Textile Centre Haslach: Poised on the Cusp by Joe Lewis

 Haslach Upper Austria

 The town of Haslach, Upper Austria  is the home of Textile Kultur Haslach an organization that has hosted a month long textile focused festival featuring exhibitions, symposium, workshops and a weekend weaver market since 1990 [photo: TKH]

TKH logo

The Future is Now: This past July 2009, Textile Kultur Haslach played host to the European Textile Network's biannual conference as part of this years festival. Held in the town's newly opened  Textile Centre which fitted perfectly with the conferences theme “Revival of Old Textile Centres: a new future for training” the following article will outline the Centre's concept, the regions textile history and the plan to establish the Textile Centre Haslach as a model for the generation of international textile education, research and production facility for artist and designers.  

textile Centre Haslach
an up hill view of the newly renovated former Vonwiller Linen Mill  from the millstream [photo: TKH]

Textile Centre Haslach, Concept

An innovative approach to weaving and textile art education has come to the forefront in Austria at the same time that traditional academic textile departments are struggling for space in Universities and Art Colleges world wide. The concept is simple, as the home base for the culture entrepreneurial organization Textile Kultur Haslach,(i) the former Vonwiller linen spinning and weaving mill in Haslach Upper Austria brings together three existing Institutions under one roof:

1 weavers museume loom
one of the machinal looms in the collection of the Weavers Museum which is being relocated into the Textile Centre [photo: Joe Lewis]

1.) Haslach Weavers Museum founded in 1970s the relocation will included the restructuring of its historic inventory,

2.) Manufaktur Haslach(ii) which was founded in 1990 by Mühlviertel sheep farmers and craftsmen working with native sheep breeds such as the (Boehmer) Forest sheep; they produce a line of felted and woven products including clothing and yardage.

3.) Technischen Fachschulen Haslach’s weaving school was scheduled as a third partner active partner in the textile center. The school had excellent technical equipment, which in the past worked with artists and designers on cooperative projects but has been closed do to lack of enrolment (jobs moved off shore)

sampling loom
sampling loom [photo: Joe Lewis]

The adjacent buildings have already established FAB depot facilities and Textiles Archive with a large collection regional material including pattern books, literature, and textiles which are open to amateurs and experts for scientific purposes. With this conglomeration of textile activity, the Haslach Textile Centre becomes a new model for exchange and education for textile arts and industry.

sample book
Pattern Book from Textile Archive [photo: Joe Lewis]

haslach logo
 close up of woolen textile woven at Manufaktur Haslach [photo: Heldi Arts]

felting slippers
Manufaktur Haslach employeeshaping felted slipper [photo:Joe Lewis]

next; “Revival of Old Textile Centres: a new future for training”

“Revival of Old Textile Centres: a new future for training” European Textile Network’s 15th Biannual Conference:  Opening Night July 21, 2007

vips at opening
Hannes Bohaumilitzky, representative for cultural affairs of Haslach, Dominik Reisinger, Major of Haslach/Müh, Christian Lietner TKH, Ursula Feyerer, assistent of the head of the Austrian textie industry, Angela Ortner, President of the Provincial Assembly of Upper Austria, Reinhard Backhausen, Maria Walcher: Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage Austria [photo:TKH]

“There is a saying “tradition is not storing the ashes but keeping the flame alight”. For centuries this region has been characterised by its textile tradition. Now one of the oldest cultural techniques of humanity is being called before the curtain, presented and documented thanks to the exceptional commitment of Textile Kultur Haslach”. Angela Ortner, President of the Provincial Assembly of Upper Austria

“We want to promote in Haslach a state-of-the-art, future-oriented mode of education and training.” Dominik Reisinger, Major of Haslach/Müh

“TEXTILE CULTURE HASLACH is the perfect example how the textile spirit can survive also in the future. Austria has a very long tradition for textiles and it is essential to preserve the know-how in our country and to hand it over to the next generations”. Reinhard Backhausen, President of the Association of the Austria Textile Industry (iii)

