Reflections on the Textile Society of America's tenth Biannual Symposium PDF  | Print |  E-mail

Textile Narratives and Conversations  

Janice Lessman-Moss TSA External Relations Director


From October 11 through 14, 2006 the Textile Society of America’s international membership convened in Toronto, Canada for it’s 10th biennial Symposium.  Founded in 1988, the TSA established the symposium as the organization’s core event to reflect their mission to “provide an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide, from artistic, cultural, economic, historic, political, social and technical perspectives.”  The breadth and depth of this year’s offerings, which began with an inspiring keynote address by author Wade Davis and included a diverse range of papers, panels, discussions, and plenary sessions brilliantly, encompassed the goal of TSA’s mission.  Hosted by the Textile Museum of Canada and the Harbourfront Centre, the Symposium “Textile Narratives + Conversations” organized by Nataley Nagy and Frances Dorsey, featured a record number of speakers and participants drawn from 12 countries around the world. An introductory workshop, “Identifying Textiles: Techniques and Terminology,” provided a wonderful beginning to the proceedings.  The 2006 Symposium was augmented by many exciting pre- and post conference textile related tours to galleries, museum, collections, markets and Toronto’s culturally rich neighbourhoods.   

The TSA’s commitment to professional development and advancement of the field was celebrated again at this year’s Symposium with the recognition of several awards programs.  The Lillian Elliot Award for an outstanding fibre artist was presented to Andrea Vander Kooij of Montreal Canada.  The R.L. Shep Book Award, given annually to the best book of the year in the field of ethnic textile studies went to David W. and Barbara Fraser for Mantles of Merit: Chin Textiles from Myanman, India and Bangladesh and to Arctic Clothing  of North America - Alaska, Canada, Greenland, edited by J.C.H King, Birgit Pauksztat and Robert Storrie.  This Symposium also marked the inauguration of the Student/New Professional Scholarships and the announcement of a new award named in honour of the founding presidents (Peggy Gilfoy (deceased), Miton Sonday, Lotus Stack, Mattiebelle Gittinger and Louise W. Mackie). The first recipients will be awarded funding for participation in our 11th biennial Symposium “Textiles as Cultural Expressions” to be held in Honolulu Hawaii from September 24 through 27, 2008.   

Conference proceedings for the TSA 10th Biennial Symposium will be forthcoming to TSA members in the spring.  To become a member and learn more about the next symposium please visit our website at www.textilesociety.org  

Other opportunities and deadlines:

Abstracts and Panel Proposals for the 11th Biennial Symposium “Textiles as Cultural Expressions” are due by October 1, 2007.

Nominations for the R.L. Shep Book Award for books published in 2006 are due by March 15, 2007.  

Please check our website for additional details and further information about membership, tours and the latest news.

(Reference: Carol Bier, TSA President, TSA Winter 2007 Newsletter)

 Janice Lessman-Moss, TSA External Relations Director, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it    



Wendy Wiess 

Wendy Weiss was Chair and presenter in the Culture and Content: Innovation in Education session. She is professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Image from Give and Take: The Artist/Student Dialogue  February 5 - March 2, 2007.at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery in Lincoln Nebraska  work left to right: The Gift Hollis Chatelaine, The Punch Bowl Susan Shie, A Mayan Child Moves to Maine in November, Elizabeth Cherry Owen, (detailed information below)

Here Wendy Wiess speaks of her department rather then here experience at the TSA Symposium.



Nebraska is situated in the great plains of the United States with scant population—23 people per square mile—and it only takes us 18 minutes to drive to work.  The population of the entire state is less than 1.8 million while in Lincoln we have 240,000 and 3,030 people per square mile. Thirty-six percent of the total population lives in Omaha and Lincoln clustered on the eastern edge of the state. It takes a full day to drive from one side of the state to the other.  

So why, you might ask, does Lincoln, Nebraska have such a vibrant textile arts community?  We are home to both the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery, established in 1994, and the International Quilt Studies Center, established in 1997. Prior to the development of these two entities, both housed in the Textiles, Clothing and Design Department at the University of Nebraska, which is part of the College of Education and Human Sciences, the department had teaching collections of historic textiles and costumes, which we periodically exhibited in showcases in the hallway or other university gallery spaces.  If we wanted to show student work, we had to find places around campus and in the community.  

With shifting academic times in the early 1990’s programs moved and space became available for creating the venue now known as the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery. We sealed a teaching classroom to exterior light, painted the ceiling black, installed track lighting with rheostats, covered the walls with durable carpeting, and put in a security system to protect the work.  

