Inspiration for textile designs can come from a variety of sources. It is possible to create textile design work by going straight to the process being used. For example, a weave designer may go straight to the weaving shed, choose warp yarns in colours that appeal and, with a knowledge of fabric structures, make an attractive fabric. Experience, however, has shown that such a method of designing often results in fairly mundane design. Innovative, exciting textile design starts with much more fundamental paperwork; drawings and paintings exploring colours, textures, shapes and patterns. Drawing from objects in an imaginative and open way will inspire new colour combinations, textural ideas, shapes and arrangements of these.
Inspiration for such paperwork, and ultimately for textile designs, can come from many things. Both natural and man-made objects can inspire. Whether the source material is natural or man-made, abstract or tangible, how themes and source material are used is a matter for debate.
Drawing from man-made items such as architecture can raise the question as to whether or not the resulting design work is truly original. Drawing from architectural patterns can be seen, if the work is very literal, as merely copying someone else’s designs – the proportions and shapes have been created by another person. Working from nature, however, is usually seen as producing more original work. The designer may still be copying but is constantly making decisions and judgments about what to include and what to omit.
Being influenced by the work of artists and other designers raises the question – when does a design influenced this way become a copy? Is a textile design that lifts elements from other designers or fine artists good or bad design?
Fine art can inspire textiles, part of a menswear collection by the fashion designer Paul Smith in the late eighties was made in fabrics that were inspired by the paintings of Matisse. Textiles can be created by fine artists; tapestries and silk scarves have been designed by artists and sculptors such as Picasso and Henry Moore. Textiles can have fine art directly applied; reproductions of the Mona Lisa have been applied to a variety of products, from tea towels to tee shirts.
Much of textile design is derivative. Source books for designers often consist of designs from the past or from other cultures. William Morris, the famous nineteenth – century writer and designer often based his designs on Persian textile designs and many of the designs credited to him that are still best-sellers today were almost literal copies of the original Persian ones. Does this knowledge change how Morris’s work is perceived? Does using archive or historical sources allow copying to become acceptable?
Whatever the inspiration or source for a textile design, the textile designer needs to have a good understanding of colour and aesthetics. A textile designer must be able to use colour and pattern.