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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

8 November, 2015

Textile Society Conference – Textiles and Architecture

It’s been a while since I posted, but life has been busy.  More on that in a blog later this month.  However…..

The Textile Society 33rd Annual Conference was held at the newly extended Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester this weekend.  The topic was Textiles and Architecture and the speakers included Prof Alice Kettle, Dr Lynn Hulse, Jane Scott, Dr Lindsey Waterton-Taylor, Sally Freshwater and Prof Lesley Millar MBE.  It was a full day of inspiration, diverse approaches, technical and innovative explorations.  We were also able to take advantage of a current exhibition at the Gallery called Art_Textiles which has its own publication available from the Gallery.

Prof Alice Kettle started the day’s presentations with quotations from Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space and references to Anni Albers – both guaranteed to grab my attention and get the thinking juices going!!  Taken from The Pliable Plane from 1959, and posing the juxtaposition of architecture (grounded/fixed/permanent) and textiles being not only the antithesis but also complimentary and inter-related, Alice went on to give her definitions of certain terms – walls, curtain walls, etc and to engage us with different approaches in architectural and textiles, including some of my favourite practitioners such as Ann Hamilton, Christo, and Janet Echelman as well as her own work in public buildings and site-specific commissions.

Dr Lynn Hulse presented a very different research project on the embroidered furnishings of the Lethbridge Sisters (1899-1922).  This was a fascinating glimpse into the lives and practice of Lady Julia Carew and Lady Jane Cory who produced some amazing and large-scale embroidered panels and countless interior furnishings for the homes in which they lived. These were much more than home furnishings and were rightly regarded as fine art by the society of the day.  Lynn will be publishing a book on the sisters in early 2016.

Jane Scott, a lecturer in textiles in the University of Leeds, is working with humidity and textile properties to create knitted fabrics that have a physical reaction to their environment, moving in animation when exposed to high humidity and moisture and gradually returning to primary states when the humidity or moisture level drops and the fabrics dry out.  It was totally engaging to watch video of the actions of the fabric.  We are so used to external forces working on fabric, such as drapery, movement of the body, wind, but there was something eerily mesmerising to watch the contortions of the fabric under puffs of water spray, reminding me powerfully of the compelling yet repulsive attraction of watching the squirming of a slug after being sprinkled with salt.  We are used to seeing electronics working within textiles (e-textiles) now, but Jane also incorporated wood veneer within her textiles and used knit together with the wood veneer as a responsive architecture to create dimensional pieces which move according to the climate in which they find themselves.

Dr Lindsey Waterton-Taylor is a weaver after my own heart!  Dealing with multi-layered woven fabric, Lindsey gave detailed cross-section diagrams to a multi-discliplinary audience to express the intricacies of weaving 6-layered fabrics for specific technical requirements in an engineering environment using inelastic yarns and fibres.  As a weaver who uses multiple layers and tubes within tubes myself, this was wonderful brain food!  Our respective end-uses are poles apart but the mental and technical challenges are fairly similar.  Lindsey incorporates the performance characteristics from the woven technical textiles within multilayer multilevel 3D forms into modular forms – think of it as textile ‘vertebra’.  Her work is exciting and has medical as well as engineering applications.  This is weaving as architecture in ways in addition to buildings!

Sally Freshwater is well known for her architectural and site-specific artworks involving the suggestions of sails and other flexible fabrics in sculptural installations.  Looking at translucency and opacity, and looking at various artists who have created large-scale site-specific artwork her talk was more a ‘thinking out loud’ musing of ideas that inspire and promote thinking through her practice.

The final presentation by Prof Lesley Millar was a typically meaty presentation of text, textiles, interior spaces, literary references, and philosophical thinking discussing ‘how the use of textile structures in architecture influence our perception and interpretation, and ultimately our memory, of things experienced’ (taken from the conference abstract).  As ever, it was so jam-packed full of content that I wished for a transcript that I could study with time to absorb all the connections she made.  Using images sourced from exhibitions Lesley has curated in the past, all of which have had a huge impact on how we, in the UK, view and understand textiles as art, including from Textural Space, and Lost in Lace, and also the recent exhibition in Salts Mill, Cloth and Memory, we were taken on a narrative of threads which joined, defined, revealed and concealed interpretations and left us with plenty to think about.

