Editorial: Textiles Travel and So Do We PDF  | Print |  E-mail

In the meantime I have been travelling. Starting last January in Calgary where I saw REEDS & WOOL: Patterned Screens of Central Asia, at the Nickel Arts Museum and reviewed it for Selvedge. In May and June I had the opportunity to visit the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario and the Musée du Costume et du Textile du Quebec for the first time. This spring I visited some historic House Museums, regional Historical Society Archives and historic “Villages,” aka Living Museums. I took the opportunity to talk with costumed interpretive guides,  conservators and administrators directly or via e-mail to find out how these different facilities dealt with the textiles in their collections. In October it was off to Lincoln Nebraska for the 12th Biennial Textile Society of America Symposium then of course there were the exhibitions lectures and trade fairs in Toronto. All along the way I have been taking photographs after receiving permission to do so of course and posting them in facebook albums. "My life On Facebook by a Random Reporter" 

slipper chair

Slipper Chair, Needlepoint done by Janet (Mackenzie) Lindsey, C. 1840-60, City of Toronto Culture, 1960.1552.10B, Mackenzie House Museum on 82 Bond Street*

In March of this year I put out a call for submission for an issue of fibreQUARTERLY with the theme of collections. As a theme, “collections” is open to interpretation and the articles that were purposed covered a range of approaches from a “Spring Collection” of felted fashion accessories to a collection of books being used to research a specific textile construction method. Several other suggestions where made, unfortunately only one of those stories came in. So using my own and some other people’s travels this issue has become a collection of random articles rather then articles about collections. This randomness got me to thinking how accidental or perhaps coincidental fibreQUARTERLY has been, in that things come along when they are needed and often at the last minute.

Since I was fifteen years old I have been traveling to Calgary to hang out with family and friends and visit the Glenbow.  One item in the collection that has intrigued me for years is  a Tipi   As displays have been redesigned, the view of the tipi has been blocked from full few by a manikin dressed in a RCMP (Mountie) uniform in a glass case. This tipi has this small creature painted on it that has stayed in my imagination for decades, and which inspired this piece of felt appliqué 25 years after first seeing it.


Beetle #1, 14.5 X 20, 2002, felt appliqué with abalone Buttons and embroidery floss [photograph by Vickie File]

I also visit actual people -- two of which have inspired the story called Accidental Collections about what they have acquired through inheritance and their own shopping-- resulting in four generations of domestic textiles that ended up together. With this massive pile of stuff, there is a small collection of “folk dolls” purchased during a trip to Europe in 1936, as well as a story written by a family member who was on that trip. Oral history is seldom written down but is often part of the provenance of an object so I have included this trip memoir as background to the story of the Accidental Collection.   

With the appointing of a new director to the Textile Museum of Canada and my visits to two other Textile museums in Canada I thought it was time to profile the directors of all three. When I started to think about what I would like to know I realized it might be interesting to find out what other people would like to know. “What is a Textile Museum For?” is the introduction to my search for questions. Along with the article I have set up a facebook group called ”What-Is-a-Textile-Museum-For?” to see if one: facebook can be used to gather information as opposed to just circulating it, and two: What do people want out of Textile Museums?  This may just be a way for me to get other people to do some work for me; on the other hand it may be of use to textile museum people as another way to gage what the general (textile and museum going) public are interested in.

Back to travelling, I was not the only person on the move this year. Sophie Verna of Ms Emma Design, a Toronto perennial of hand crafted clothing for over 30 years who is now based in Italy, came here for a visit. We got together for a chat and the result of that is a short history of her business with its up and downs and the design philosophy that has stood the test of time. Another person who travel ed to Toronto was feminist cultural observer, critic and curator Lucy Lippard to give a lecture on Eva Hesse at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Given her central role in the feminist art explosion of the 1970s which brought focus to woman’s domestic needle arts and textile crafts, among other things, I could not pass up the opportunity to interview her.  


riverdale farm barn loom


This is the Paul Schneider Loom at the Riverdale Farm in Toronto. Pat Corbett and Raz Rotem members of the Toronto Guild of Spinners and Hand Weavers, threaded the old hand made loom during the Cabbage Town Festival in September 2010 for the first time since it was donated. This loom was donated to the Riverdale Farm in memory of Paul Schneider, a Cabbagetown resident of 30 years by his wife.**

Other travellers included weavers Line Dufour and Pat Corbett, a second generation member of the seventy year old Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers, who attended Convergence: the American Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild conference in Albuquerque this past July. They have provided reports on the conference to go along with reports from students, Neil Goss from the University of Kansas School of the Arts, and Kate Sydik, University of Nebraska, who attended the Textile Society of America’s (TSA) symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska in October.

The interesting thing about the TSA is the range of presentations from artists, museum professionals and textile sciences. Textile Conservation is a necessity beyond imagination and in this issue we get a look at the new Isabel Bader Research Fellow in Textile Conservation offered at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario. Caterina Florio was awarded this fellowship and she gives a brief introduction to her passion. 

On the Back Page I take a look at  “Everything Must Go.” Presented at the Toronto International Art Fair,  this installation of a mock bargain basement sale curated by fashion designer Jeremy Laing provided an interesting if unintended way to look at textile work in the market place and exposed the reality of how under valued it is. The why of this becomes an issue unto itself and that is for another time.


Please take the time to enjoy what has been presented here.


Joe Lewis

Notes on Photographs:

*This photograph of the Janet Mackenzie Needlepoint slipper chair at Mackenzie House Museum was taken by Joe Lewis with permission from Mackenzie House Staff for fiberQUARTERLY use.

SLIPPER CHAIR MADE BY JANET MACKENZIE, C. 1840-60, City of Toronto Culture, 1960.1552.10B Mackenzie House Museum on 82 Bond Street

Slipper Chair: Lady's chair, with carved and gilt top and side rails, ogee legs, upholstered in polychrome needlepoint, showing a palm tree and tropical foliage. Empire style. c. 1840 - 1860. Measurements: seat: 20" x 20"; top of back: 27"; overall height: 37"

Seat has velvet fringe. Wooden gilt frame with carved design on top of back. Back in green velvet.

Needlepoint done by Janet (Mackenzie) Lindsey. At the time she did the needlepoint, she would have been married to Charles Lindsey, and living in their home in Toronto.

Mackenzie House Museum on 82 Bond Street http://www.toronto.ca/culture/museums/mackenzie.htm

To see more photos of Mackenzie House Museum go to my facebook Album

thursday 5 August 2010 textile run around



** Photo of the Paul Schneider Loom at the Riverdale Farm was taken by Joe Lewis, and is used here with permission of the farm administration.

Riverdale Farm  201 Winchester Street, Toronto http://www.toronto.ca/parks/featured-parks/riverdale-farm/

to see the Action Photos of the loom being threaded go to my facebook Album

Fibreworks | FABRICcation | Knit camBRIDGE expect the unexpected

Next >