroidery have not always had the same level of recognition.

One of the reasons for this is that weaving and embroidery were traditionally associated with women’s work and were often seen as domestic chores rather than artistic endeavors. Women would learn these skills from a young age in order to make clothing, bedding, and other household items. Because they were primarily seen as useful crafts rather than art, the products of this labor were often undervalued and considered unworthy of serious attention from the art world.

Another reason why weaving and embroidery were not accepted forms of art until recently is the perception that they were “crafts”, rather than “fine art”. Craftsmanship is typically associated with utilitarian objects, while fine art is associated with aesthetic expression. The utilitarian nature of the products made through weaving and embroidery meant that they were not viewed as works of art in the same way that paintings or sculptures were. Instead, they were seen as functional objects that happened to be decorated in a pleasing way.

It was not until the late 19th century and early 20th century that weaving and embroidery began to be recognized as legitimate forms of artistic expression. Several art movements, such as the Arts and Crafts Movement, the Art Nouveau Movement, and the Art Deco Movement, placed a renewed emphasis on the importance of handmade objects and the value of craftsmanship. As a result, weaving and embroidery began to be viewed through a new lens, with an appreciation for the time, effort, and skill required to create these works.

Today, the perception of weaving and embroidery as art forms has evolved considerably, and many contemporary artists are redefining these crafts as legitimate and important forms of artistic expression. With the rise of feminist art movements and a growing appreciation for the value of traditional skills, weaving and embroidery have found a new place in the world of contemporary art.

The rise of art for art’s sake and its impact on the acceptance of weaving and embroidery

For centuries, weaving and embroidery were viewed as domestic crafts and were not considered to be fine art forms. The reason for this can be traced back to the rise of art for art’s sake, which took hold in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This movement emphasized the importance of creating art purely for its aesthetic value, rather than for functional or utilitarian purposes.

As a result, art critics and collectors began to focus on traditional fine art forms such as painting and sculpture, which they believed to be better suited to this new artistic ideology. In contrast, weaving and embroidery were seen as too functional or decorative, with their primary purpose being to serve practical needs such as clothing and furnishing.

Additionally, the Industrial Revolution brought about changes in textile production, making it possible to produce large quantities of cheap, machine-made fabrics. This further diminished the status of weaving and embroidery, as handmade textiles became less valued and less accessible to the general public.

Despite these challenges, there were still artisans and designers who recognized the inherent beauty and artistry of these crafts. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Arts and Crafts movement emerged, which aimed to promote traditional crafts and handmade goods as a way of preserving traditional skills and promoting social reform.

As part of this movement, weaving and embroidery began to be re-evaluated as potential art forms. Artists such as William Morris and the members of the Wiener Werkstätte recognized the potential of weaving, embroidery, and other decorative arts to create beautiful and meaningful works of art.

In the mid-20th century, the feminist movement also played a role in promoting weaving and embroidery as art forms. Textile art became a way for women to express themselves creatively and challenge traditional gender roles.

Today, weaving and embroidery have finally gained widespread recognition as legitimate art forms, with museums and galleries around the world showcasing works by contemporary textile artists. While it took many years for these crafts to be accepted as fine art, their unique beauty and cultural significance have finally been acknowledged.

The influence of feminism and the recognition of traditionally female arts

Over the centuries, weaving and embroidery have been a significant part of women’s daily labor. Despite the amount of time, effort, and artistic expression invested in these textile arts, they have frequently been overlooked as “women’s work” and denied the status of fine art. Instead of being admired or celebrated, craftswomen were relegated to the margins of the art world. In this section, I will explore why weaving and embroidery were not accepted forms of art until recently.

One significant factor in this disregard for weaving and embroidery was the longstanding devaluation of traditionally female arts. Until the 20th century, fine art was considered the domain of men, while decorative arts such as textiles were relegated to women. Women’s crafts were dismissed as merely functional or decorative, not approached with the same seriousness as the “high arts.”

Furthermore, during the feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, a push for equal recognition of traditionally female arts emerged. Many female artists and scholars argued for the inclusion of weaving and embroidery in the canon of contemporary art. The feminist art movement allowed for a reevaluation of priorities in terms of medium, material, and content, prompting the art world to confront gender disparities in the art world.

Moreover, feminist scholarship drew attention to the unique aesthetic, cultural, and social significance of textile arts. Feminist art historians highlighted that textiles were not only important in women’s everyday lives, but they also played a significant role in women’s artistic expression. By challenging the notion of high and low art and reevaluating the importance of traditionally female art forms, feminist artists and scholars drew attention to the cultural significance of weaving and embroidery.

In conclusion, historically, weaving and embroidery were not accepted forms of art until recently because of traditional gender roles and a patriarchal view of art. However, thanks to the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the art world began to reassess the value of traditionally female arts. This recognition allowed crafts such as weaving and embroidery to be seen as significant contributions to the cultural legacy of art.


In conclusion, weaving and embroidery have been an integral part of human history for centuries, but it has only been recently that they have gained recognition as an accepted form of art. There are several reasons why it took so long for these skills to be recognized, including:

  • Gender bias: For much of human history, weaving and embroidery were considered to be domestic tasks that were primarily done by women. As a result, these skills were not given the same level of recognition as other forms of art that were seen as more masculine.
  • Classism: Throughout history, certain art forms were considered to be more prestigious than others. Weaving and embroidery were often seen as art forms that were only practiced by the lower classes.
  • Industrialization: With the rise of industrialization, the skills needed to create woven and embroidered pieces were no longer necessary for survival. As a result, these skills began to be seen as obsolete and were not valued as highly as other forms of art.

However, in recent years, there has been a growing appreciation for the beauty and complexity of weaving and embroidery. Many artists and designers are now incorporating these skills into their work, and there are now museums and galleries dedicated solely to showcasing woven and embroidered pieces. As society continues to evolve, it is likely that these skills will continue to be recognized and valued as important forms of art.

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