“The National Agency refuses to put elements of intangible cultural heritage under glass shedding tears over old ‘genuine’ traditions. On the contrary we aim to raise awareness for a sensible use of practical knowledge and appreciate your substantial contributions” Maria Walcher: Head of the National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage Austria Commission for UNESCO (iv)

opening night2
   Angela Ortner, Christina Leitner and Reinhard Backhausen standing infront of "Breath" by Monika Zaltauskaite Grasiene. woven on TC-1, metal wire, Polyester, 220cm X 70 cm, 2008 [photo:TKH]

 Opening night of the Thinking Different: Thinking JacquART exhibition and the European Textile Network(v) 2009 Conference at Textile Centre Haslach in Upper Austria brought out the top regional politicians and representatives of national Industrial and Cultural organizations, artist, educators and researchers from around the globe. With messages of congratulations, and encouragement from the the Austrian agencies present and the patronage of the Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage it is quite apparent there is an understanding of the furtue importance of this centre that is presently creating itself in Haslach Upper Austria. Textile Kultur Haslach bringing the ENT Conference to the Centre, which has grown out of the forward thinking local administration that purchased the former Vonwiller Textile Mill in the early 1990s, is just the latest coup. This group of textile professionals, enthusiasts and this new centre are sitting on the cusp of a new era built on centuries of textile production traditions.

opening night3
Opening Night introduction of the artist from the Thinking Different: Thinking JacquART exhibition. [photo:Joe Lewis]

 opening night 2
Group artist standing in the front room of temporary two room gallery space which will house the Weaving Museum. some of the central group is Wen-Ying Huang (from Taiwan, Susanne Heindl from Austria, Ismini Samanidou from England (in short sleeves) [photo:TKH]  

Next: Austia Textiles then and now 
Austria textiles then and now

In the 16th century the "Weavers' Market" in Haslach was one of the most important linen weaving markets in Austria in a time when Linen production was extremely controlled by the Austrian state, importation and export where prohibited they depended solely on local production. In 1850 there was 1500 Flax spinning, weaving and oil processing mills in Austria, in 2007 according to the Association of the Austria Textile Industry are 155 textile companies with a total staff of 14,600 employees. 

Collection of sample books from mills in the Muehlviertel region in Austria used for research during Project M  a collaborative project with weaving mills F. Leitner KG in Ulrichsberg and Vieböck in Helfenberg and done at the Linz Art Universities Department of Textile / Art & Design [photo:Christina Leitner]

In the Great Exhibition of 1862 in London where the main attraction was pavilion from Japan which had recently been forced to open to trade, a report to Queen Victoria stated “A considerable quantity of Flax yarn and Linens, spun and manufactured chiefly in Bohemia and Silesia, are shown in the Exhibition. The yarns are exhibited in the natural, bleached, and dyed states. Some of the specimens are admirably spun, and would do no discredit to the mills of Dundee, Leeds, or Belfast…  Some beautiful damask curtains and table Linens are shown, of very rich and lovely designs, and of most superior quality. The Linens exhibited in the Austrian department are possessed of much excellence, and do great honour to the various houses producing them, as well as to the sections of that empire in which they are made."  (v)
Sample book from Deyer's Museum in Guta. The region’s traditional blueprint cloth is used in the national dresses as well as for upholstered furniture.[photo: Hilde Arts]

A century and a half later mass textile production all over Europe and North America is in the ascendance and new innovative approaches are need. The skills and knowledge that have developed through generations of employment and have been supported with technical education such as the Technischen Fachschulen Haslach could be lost with in a generation. The Weaving school which was scheduled to move into the Textile Centre was shutdown last year due to lack of enrolment which is directly related to the closures of mills and/or their moving “Off Shore”. There is still a plan to move the machinery from the school to the Centre and the opportunity for re-imagining the future of a Textile education combining Textile Art, and Design with Technical Industrial training has arrived.
collection of Table clothes  
This collection of table linens was part of the research material looked at for Project M [photo:Christina Leitner]