Without adding extra staff, we have managed to create an international exhibition space that promotes contemporary work in our field, showcases the work of our own undergraduate and graduate students, and features work from our collections.  We have approximately nine exhibitions each year and have produced 3 full color catalogues featuring the work of three different artists:  Jane Sauer, Ana Lisa Hedstrom and Cynthia Schira.  Additionally, we have published full color brochures with critical essays for artists Nancy Koenigsberg and Lewis Knauss.  We regularly offer workshops to the public by our visiting artists and invite children and youth into the gallery from the local public schools.  

We operate on a shoestring budget and have worked hard to create a supportive Friends organization that raises money to help underwrite our exhibitions.  The Nebraska Arts Council has consistently provided funding for our exhibitions and other granting agencies, foundations and individuals have helped to underwrite our programs over the years.  Graduate student assistantships have been crucial to provide staffing for the ongoing work of the gallery.  Students have taken on major responsibilities for designing promotional material, installing exhibitions, unpacking and packing shows, and writing grant proposals. Department staff fulfills essential roles including budget management and web page production.  

Faculty committee members from the department govern the gallery and determine the programming.  As director of the gallery, I am responsible for general oversight of the exhibitions, promotion and programming. Frequently colleagues assume curatorial responsibility for specific exhibitions.  When graduate students choose to curate an exhibition from the International Quilt Study Collection or other collections, they work with their advisor to develop the exhibition plan, design and funding.  

The chance to be director of this gallery has been a fabulous opportunity. It  has provided me with the chance to form friendships with a wide array of incredible artists and allowed me to contribute to the visibility of a field that I love and believe is vital and evolving.  Please visit our web page at http://textilegallery.unl.edu/  and make plans to come to Nebraska. 

Image two. left to right; Body Parts  Sue Benner, Walking Over Hot Coals, Terrie Hancock Mangat, Tall Formations, Judy Langille, MOOG, Jan Myers-Newbury (detailed information below) 


Wendy Weiss is professor of Textiles, Clothing and Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences at University of Nebraska- Lincoln where she has been on the faculty since 1986. She is director of the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery. She teaches woven and non-woven textile design, surface design, foundation and graduate level courses.

In 2002 she earned a Winterthur Museum and Library Residential Fellowship where she studied weaving manuscripts to adapt complex weave structure for contemporary artwork. In her current creative work she is collaborating with Jay Kreimer to make environments that integrate sound, movement, video and hand woven sculpture. Ground Shift was recently exhibited at the District of Columbia Art Center.


J. Penney Burton presented a paper as part of the Objects of Memory session, she is currently completing her MA at Concordia University in Montreal and here she writes of her experience at the TSA:  


 This October, I had the great fortune to be able to attend my first ever Textile Society of America symposium.  For many years now, I had been reading about the symposiums, as well as hearing reports from professors who had attended past sessions.  The fact that the symposium was in Toronto was a great plus for me, being a student who is perpetually low on finances. I really feel that this symposium was the beginning of my professional life in the textile/fibre field.  To be honest, I was surprised at the outstanding level of scholarship that was presented.  The sheer number of professionals working in the textile history, museum and conservation departments, along with the academics and independent curators and scholars truly blew my mind. Attending many of the symposium sessions and special events left me in awe of the work being done all around the world, and reinforced my decision to work in this vibrant and challenging field.  The work being done with digital technologies was the emphasis of several of the panels and sessions, and it was exciting to hear what is happening on the cutting edge in this ever-expanding area.  The role of the international artist-as-researcher is truly upon us.  Meeting so many people that I had read about, both in terms of their teaching and their own artwork was very exciting, and at points overwhelming as well.  The symposium came at an influential point in my own academic development, and afforded me the opportunity to meet most of the textile and fibre professors from all across Canada . This symposium allowed me to make the connections that will inform and assist me in my PhD research, and in fact, I ended up changing the proposal I submitted to Canadian schools based on the women I met from around this country.  All this, coupled with the textile and fibre art work being shown in numerous galleries and exhibition spaces, made this Toronto trip truly a life changing experience for me.   


Draw me a Garden © 2006 Anna Torma, provided by Art Gallery Of Hamilton and used with permission, read a review of Anna' recent show Enter the Garden: Anna Torma, by Carol-ann Casselman in this issue

J. Penney Burton is currently completing her MA in the Special Individualized Program at Concordia University combining Art and Craft History and Studio Art. She received her Interdisciplinary BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2004. She has been the recipient of a Canada Graduate Masters Scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, several Concordia University Graduate Fellowships, and was one of five people chosen to receive the Textile Society of America Student - New Professional Scholarship in October of 2006.


