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I’m in the US to attend a conference on innovative textiles and digital technology in jacquard weaving. It was run by the Centre for Craft, Creativity & Design at Hendersonville, in south North Carolina and took place at the Blue Ridge Community College.

Inspired Design: Jacquard & Entrepreneurial Textiles featured speakers from the US, Canada, UK, Scandinavia and Australia and presented a wide range of fields across five design growth areas of Smart Textiles, Performance and Interactive Textiles, Textiles for Boutique Clothing, Interior Design Textiles and Corporate & Public Art Textile Commissions. The delegates were largely a mixture of educators, students and professional textile artists. It was an exhilarating and full-on conference with each speaker hard on the heels of the one before, interspersed with breakout sessions between each topic area, and a key-note speaker from different fields on each day. An exhibition including works from the speakers as well as other artists was held in conjunction with the conference, with its own comprehensive catalogue.

Conferences like this are essential, I think, as they pull us out of our daily routines and force us to connect intensively with other ideas, concepts and people in a flurry of activity and connections before depositing us once more in our normal environment but with a brain buzzing with juxtapositions, key phrases, ‘aha’ moments, and many new possibilities. It takes time to filter this intensive experience and to emerge with a path that may or may not incorporate some of the thoughts that arose from this communication with others.

Some of the key points to come across time and time again in this conference was communication, connection, collaboration and disruptive thinking (neat – cccd!) and that was also the essence of any meeting like this. New people to meet; faces to fit to names that you know, have corresponded with, have read articles by; conversations that lead you to wanting to work with someone and a whole host of new possibilities thrown into the arena by inspiring speakers. It’s like a smorgasbord for the brain!

Such over-stimulation leads to sleepless nights as your brain whirls and swirls, trying to make sense of what you’ve absorbed, but it also leads to new work, exciting research, and new partnerships.

To me, as important as the seminars are, the social interaction is as vital a part of the experience. The chance dinner partners, the discussions over coffee, the shared bus rides, even a random comment whilst washing hands in the rest room, can be pivotal in a change of course or the way you might think about something Serendipity plays a big part in these events and can lead to long-term friendship and collaborations.

So a huge debt of gratitude and thanks goes to everyone who comes forward to organise such events; in this case, Dian Magie, Katie Lee, Terri Gibson, Catharine Ellis, Bethanne Knudson, and all those wonderful assistants and drivers, all fellow artists, who made it happen, and to the speakers who gave us so much brain fodder!

The knock-on effect from events like these is incalculable! Wouldn’t it be fun to canvas delegates in 5 years time and see how this event changed lives – artistically or otherwise? Or even an exhibition of work stemming directly from attendance at this conference? I think the results would be fascinating!