Tuesday, September 21, 2010

warp+weft: cross disciplanary approaches to weave symposium at The National Wool Museum, 11th Sept 2010

Dr Jessica Hemmings. Photo: Kathryn Campbell Dodd.
 To mark the opening of the warp+weft exhibitions at Oriel Myrddin and the National Wool Museum, Dr Jessica Hemmings kindly put together a brilliant symposium exploring the unexpected connections with weave.

The day begin with Jessica's introduction, highlighting some wonderful examples of practice within the art textiles sphere which is woven, or references the process of weaving.  My absolute favourite example was the 'Wind up: Walking the Warp' project by Anne Wilson.  I thought the below image was so powerful - a real visual spectacle which to a non-weaver must seem utterly bizarre.  It's also a profound comment on the passing of time, the nature of craftsmanship, and the power of process.  You can read more about this intriguing project here: http://www.annewilsonartist.com/windup-chicago-walking.html

Anne Wilson, “Wind-Up: Walking the Warp,” 2008
Photo: Surabhi Ghosh
The first invited speaker was Professor Lesley Millar, well known for her high profile curatorial projects such as Cloth and Culture, 21:21 and Through the Surface.  Lesley spoke eloquently about constructed narratives implicit in the weave process, a concept harnessed to great effect by many of the artists she has worked with in her curation projects.  At the end of her presentation she told us of her newly launched web gallery / educational resource for textile art, Transition and Influence.

Professor Lesley Millar. Photo: Kathryn Campbell Dodd.

We then had a presentation from Dr Wayne Forster, Head of the Welsh School of Architecture, which recounted much of the dialogue between Wayne and myself exploring the common ground between the architectural and textile disciplines.  You may remember I blogged last year about the Architextiles series of workshops I ran with Wayne at the School of Architecture.  Wayne presented many of the examples of cross disciplinary works in both textiles and architecture we'd come across in our research and how this fed into the workshops we ran for the first and second year architecture students.

Dr Wayne Forster. Photo: Kathryn Campbell Dodd
 Following a very tasty lunch in the Museum restaurant, we returned to lecture from Andy Ross, the Director of ASF Shetland, part of the Centre for Creative Industries in Shetland.  A trained opera singer, Andy ensured that anybody veering towards a post-lunch lull was re-energised.  He opened by singing a traditional weavers song, and then proceeded to explain his absorbing creative journey between textiles and music exploring where the crossovers are, such as in language and rhythm. He even got the delegates singing - quite appropriate for Wales!

Andy Ross. Photo: Kathryn Campbell Dodd
 During a coffee break there was then a screening of two short films by Matt Hulse Light Work: many hands and Anne Wilson’s Walking the Warp.

To conclude Ruth Greany, a textile trend researcher for WGSN talked about her former career as a woven fashion textile designer for Woven Studio and her work now at WGSN, exploring how trends are researched, identified, synthesised and presented to clients.

Ruth Greany. Photo: Kathryn Campbell Dodd
The symposium generated a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm on the day - a real feeling that the weave fraternity is starting to find its voice.  It was referred to time and time again by speakers and delegates that weaving has not been seen as a sexy discipline and as a result just hasn't been in the limelight such as knitting has in recent years.Craft skills are under threat, there aren't many job opportunities for weave students to aspire towards, and there isn't a strong collectors market for art and craft textiles.  But little is to be achieved by just repeating these laments.  Weavers need to be working harder to bring what they are doing to the fore.  The exhibitions I've curated had this very aim - to celebrate the achievements of the creative and entrepreneurial weave artists and designers working in this field, to both inform the public and to act as inspiration to other weavers.  We need to create our own opportunities and keep striving to create the most extraordinary woven textiles thus claiming our rightful place as an important and stimulating applied art / craft / design area.

As a result of spending two days at the symposium and the various exhibition openings talking to a veritable 'who's who' in the world of weaving, I've been mulling over how to continue the momentum of interest and energy thats seems to have started.  Ideas are already forming, and I'll tell you about them once they start to become reality.  One thing I have decided to start now is a new blog which will record all the interesting weave related items I find happening in art  design, craft, science, industry and academia.  I spend a little too much time researching online and it would be wonderful to be able to share the suprising, curious, intrguing, beautiful weave related images and links I find with you.  It will also review exhibitions I go to, books I read, and any other curious snippets of relevant info.  I hope it will in time become a valuable resource for students, researchers and curators who are exploring weave in all its guises, but also the general art/design/craft enthusiast.  There's not much posted yet (only just started!) but please subscribe and tell your friends and colleagues about it too: http://www.thewarpandweftblog.blogspot.com/ 

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