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Textile and Weaving Arts

If you enjoy working with fabrics and are interested in designing upholstery materials or wallpaper, or creating the next trend in apparel, a career in fashion, textile or woven design might be right for you. Read on to learn more about the educational options, career possibilities and employment outlook for professionals working in textile and weaving arts.

Are Textile and Weaving Arts for Me?

Career Overview

The textile and weaving arts are associated with a broad spectrum of craft and design activities, including rug and wallpaper design, embroidery, felting, knitting and spinning. Using looms, paints and sewing machines, textile designers and weaving artists create a variety of handcrafted and manufactured items, such as blankets, clothing, fashion accessories and rugs.

Career Options

As a skilled professional in the art and design industries, you can work as a freelance textile designer, dressmaker or craft artist. Alternatively, you may be employed on staff with a manufacturer or design firm that specializes in furniture upholstery, apparel, accessories or wallpaper. You might also look for opportunities as an embroiderer, fine artist or costume designer, or create patterns for carpets and knitwear. A degree is not always required to pursue freelance work or a salaried position; however, you may need an associate's degree to obtain a job as a fashion designer.

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) craft artists and fashion designers earned median annual salaries of $30,400 and $63,760 respectively in May 2013. In the same month, upholsterers earned $30,750, while tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers had median annual incomes of $25,590.

The BLS also reported a 3%, or slower-than-average, increase in employment for craft artists nationwide between 2012 and 2022; fashion designers can expect a 3% decrease in jobs during the same 10-year period. Opportunities for tailors, dressmakers and customer sewers, as well as upholsterers, will show a slight decline or little change in employment nationwide through 2022 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Textile and Weaving Arts?

Formal Education for Fashion Designers

Education and training vary widely according to the industry and position. If your interest is in fashion design, then you'll probably need an associate's degree in fashion design. Core coursework may include topics in apparel design and construction, fashion illustration, costume history and patternmaking. You'll also learn how to work with computer-aided design (CAD) programs and develop a portfolio to show prospective employers. An eye for detail, as well as color, is important in the fashion industry. An ability to translate your ideas through sketches confers a distinct advantage when looking for employment.

Formal Education for Craft and Fine Artists

If your desire is to be a craft artist or textile designer, you may wish to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in textile or fiber arts. In general, a BFA program can provide you with a more extensive foundation in drawing and sketching, as well as computer-aided design. Along with topics in art history and creative thinking, you might study the history of fabrics and learn how to create repeat patterns and do screen-printing. Additional courses in dyeing, weaving, sewing, felting and papermaking may also be included.

Graduate Programs

If becoming a university professor or working in management is your goal, you may want to consider a master's degree program in fiber or textile arts. At the graduate level, you might have the opportunity to delve deeper into design theory, as well as the human factors that can affect the creative process. Advanced-level coursework can include the study of surfaces and structures or art criticism, in addition to an ongoing training in the use of patterns, motifs and images. Some programs include a professional practice in the fiber arts; participation in an exhibition and a written thesis may also be required.