I´ve just come back from the European Textile Network conference and Kaunas Textile Biennial and the textilesnaturales textile blog is officially “on holiday” … but I just cannot help but post some images up. I´ll be blogging more about my impressions later on in October and November, but let me just say it was a full-on 4 days with exhibition openings, courses, talks and networking presentations to let you know what is coming up in 2012, 2013 and further ahead, in countries around the world. For anyone involved in textile art (and to a lesser extent design, fashion or contemporary craft) and anyone who, like me, specialises in loom-woven textiles, the conference and bienial was a really special opportunity.
One of the highlights, for me, was meeting and talking with Reiko Sudo of Nuno (the innovative textile design company run by Reiko – and a particular favourite of mine!), with the opportunity to learn rust dyeing with her in her course entitled “Rust never sleeps”. Such a simple, yet effective technique, with lots of possibilities to explore. Reiko had a solo exhibition with a number of her fabulous fabrics on display, as well as samples to touch and a display of some of the ways in which Nuno fabrics start out – collage, paper models and drawing.
There were numerous other group exhibitions in various museums and galleries around Kaunas. In the four days I was there there was hardly a minute to digest so much new information, and get to know other conference delegates more. But I know I have made new friends there and have been immensely enriched as a result. Perhaps the only thing that I felt was really missing from the event was the organisation of discussion groups, perhaps on themes, which would have encouraged active debate and participation and act as a conduit for and catalyst for new initiatives and ideas. Such groups would also have been a valuable opportunity for newcomers to the ETN conference to really get to know other delegates better, although I found the conference atmosphere to be generally very friendly, and most people very open.
It was also a pleasure to meet and talk with Korean textile artist Chunghie Lee and get hold of her new book, Bojagi and Beyond (ISBN978-0-9830029-0-1). As one of my main research interests is traditional peasant textiles of Galicia, north Spain, and their development and use in contemporary textile design and art, it was fascinating to learn about the traditional Korean textile technique of Bojagi (similar, but different to patchwork) and the way that Chunghie has taken this and made it known worldwide. In the preface to her book Chunghie talks about the “thousands of nameless ancestral women” making the bojagi textiles “stitched by their hands and from their hearts”. There is something essential and refreshing about these traditional textile techniques – and contemporary works inspired by them – which sometimes seems to be missing from some contemporary art textiles.
But it was good to see some of the work by contemporary textile artists such as Ainsley Hillard – whose work I have only seen online or in publications up until now (you don´t find many contemporary international textile exhibitions in north Spain these days!) who does seem to be able to capture the ghosts of the past – of both people and places – in her subtle textile installations.
Jacquard loom weaving, unsurprisingly, had a very strong presence in the conference and exhibitions – as a future face of contemporary textile art and cutting edge industrial textile design, and with huge potential for arquitectural applications. Vibeke Vestby gave an exciting presentation about her work in the development of the TC2, a new design of computer Jacquard available for the first time, commercially, later in 2011. I wish I could show here the images of the wonderful upholstery produced using the new TC2 that she presented in her lecture. Jacquard weaving is often used to translate – or incorporate – photographic images into woven cloth – Lia Cook (USA) is a leading artist in this field and her work was on display in one of the exhibitions – but it has other applications which are equally exciting. As a hand-weaver, limited to my eight shaft countermarch loom, the idea of a Jacquard loom which enables you to lift up a different combination of warp ends in every pick seems truly liberating. But then again, technical limitation in weaving is something that every weaver comes up against, whatever tool is being used, and limitations represent catalysts for creativity. Jacquard weaving is not a possibility for every weaver, for reasons of cost, access to markets or geographical location. Living in a rural area of Spain, however much I feel attracted to the idea of complex weaves possible on a Jacquard, I don´t feel it is technology that I can easily adapt to at the moment. But thanks to the conference I feel I will definitely pay more attention to Jacquard weaving in future.
Special thanks go to Beatrizs Sterk, of ETN, who organised the conference; a huge amount of work and, which I, like most others, cannot adequately appreciate, acknowledge or thank.