Abstract from TSA Symposium Presentations: 

Textiles: Stories from the Canadian Front by J. Penney Burton  

The craft of storytelling has all but disappeared from the Western cultural context and there remain few peoples whose oral traditions are still a prominent part of their everyday lives and culture. There are, however, many who believe that it is part of the artist’s role in society to comment on and share their stories and heritage in an effort to fill this void. This paper will explore the textual or narrative content in the work 0 two prominent and emerging Canadian fibre artists: Anna Torma from Baie Vert, New Brunswick and Candice Tarnowski from Calgary, Alberta. The work of Anna Torma speaks of her close family relationships as she often incorporates ideas and drawings created by her children into her detailed and narrative quilt pieces. This intergenerational collaboration results in unique and engaging work. Torma’s work also references her experiences as a Hungarian immigrant, now living and working in Canada. Candice Tarnowski creates tiny imaginary beings and worlds which speak of feelings of alienation and evoke longing for a social togetherness that is seemingly impossible in our world today. She is known for combining materials from her immediate environment with objects and materials that are imbued with her own personal meaning. Tarnowski is currently working towards her MFA at Concordia University. The voices of these women will be evident in this presentation, with images of their work being interwoven with their comments collected from personal interviews with the author.


Information about the images and the Give and Take Exhibition  above provided by Wendy Weiss:

Image One: left to right, 

The Gift, Hollis Chatelain, Hillsborough, NC, 2006, 48" x 52", 100% cotton fabric, polyester/cotton batting, Hand dye-painted with thickened fibre reactive dyes

The Punch Bowl / Star: Card #17 in the Kitchen Tar, Susan Shie, Wooster, OH, 2006, 84” x 63”,Kona cotton, paint markers, fabric paint, one green temple Buddha bead, one Peace Cozy. Painted whole cloth, hand-brushed, air pen, machine quilted, hand sewing.

 A Mayan Child Moves to Maine in November, Elizabeth Cherry Owen, Nobleboro, ME, 2007,Dedicated to Don Lam and the artists of Fair Trade Quilts, 85” x 60”.Vintage fabrics, cotton printed fabric, hand-dyed fabric, cottons, silks, buttons, beads, beach gleanings, singlet of lost wool glove pairs, Hand embroidery, hand quilted

Image Two: left to right 

Body Parts (zebra sleeve, paisley sleeve) Sue Benner, Dallas, TX, 2007, 81” x 61”, Dye and paint on silk and cotton by artist; hand-dyed cottons by Heide Stoll-Weber, Helene Davis, Judy Bianchi, and Carlene Keller; found fabrics, Fused, mono-printed, machine quilted  

Walking Over Hot Coals, Terrie Hancock Mangat, Taos, NM, 2006, 89” x 83”, Sheer hand-dyed silk, hand-woven and over-dyed ASOK cloth from Africa, Easter candy foils, river stones, glow in the dark plastic skeletons, disintegrating American flag, Ikat cotton, hand-dyed cotton, Reverse appliqué, hand embroidery, hand appliqué, top-stitching, hand quilting, and painting with acrylic paint.  


Tall Formations, Judy Langille, Glen Ridge, NJ, 2007, 55.5” x 56.5”, Cotton, mx thickened dyes, discharge paste, flannel, and threads, Torn paper resist, with layers of thickened dyes and discharge paste silkscreened through a blank screen, thermofax screened, fused, and machine stitched.  

MOOG, Jan Myers-Newbury, Pittsburgh, PA, 2006, 68” x 72”, 100% Kona cotton, dyed with Procion dyes; cotton batting, 

Give and Take: The Artist/Student Dialogue which ran February 5 - March 2, 2007. at the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery in Lincoln Nebraska 

"Give and Take"  featured quilts created by artists who have been instructors, students or both at the Quilt Surface Design Symposium (QSDS). The QSDS is a two-week educational program for non-traditional quilters held each year in Columbus, Ohio. The show celebrates the importance of the teacher and student relationship among quilt artists. The work of a representative group of professional quilt artists will be paired with work of their students.

The pairs of instructor and student artists are:

Sue Benner and Ginny Smith Elizabeth Busch and Emily Richardson Jane Burch Cochran and Cathy Jeffers Caryl Bryer-Fallert and Hollis Chatelain Terrie Hancock Mangat and Beth Kennedy Therese May and Sally Sellers Jan Myers Newbury and Judy Langille Arturo Sandoval and Niki Bonnett Susan Shie and Elizabeth Cherry Owen.

Works by several of these artists are held in the permanent collections of the International Quilt Study Center.

"Give and Take" was on during the International Quilt Study Center 's scholarly symposium, "Traditions and Trajectories: Education and the Quiltmaker", March 1-3, 2007. Several other quilt exhibitions will be held in Lincoln at the same time. These will include Reading, Writing and a Rhythmic Stitch at the Great Plains Art Museum, Quilts A to Z at the Museum of Nebraska History, Tactile Traces and Mapping the Surface at the Lux Center and European Art Quilts IV at the Haydon Art Center.


 inks in this article

Concordia University 

International Quilt Study Center 's       

Quilt Surface Design Symposium 

Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery
Textile Society of America  


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