|The European Textile Network – 20 years of Networking||| Print ||
The European Textile Network exists since 1991 informally and since 1993 in a formal way, as an association under French Law founded under the umbrella of the Council of Europe. It now has about 500 members in 50 countries, publishes a quarterly Newsletter, is co-editor of Textile Forum magazine and keeper of an extensive website with database, an international calendar, a system of European Textile Routes and is organizer of annual/biannual meetings.
How did this initiative start?
As the initiator, former president and now secretary general I, as a Dutch person, came to Germany and started the association Textilforum for German-speaking countries with a magazine (Textilforum) since the early eighties. The aim was to pull the textile people together from all different professions (museums, universities/academies and artists/designer/crafts associations) and from the interested public in order to strengthen textile culture. My own background was a textile education in Holland and Finland together with an active role in the Dutch creativity movement of the seventies. My intention was to activate the textile scenery in Germany and its neighbor countries with methods I had learned as a creativity trainer.
Then the Berlin Wall fall down and the velvet revolution entered the countries of the former East bloc. This brought a new motivation: Now we could look beyond the Iron Curtain into East Europe, seeing what kind of textile culture they had, what they would need from us, what we could learn from them. Together with my partner Dietmar Laue, I made extensive travels to East European countries. We decided that the Textile Forum Association should be opened up for all Europeans and so it happened that the European Textile Network came into existence in June 1991 in Erfurt (the former German Democratic Republic). Invited were up to 3 persons from every European country (from museums, education and artists/designer associations). All those invited came and told each other about their plans and activities. A real euphoria about European co-operation was in the air. Further meetings were decided about (1 per year) and a database of addresses on textile culture was planned; a resolution vis-à-vis of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg was made to install ETN as an associated group.
In the same year 1991 ETN was present at a meeting of the Council of Europe's Silk Route group/part of the Cultural Itineraries and The Silk Route project of the UNESCO in Barcelona and ever since ETN has been involved in the creation of European Textile Routes. Since 1993, ETN was nominated as the Carrier Network for Textiles by the Council of Europe to enlarge the Silk Routes of the Cultural Itineraries programme into Linen Routes, Cotton Routes etc. thus including larger parts of Europe.
At the same time we tried to find financial assistance from the European Union in Brussels in order to fulfill our basic tasks: the database & calendar, maintaining means of communication (Newsletter, website, meetings) It became clear that the European Commission did not like to support any basic tasks and even if she wrote much about the importance of so-called "informal networks", there was no financial help whatsoever.
From 1997 to 2002 we received money via 8 projects mainly from the European Commission in Brussels. The two largest projects were the European Textile Routes of which there are 29 on-line in 21 countries.
The Database and Calendar, created within projects, are now in full function, every project contributes to including more addresses and to find active members giving information about forthcoming events (over 1000 per year are included; exhibitions, conferences, competitions etc.)
A further task of the Network is the transmission of contacts; for special projects (e.g. vis-à-vis of Brussels), partners are calling the secretariat for help to find their partners in other European countries. Many of these contacts are working, without intervention of the Secretariat or the Board, by the printed list of members or by the internet (members have a password to see all details of other members and of the data files in general). For East Europeans, ETN is still useful to receive invitations to be able to travel at all. People from the Western part make use of the ETN also for finding places for traveling exhibitions or for personal travels abroad; overseas visitors are often making use of ETN`s information in order to find their contacts in the countries they are visiting. We also managed to organize annual meetings in East and West European countries, these meetings are now biannual. In 2011 we have met in Kaunas, Lithuania for our 16th ETN Conference and had a special celebration of 20 years ETN activities.
European Textile Routes Map. In the late Eighties, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg developed the basic idea of European Cultural Routes, establishing some initial routes that included a Silk Route.
In 1993 the European Textile Network (ETN) was nominated Carrier Network by the Council of Europe for textile routes. (from ETN website, click on highlight link to explore
The idea behind the European Textile Routes was to open up textile culture in Europe at the example of real and imaginary routes. These routes were meant to serve 3 groups of people
1) Textile artists, designers and makers
2) Scientific persons working in textile departments of institutions (a. o. museums)
3) Textile tourists, school classes, the public at large
Each Route is made up of about 10 to 20 stations and has a Textile Contact Point (TCP) as the real point of information for those traveling the Route in real.
What did we experience
The notion of networking is perceived differently,
- as a club of a certain elite (like Lions Club)
- as a professional interest group (e. g CIETA)
- as a group of people interested in the same subject (e.g the Patchwork or Embroiderers´Guild)
Networking became a cliché word for flexible horizontal structures that are easily set up and easily dissolved again (“biodegradable”…) There are now several not textile related networks on a European level and there starts to be some kind of official recognition and money for basic tasks. There is a lobby organization for networks called the EFAH (www.efah.org) but they tend to only assist their members, thus creating closed circuits again.
Most of the activities we experienced are regional some are organised on a national level (Weavers Guild, Embroiderers` Guild) and very few are internationally oriented (Intl. Feltmakers Association)
A group of ETN members leaving the MAK: Museum of Applied Kuntz Vienna. left to right, Julia Astreou-Chirstoforou from Cyprus, Carolyn McNamara from Brittan, Lise Frølund from Denmark and Dianna Springall from Brittan. A per-conference visit 2009
Where are we now with the ETN, what is the next step?
The idea of mixing the different fields of textile culture (heritage, education and cultural production) and the inclusion of the professionals + the textile enthusiast seems to develop positive. Especially since the textile culture is in danger, people are pulling forces together. Textile Europe has lost its euphoria of the first years but now it has gained visibility by our Network.
The last two ETN Conferences in Austria and Lithuania have been very successful in terms of putting the right people together, not only for Europeans but increasingly also for other continents. ETN has now established good and stable contacts with Central and South America, in addition to the already existing contacts in North-America and Canada, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Also from China there are signs of hope about their willingness to make connections.
We continue to support all such initiatives that bring people from textile culture together to create joint activities.
In contrast to other sister- organizations like the Surface Design Association in the USA, ETN is not a group to promote one or more professions or professionals. E. g. the political representation of textile professionals must be organized by the different professional groups themselves, who than could come together within ETN. That is also the reason why ETN does not organize specific activities. Instead the different activities by members from different countries are supported in such a way that other members can participate.
There is a political rationale behind ETN, which is the motivation of its founders to draw together forces from this field of culture in order to prevent Europe from falling apart. Today, at the beginning of 2012 due to the Euro crisis, the danger of a splitting up in Europe – and worse – of upcoming nationalism and even fascism tendencies, it becomes clear how much this effort to work towards European unity is needed and also how small our field of textile culture is. Too small to be able to succeed alone but important enough to continue.
This will be the same in other places of the world, that is why we hope to include people from other continents in all our activities.
ETN website http://www.etn-net.org/index.htm
A Photo Sampler from the 2009 and 2011 Conferences
Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic, best known for the fine architecture and art of the historic old town and Český Krumlov Castle. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district.
from Wikipedian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8Cesk%C3%BD_Krumlo
accessed 02/23/2012See facebook album of 2009 Symposium
THE KAUNAS BIENNIAL September 22, 2011 People and places
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