Displaying and Framing Textiles
The big question when displaying or hanging textiles is always whether to frame or not. Obviously, this will largely be determined by the size and type of textile you want to display but there are various options to consider. The following is based purely on my own experience
One of the biggest advantages of conventional framing, apart from giving a very finished look to the work, is that for most people who are used to paintings, they will know how to hang the work. People know what to do with ‘pictures’ – they hang them on a wall and they fit in with other art in the house. In addition, a frame adds a perceived value to a piece of work and makes it appear to be a more conventional work of art as opposed to a piece of craft. If the textile is not heavily textured it may fit neatly in a mount in a frame behind glass. More heavily textured work should be mounted in a box frame. In either case it is important that the textile does not touch the glass to prevent any build up of damp or mildew and all mount board should be acid free.
Stitched textile by Sarah Burgess in a box frame behind glass. Reflections are a problem!
Some people just don’t like to use glass feeling that it distracts from the tactile surface of textiles, but the presence of glass can cause its own problems, the main one being glare... not great if you want to take photographs or get a good close up view. This can be avoided using the more expensive non reflective glass, which has the added benefit of UV light protection which helps reduce fading. Of course, no artwork should be hung in bright sunlight where it will inevitably fade.
Small stitched textile by Sue Blackburn in a mount and frame without glass
But it is also possible to just not use glass at all and I have a couple of pieces that are framed quite successfully without glass. Then the question often is ‘But doesn’t it get dirty?’ In my experience the answer to this is no. Most textiles will not be harmed by a light brush with a vacuum cleaner, dusting or even a wipe with a damp cloth if absolutely necessary, but they really don’t get that dirty. The picture above has hung in my home for several years and has never needed cleaning.
The other way I like to frame textiles is to use canvases and there are various ways in which these can be used. The canvas can be painted or primed and the textile can be stitched onto the surface leaving a border where the canvas is showing. This can be then hung on the wall as it is, or it can be mounted into a tray or float frame.
An old textile piece of mine mounted onto a box canvas painted with black gesso.
This one is probably destined for recycling!
Textiles can also be wrapped around a canvas frame and stapled in place on the back of the wooden frame. Care needs to be taken when wrapping and mitring the cloth around the corners, especially if excess fabric needs to be cut away. I usually try to make a ‘hospital corner’, (like you would make a bed) neatly tucking the excess fabric out of the way but thicker or textured fabrics may need to be cut. I usually cover the raw edges on the reverse with tape to neaten everything up.
Two textile pieces wrapped around box canvases with a close up of the mitred edge and taped back.
Some textiles are designed to hang just as they are and most people will be familiar with the hanging sleeve stitched onto the reverse of an art quilt, through which a rod or bar can be threaded, allowing picture wire or fishing line to be attached. There are also elaborate hanging systems that allow textiles to hang in a curtain like fashion, floating freely from the ceiling, although personally I feel these are designed for gallery settings rather than for hanging textiles in the home. Something I have also used withing a gallery setting is taxidermy pins – long fine pins with which the work can be pinned directly onto the wall.
Series of six dolls pinned directly onto the gallery wall
Finally, something I have done more recently is put textiles into round embroidery hoops, gathering them up at the back and then usually neatening them with a circle of felt, tacked into place. Trends in textiles come and go and this has been something of a trend in recent years, although whether it will last or not is anyone’s guess. These can then be hung directly on the wall with a ribbon or just left sitting on a shelf.
A selection of textiles that I have hung and displayed in embroidery hoops
These are just a few of the ways I have displayed my textiles over the years and I am sure you will have your own methods. And for many textiles, they are not even meant to hang on walls – decorative cushions, bags, soft sculptures etc all have their place in textile exhibitions or within the home. Although that then starts another debate… is it Art or is it Craft? I’ll leave that one with you!
Is it art or is it craft?