In addition to all this mental stimulation, we were also able to take time over lunch to visit the Art_Textile exhibition.  One of the highlights for me was my first real experience of an Abakan, a large tapestry piece by Magdalena Abakanowicz.  Interestingly, I was also drawn to the shadows created underneath the piece by the positioning of the lighting on both sides of the work.  I was also really pulled in by Anne Wilson‘s delicate stitching of holes on old damask table linens.  They had an ephemeral appeal to me, the tiny stitches of colour like finely ground powder grains, piled on top of each other to give a feeling of brightly coloured growths of decay, ‘blossoming’ on the old fabrics.

At the end of the day, I was left sitting on a crowded train with my brain in overdrive and a contented smile on my face!  Stimulation for mind and soul.  Many congratulations to Sonja Andrew, Dr Brenda King and all those involved in co-ordinating and organising such a stimulating day!

Next year’s conference will be on Saturday 5th November 2016 at the Wellcome Trust, London and is entitled Textile Futures: Technology Materials and Preservation.  It will examine recent advances in textile design, materials and technology, particularly emerging ideas and appraoches that may change the way we design, make, use and preserve textiles in the future.  I urge you to register your interest early : conferences@textilesociety.org.uk

20 May, 2012

Weaves That Shape Themselves, Pairings and Textile Matters

What a bumper few days!  A book launch with an accompanying exhibition, the Stroud International Textile Festival exhibition, and a textiles seminar in three days!  Food for the eyes, the brain and the soul!

Taken in the order I experienced them, firstly a book launch at Handweavers Studio in London for Ann Richards’ book “Weaves That Shape Themselves”.  Detailing many of Ann’s experiments and discoveries over a twenty-year period, this is a great addition to a weaver’s library, sharing hints, tips, and lots of very useful knowledge on high twist yarns, weave structures that pleat and shape and finishing processes.  She also includes a number of other weavers who are exploring texture through structure and interesting yarns and processes.  (Hand up here to a vested interest – there is one image of my work in the book – thank you, Ann!)

The launch was attended by a number of weavers whose work is in the accompanying exhibition currently at Handweavers Studio, including Lotte Dalgaard (Denmark), Berthe Forchhammer (Denmark), Fiona Crestani (Austria), Lucia Schwalenberg (Germany), Jennie Parry (UK), Bobbie Kociejowski (UK), Wendy Morris (UK) and me.  Other pieces in the exhibition are from weavers such as Deidre Wood (UK), Geraldine St Aubyn Hubbard (UK), Emma Sewell (UK), Sheila Reimann (NZ), Liz Williamson (Australia), Anna Champeney (Spain), Andreas Moller (Germany), Dorte Behn (Germany), Gusti Austin-Lina (Netherlands), Teresa Kennard (USA), Kasuhiro Ueno (Japan), Noriko Matsumoto (Japan), Junichi Arai (Japan), and Reiko Sudo (Japan).   A wonderful treat!  The exhibition is on for another couple of weeks, so I urge you to go and visit very soon!  And, of course, you are surrounded by the very yarns that are used to create the myriad effects on show!  And you can buy the books….

Secondly, the Stroud International Textile Festival has been running for a number of years.  This year, due to reduced funding, there is just one main exhibition in the beautiful setting of the Museum in the Park in Stroud.  Instigated by Alice Kettle, the exhibition is ‘Select Pairings II‘, the collaboration of different artists, usually in pairs, with at least one of the partners a textile artist.  The artists featured are Alice Kettle who paired with David Gates and Jane Webb; Ismini Samanidou who paired with Sharon Blakey; Kate Egan who paired with Vanessa Cutler; Dawn Mason working with Dr Nigel Hurlstone, Shelly Goldsmith working with Annie Shaw, Jane McKeating collaborating with Jilly Morris, and Janet Haigh with Rachel Kelly.  There were also three individuals whose work was on show – Clair Curneen, Rhian Solomon, and Fiona Haines.

