Editorial:Reading Textiles PDF  | Print |  E-mail

ROM fragment

Tiraz fragment Linen and silk tapestry in a linen tabby ground Egypt,
Fatimid dynasty mid-12th century,
Artifact 961.107.3 ROM Collectio (currently on display in the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles & Costume)


Reading Textiles:

Reading textiles is easy if you know how to do it, they tell stories so they say. Who are they? Academics, art and craft historians, textile scientist and researchers, reviewers, designers, practitioners, bloggers, you and me. We are all story tellers and we find our stories where we may. In this issue I thought I would have a quick look around at the different places you find textile writing and suggest a few different approaches.

There are numerous commercial magazines covering crafts internationally with occasional articles on textile and fibre work such as American Crafts, and in Canada we have the Studio Magazine from the Ontario Craft Council (by subscription with a limited news stand distribution) and the (Newfoundland) Craft Council Magazine on-line magazine

There are few publications dedicated exclusively to Textiles Arts such as FIBERARTS Magazine from Interweave press in the United States which also publishes fifteen or more “How To” magazines and Selvedge Magazine from Brittan which looks at textiles in relation to art and crafts, education, fashion, interior design and travel/ shopping. Then there are the publications with a focus on specific ways of working: quilting, weaving, dying and spinning, knitting and beading. Many of these operate in two ways: commercial publications such as Quilting Arts Magazine which has a mix of profiles of art quilters and “How To”, or in house publications for quasi professional organizations such as Surface Design Journal from the American based Surface Design Association, Textile Forum from the European Textile Network or Shuttle Spindle and Dye from the Hand Weavers Guild of America.

All of the above magazines have the occasional profiles or reviews of Canadian artist and exhibitions for example, two issues of Selvedge this year have had reviews of exhibitions at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto: “The Blues” curated by Patricia Bentley, Issue 21, review written by Andrea Carson and “Between the Sea and the Desert” curated by Natalia Nekrassova Issue 22, review written by joe lewis.

There was a much needed addition to Canadian textiles and fibre Arts literature with the publication of “Craft Perception and Practice Volume 3, A Canadian Discourse”  edited  by Paula Gustafson, Nisse Gustafson and Amy Gogarty, in 2007 including nine textile art/ craft related essays and “Crafting New Traditions: Canadian Innovators and Influences” with two more essays  this past February 2008,  along with its launch and one day symposium at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.  Sandra Alfody’s “Struggles for Recognition” takes a look at historical textile production in Canada starting with an anonymous Coast Salish weaver (source fibre mountain goat and domesticated “Wool Dogs”) and moving to early 20th century practitioners Karen Bulow and Mary E. Black and Dorrie Millerson’s article “A Flexible Practice: the work of (contemporary mid career artist) Kia Chan, Dorothy Coldwell and Susan Warner Keene and “the Past is a Foreign Country” by Sandra Flood add to an almost call to arms for more craft and Textile/ fibre arts publishing.

While the need to document and critic contemporary textile practices and bring forward a past that is always slipping into obscurity we must also look at and beyond the precedent of the established outlets for this type of writing and research. In this issue I am pointing out a few different sources, publications in print and on the web. In this issue we have reprinted with permission: “Beyond Cowboy Culture: Recent Textile Exhibitions in Alberta Museums” from the Textile Society of America Newsletter 20(p.14.), by Michelle Hardy, Decorative Arts Curator for The Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary and Anthea Mallinson’s review/ commentary on Kaija Rautiainen's show of jacquard tapestries at Circle Craft Gallery on Granville island in Vancouver. This review was first posted on the galleries own Blog and submitted to us by Anthea who teaches at Capilano College at the suggestion of Ruth Scheuing. Our Finishing School column this issue features an interview session Monica Bodirsky had with the four textile graduates from OCAD and I take a brief look at the Battle Ground Project at the Textile Museum of Canada and quickly point you in the direction of two extremely interesting blogs dealing with collecting, documenting and exhibiting Afghanistan War Rugs.

Katherine Morley, an industrial designer, singer/songwriter, disc jockey and writer takes a look at The Big Knit Landscape Section 4, an installation by Deborah Wang and William Elsworthy, that was on exhibit at the design store MADE, the same store responsible for the Radiant Dark exhibition in the Burroughs Building in the Queen and Bathurst neighbourhood which was the site off a major fire just days before the exhibition last February (but that is a different story!)

I believe that other than introducing you to the Canadian magazine “A Needle Pulling Thread” in which I have written my first Fibre Report column for their Summer issue, that this is my summer issue.


 joelewis july 1 2008


knitted portrait
knitted  joe lewis (by  brook Ludbrook)
fetish doll by Emily Hamill
Photo credit:
"Tiraz fragment" This image and accompanying information has been provided by the ROM and used with permission.
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