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One of the things about a university education which pushes you out of your comfort zone is how it opens your mind and your understanding.

At the Lost in Lace conference (feature post to follow) today (3rd Feb 2011) at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, I met up again with Professor Lesley Millar, the curator, who was also previously a speaker at a conference in Wales in 2010.  Prof Millar is a dynamic lady who is passionate about promoting contemporary textiles in the UK, and has spent the past 16 years tirelessly and effectively pursuing her goal through curating some wonderful exhibitions which have broadened countless people’s perception, introducing people to textiles in a new way.  She is truly an inspirational figure who I respect and admire immensely, and I was dismayed and embarassed when she expressed strong feelings today about a blog I posted after the Welsh Warp + Weft conference.

When I got home, I revisited the relevant blog post (Warp + Weft Symposium, 14th September 2010).  The passage of 1 1/2 years can change levels of understanding, and through studying for an MA, I have had to become familiar with a more reflective, more academic way of thinking, and a new vocabulary to boot!  So I am now more conversant with Prof Millar’s world and, I am sure, if I heard the same presentation today, I would understand it in a very different way.  I also have no doubt that in another two years’ time, after two more years of rigorous thinking, reflection, research and practise, I will appreciate it in a deeper way.

I’m sorry that Prof Millar was upset by my blog.  If it was my comment about her presentation style that was at issue, then I can only say that that was my observation on the day and it is only my opinion.  I am sure there are people who would completely disagree with me.

However, if it was my comment that at times her talk completely lost me, at that stage in my life I didn’t have the necessary knowledge, understanding and experience to understand her presentation at the level she was presenting it, which more academic people would have understood ((and probably did).

On a related theme, one of the major lessons learnt, for me, during this first year of study on a multi-disciplinary course where I am one of two textile practitioners amongst ceramicists, fine artists and sculptors, is how different audiences require different approaches.  The level of tacit textiles knowledge, tactile knowledge and subconscious awareness of textiles in a textile-savvy audience is truly amazing.  I took this knowledge to be universal – in fact, I hadn’t even thought about it until I realised half way through my first presentation to my fellow students and professors that my audience wasn’t on the same page.  Right there and then, I had to rethink the whole of my practice from a different perspective!  However, I have also learnt that my university presentations would not have the same relevance outside of a university setting.

This issue from my perspective, and as a speaker myself, does stress and re-inforce to me the importance of knowing my audience and presenting for that audience, without either ‘dumbing down’ or being too rarified. I have two more years on the MA to try to get that right!

A precarious balance!!