The pieces were varied and interesting, utilising the courtyard outside the museum, the corridor leading to the main exhibition space and the main gallery. This exhibition is on until 27th May, so you still have one week to see it!  I shall be writing a full review for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and The Weave Shed (where you’ll also find information on Ann’s book) together with photos….

Finally, how to sum up a full day’s inspiration and input from four immensely talented and inspiring weavers from the UK, Japan, and Denmark?  Organised by Tim Parry-Williams with Bath Spa University, and the first in a series (so Tim promised!) of seminars, Textile Matters was held in the incredible surroundings of Corsham Court, the home of the Textile Research Dept of Bath Spa University.  Ann Richards started the day with explanations of some of the concepts behind her twenty years of research and exploration into weaves that shape themselves.  Her clarity and scientifically disciplined approach to her research was inspiring and salutory at the same time!

Ann was followed by Jun Tomita, a Japanese weaver who specialises in ikat art for interiors.  Jun is inspired by walls that are showing the ravages of time and decay – in this he reminded me of fellow weaver Ismini Samanidou – but their approach is so totally different to each other.  Jun uses the most simple of weaves – plain weave – to create his mood pieces through the kasuri technique of ikat.  Spanning his complete career to date, we were fascinated by his development of ideas and the use of warp ikat to convey so many facets of mood, depth and spirit.  It was also fantastic to have a glimpse into his workshop and his method of working.

After lunch, and a chance to buy books from Chrome Yellow (always a wonderful excuse to indulge in some gorgeous books!) and yarns from Handweavers’ Studio, we were ushered back into the colourful world of Ptolemy Mann.  I probably don’t need to say much about Ptolemy.  Her dip-dyed ikats in myriad colours are well known in the design and interiors worlds, and we had plenty of eye-candy to enjoy.  However, Ptolemy also talked about the need for working in different fields (although all stemming from her ikat and colour work), including working with industry and architects, licensing products and doing large-scale public art commissions in the public health sector.  A whistle-stop tour of the possibilities that have led on from her weaving, Ptolemy injected a dose of day-to-day realism in our current economic climate – a way of working that is hard work, and challenging, but ultimately rewarding in many different ways.

Lotte Dalgaard was the final speaker.  Lotte is a weaver of collapse weave fabrics which are mostly for accessories and fashion.  Working in collaboration with a fashion designer, Lotte’s fabrics are developed to become garments that can be shaped in many different ways to create different silhouettes.  A founder member of the Danish Yarn Purchasing Association, GIF, Lotte has helped to introduce many different kinds of unusual yarns to the handweavers market, including many of the high-twisted yarns that she researches and uses in her work.  She published a book called Magic Materials in Danish a few years ago, which Ann Richards translated for English buyers of the book.  This book has inspired a new wave of weavers to work with high twist yarns and will, I suspect, continue to prompt new weavers into trying out active yarns.  One of the highlights of the day was at the end of Lotte’s presentation when she gave a demonstration of how the fabrics ‘do their magic’ when exposed to hot water.  She showed us the woven ‘grey’ state, or loom-state, fabric and then submerged it in hot water where everyone could see it crinkle into its folds.  A magic end to a magic day!

Despite the short-notice of this seminar, the delegates, most of whom were weavers, had a memorable day, energised by their conversations with each other, meeting up with old friends and making new connections, enjoying the incredible surroundings and indulging in some retail therapy, as well as absorbing a lot of intricate and fascinating information.  Even the peacocks were impressed – one showing off his formidable tail feathers – a great photo opportunity for those of us present!!

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I will be writing reviews for the Weave Shed, and also one on ‘Pairings’ for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers which will include photos (after permissions have been sought).  So keep your eyes out for these…..