“Textile Tracking and Trekking,” editorial PDF  | Print |  E-mail

This past December, Polly Leonard the editor of Selvedge magazine asked me to write a story about textile collections and shopping in Canada. Intrigued. I said yes and the research I did for “From Trade Routes to Trading Post” led me to some more interesting story threads. Over the past few years I have been visiting “Living History Museums” and historical Homes looking at the textile artifacts not really knowing what if anything I was looking for. The story for Selvedge gave me a context for looking. Getting in touch with the institutions that houses Hudson Bay Company material and contacting the Stroud Textile Trust a few months later made the idea of tracing textile trade goods in Canada seems like a reasonable line of research to follow.  When Ian Mackintosh from the Stroud Textile Trust wrote: “Sadly we can't show you lots of historic cloth. I suspect that there is more in Canada that was made in Stroud 2 centuries ago than in England - courtesy of the Hudson Bay Company.” I responded “funny you should say that about Stroud cloth and the Hudson Bay Company.  It may be here but the record keeping and research to trace the journey is sadly lacking. I was looking into it for a story I wrote for the January issue of Selvedge and now a couple of institutions realized it might be an interesting thing to look into.”

This is where this issue Volume 8 Issue 1, “Textile Tracking and Trekking,” began.

In this issue you will find stories about three of Canada’s Living History Museums:

Thomas Alder’s Weaving Shed at Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London Ontario, 

Textile Arts at Lang Pioneer Village Museum in Keen Ontario near Peterborough, and

Textiles at Upper Canada Village located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River between Morrisburg and Cornwall, Ontario.

These should be consider the first stop in the journey back to the new France and British North America that the Hudson Bay Company was first  trading with and later supplying.

While looking back is one way to observe textiles, looking at what is happening now from the stand point of social history is one way, while using a critical eye is another.  Fiber Philadelphia, while not an event happening in Canada, had a Canadian component and I attended the opening weekend: “Four days on the Velvet Highway”  gives  the social history approach, while reviews of two exhibitions, my review of  “A sense of Place” and “Fiber Optic” reviewed by Ashley Rodriguez Reed  provide a  critical view.

In my yearly list / bibliography of textile exhibitions, events in Canada and the media coverage/ reviews they received (which has been extended to cover the last 18 months), the ratio is sadly unbalanced with 47 exhibitions put on and I could only find  2 reviewed in print. 0ne of which I wrote for Studio magazine and I am not including what I have written for fibreQUARTERLY. There may be some reviews in Blogs but I did not find them. This speaks volumes to me.  The economics of art writing, advertising, and mainstream publishing is not the only reason for the lack of coverage nor are the divisions between makers working in different textile genres and their positioning this work as art or craft is making the placement of stories and reviews difficult. From firsthand experience, I know there is a great deal of writing published in diverse and disparate publications and a great hunger for this information, it’s just hard to locate.   With these yearly lists I try to bring these sources together. Successful or not it is just the tip of an iceberg. In this issue three more reviews have been added to this list.

There were five retrospectives exhibitions in the 2010 2011 season  mounted in Canada that look at creative production in Canada in the last third of the twentieth Century.  The Fabric of Clay: Alexandra McCurdy was one of them. This show has just opened in its third venue at Saint Mary’s Art Gallery, Halifax Nova Scotia.  I saw it at Burlington Arts Centre, Lee-Chin Family Gallery, September 17th - Oct 30th, 2011, where it originated.

 On the Back Page Xu Jia from the China Academy of Art who I met in Kaunas Lithuania last October provides us with ‘Rewind Kaunas’ A Survey Report of Kaunas Biennial Textile ’11

I hope you enjoy this journey on the Velvet Highway (later then intended, but it couldn’t be helped I was travelling) and remember to read textiles and celebrate them.


 in the garden

Editor Joe Lewis, Calgary June 3 2012.

The next issue “Finishing School” with a look at Textiles on film.

Websites of interest

Stroud Textile Trust http://stroud-textile.org.uk/

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