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  • Intersecting. Anni Albers, 1962, Cotton and crayon, 40 x 42cm. Photo: Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop

Continuing to blaze a trail

Makers explain the influence of Anni Albers

Eleanor Pritchard, textile designer

I was very aware of her work when I studied at Chelsea and found the confidence and graphic clarity of design in her weave inspiring. These are very much qualities that I try to achieve in my own work. I also find her very inspiring as a feminist role model. Albers, along with other important female textile designers such as Gunta Stölzl, and here in the UK Enid Marx, Marianne Straub and Marion Dorn, are all inspirational weave designers who blazed a trail for women in the design world.

Christopher Farr, rug designer

I started looking at the Bauhaus at art school and the work of Josef Albers. Later, in 1996, I went to San Francisco to do a show of some rugs I’d made and Jack Lenor Larsen said I should work with Gunta Stölzl, who ran the Bauhaus’s weaving department. I started investigating Albers’s work very seriously after that, and got the license from the Albers Foundation to bring some of her designs for rugs and fabrics back into production. I think because my
own education had been very influenced by a trip I’d made to Peru, where I studied pre-Columbian textiles, we shared that in common – you can see her interest in the pre-Columbian textiles she saw in Mexico in her colour sensibility, and in both her and Josef’s understanding of form. That’s only really being properly understood now, just how influential these were on both the Albers. It was like a thread connecting everything for them; it represented something universal.

Wallace Sewell, textile designers

Her bold abstract compositions, with simple colour palettes, prove that woven design doesn’t need to be figurative or complicated to be beautiful. We’ve always been inspired by the breadth of her creativity and her ability to create striking woven textiles using standard woven techniques, pushing the ‘dobby shaft’ loom to its limits, as opposed to using a jacquard loom.

Richard Landis, weaver and designer

In the late 1960s, when I began doing pattern work in double weave, Anni Albers was my North Star. Bauhaus thought and Modern Art were always in my mind.

Anni Albers in her weaving studio at Black Mountain College in 1937

Ann Sutton, textile artist

The weaving of Anni Albers is wonderful (that ‘Tablecloth’ woven at the Bauhaus, and the 1929 light-reflecting, sound-absorbing cloth with the disc data that blew my mind as a student in the 50s), but her writings are sublime. She writes about woven textiles, but most of her words are relevant to the manipulation of all materials. She writes what I wish that I had dared to say, turning sentences such as: ‘Elaborate workmanship is no longer an immediate source of pleasure.’ My copies of books written by her are bristling with Post-it Notes: nearly everything is noted as vital. Anyone who can coin the phrase ‘the pliable plane’ to describe a textile gets my respect, my admiration, my love.

Francesca Capone, artist, writer and textile designer

My research in Anni Albers’s archive of woven objects (her own weavings and her collection of pre-Columbian weavings) and her essays have brought greater depth to my understanding of her work, and guided me through epiphanies in my own work. In her essay ‘Material as Metaphor’, Anni poses the question: ‘How do we choose our specific material, our means of communication? Accidentally. Something speaks to us, a sound, a touch, hardness or softness, it catches us and asks us to be formed. We are finding our language, and as we go along we learn to obey their rules and their limits.’ This concept has driven me to think differently about my choice of material in weaving, and how it is not only an aesthetic but also a message. The materials and structures a weaver chooses can be read as commentary on the place and moment in which they are living.

Ismini Samanidou, weaver

Her ability to work with integrity and focus, and to be widely recognised as a weaver, artist, designer, educator and thinker has validated for me the diversity of my own practice. It inspires me to continue to pursue opportunities in different fields, with the knowledge that it is possible to do this with integrity and without concern for categorisation.

Anni Albers is at Tate Modern, London SE1, 11 October 2018 – 27 January 2019.


Pasture, Anni Albers, 1958, cotton, 36 x39cm