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joe lewis as a young weaving

"It’s Raining Men".  Well, perhaps not. Here is a quick but small list of some of the all male textile exhibitions that have been presented in the last ten years.  It is short: Fibremen, International Kherson Ukraine, October 2011; Men of Cloth:  Michael Brennand-Wood, Gavin Fry, Matthew Harris, James Hunting, Colin Jenkins and Kazuhito Takadoi. July 2010 - Lauriston Gallery Sale Waterside Arts Centre; MALE TEXTILES: Artifex Gallery, Vilnius Lithuania 2010; Dine Dah' Atl'o - Men Who Weave A Revival in Dine Bikeyah, Window Rock, Arizona 2005; Boys with Needles: London Ontario 2003. Each of these exhibitions while having different curatorial bases have a similar agenda in showing a difference in the root behind women’s work in textiles and men’s. Whether this root is based in tradition or in motivation is as much assumed as identified in ethnographic research or contemporary theoretical schools of thought. These aspects are part of the lager and fascinating history of textiles.

Last March when I got in touch with a number of Canadian males working with textiles and had them agree when I asked them to participate in this issue, it seemed a fait au complete and I went on my merry way. I took in Grad shows at Concordia, OCAD and ACAD looking for students for the "Finishing School" summer issue and took off for Lithuania. With the European Textile Network's 16th Conference taking place on the opening weekend of the 8th Kaunas Biennial Textile, Lithuania was the place to be. You can read about that in my article "Six Weeks on the Velvet Highway"

Soon after I put out my call for submissions stories about men working with textiles a call for submission for Fibermen, an international exhibition being planned by the "Scythia" Textiles organization from Kherson in the Ukrainian came across my screen. I submitted and was accepted and felt more secure in my life as a maker -- this being my first appearance in an International group show as a weaver. In spite of working on the concept of an all male issue of fibreQUARTERLY and being in an all male exhibition, I remained skeptical of the reason behind such an undertaking.

 As is the case with every issue-- things change. When I returned to Toronto after Kaunas, I found my mail box empty. There were only 5 weeks to my eta for my "Fibreman" issue. It was time to roll up my sleeves and start shaking trees and looking under carpets to find content to replace the content that had not arrived.  Grasping the obvious, I requested permission from Ludmila Egorova, Director of "Scythia" Textiles whom I had met in Kaunas, if I could present a sampling of their "Fibermen" exhibition on line. Given the go ahead by Egorova, I contacted some of the makers and they are here for you to meet. While in Kaunas I picked up the catalog for a 2010 exhibition project "Male Textiles" which was presented at Artifex Gallery in Vilnius and which is operated by the Art Academy of Vilnius' Textile Department. Lijana Sataviâute's essay while focusing on Lithuanian textile history provides insight into male involvement in textile production and education.  It is presented here with their permission.

Next I posted a couple of queries on my own page in Facebook, and on selected "group" pages.   There was an instant response. It was pointed out there where lots of man working with textiles.   Cathryn Stone, a friend of Fiberarts/ Mixed Media on Facebook, directed me to a blog called Nacho Grandma's Quilt's which has a list of 76 male quilters. Mary Pal posted a link to Paul Léger's Page on ManQuilters on the fibreQUARTERLY Groupies page. ManQuilters uses the same networking builder site that Fiberarts/ Mixed Media does, NING.com * , which was a pre-facebook way of developing a web based community of liked minded people. A few dozen individual makers were suggested with some duplication. You will find a links page at the end of this issue. It is not large but they are the names that quickly came to some peoples minds. I also sent around a short request to 12 post secondary schools in Canada with fibre / textile programs asking for Male graduates and course enrollment over the past two years. The numbers where not encouraging. What can be done to make textiles interesting to more young males entering art school?

 This issue is a sampling of what is happening out there and something of the range of work being done. This might be viewed as encouraging.  Man and woman have made textiles for eons. The reasons why textiles are produced and by whom change. The use of textiles in contemporary art practices is growing as those working in a craft tradition seem hold on.  Skill levels are varied, of course. I am not sure the choice to work with this material has a relation to a person’s sex but there are many schools of thought on that.  The sex of the maker in other times and places had to do with social and economic factors Myself, I look at the work, how is it made, how well it is made, what is it made of. The reasons why it was made and by whom are interesting, but don’t effect the quality of the work. If you disagree with me, add to the discourse and let the conversations continue.

 

joe lewis november 24 2011

"Katinas" (Cat) sculpture by Vytautas Umbrasas

"Katinas" (Cat) sculpture by Vytautas Umbrasas. located on Laisvės alėja/ Liberty Alley in Kaunus, Lithuaina.  photo by Joe Lewis 


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