On going activities in the historic linen weaving area in which the Textile Centre Haslach is located has been technical and design research. There is a vast amount of historical material held in various institutions such as the Deyer's Museum in Guta, the Textile Archives in Haslach, and the private collections of the remaining mills and private hands. The process of using/accessing this material for research has recently resulted in the 2007 exhibition “At a Right Angles - Weaving in Design and Art” presents Project M [vi], pattern, myth, Mühlviertel, June 17 – July 24 2007 an Exhibition of Art University Linz and the Institute of Art and Design in Helfenberg at the Culture Factory. This exhibition and the resulting catalogue presented material from three phases of a research project that was instigated by two weaving firms in the Mühlviertler, F. Leitner KG in Ulrichsberg and Vieböck in Helfenberg and done at the Linz Art Universities Department of Textile / Art & Design. One of the intentions of this project was to identify unique regional designs, allow students to experiment with local patterns to develop new design which where then assessed for production quality giving these students first hand experience with industrial production. Two of these designs have since gone into production. The exhibition had an active education programme for school aged children and a bilingual catalogue was produced.

education Porject M
Children doing Project M activities at the Culture Factory in Helfenberg summer 2007 [photo:Christina Leitner]

 next: Textile Kultur HaslachTextile Kultur Haslach

This association was founded in 1991 and has made its mission to promote textile art and culture in its broad spectrum. The aim was to create a connection between tradition and modernity, art and technology, trade and industry, research and teaching, experiment and practice. It has been running the contemporary Weavers Market since the early 1990s along with a yearly festival of; exhibitions, Symposiums dealing with textile practices, historic and contemporary, textile history along with workshop series has proven itself more the capable of leading this enterprise. In the last four years alone the festivals has partnered with or presented projects which had added to textile and museum research internationally.

nono 1
 Yardage designed by Reiko Sudo [photo;TKH]
2006: “2121: The Textile Vision of Reiko Sudo and NUNO” July 17th -­ August 27th curated by Professor Lesley Millar, Reader in Contemporary Craft Practice, University College for the Creative Arts, as part of ‘Context and Collaboration with "VISIONS JAPANESE” symposium.
table cloth 2007TKH
  "Revealed: Table and Cloth”  2007 exhibition in Haslach during Textile Kultur Haslach summer festival was about regional textile history and design analyzes. [photo;TKH]

 2007 "Revealed: table & cloth from the Collection Rechberger" July 15th - September 30th. This exhibition of over 500 table cloths from two centuries are the result of decades of active collecting in the Mühlviertel and other traditional weaving areas.

in be tween
Opening night of "Between Space(s)" [photo;TKH]

 2008 “zwischen räume(n)“,"between Space(s)" Twenty four pieces where chosen from out of one hundred submissions from seventeen different countries. This international exhibition was curated around the theme of change to celebrate the space in which the show would be held. This building was going to be the last renovation in the conversation of the Vonwiller Mill into the Haslach Textile Centre and this exhibition was meant to honour and celebrate the concept of “the space in between”. Think about weaving and interlacing, and if you know how felting happens then you can begin to imagine the different approaches.

petter Hellsing TJ
Petter Hellsing  from Sweden "Urban Weft" 2008/09, Jacquard woven, hand and machin embrodery cotton rayon, wood, 30 x 40 x 70 cm (each)part of 2009 Thinking Different Thinking JacquART [photo:joe Lewis]

Art University Linz Associate Professor Christina Leitner who did much of the ground work with Projekt M project and is in part responsible for the concept of a operating a weaving school at the Textile Centre must be thanked for bringing the European Textile Network Conference to the centre this past July 2009. This event provided an international audience of artist, curators, educators and writers to see what is happening in Haslach first hand. As in previous years, workshops and exhibitions where part of this years summer schedule. JacquART Gewebe von Franz J. Ippoldt and Thinking Different; Thinking JacquArt presents a multitude of approaches to jacquard weaving. Weavings from Franz J. Ippoldt a solo show with annotation shows the skill and virtuosic finesse that Franz J. Ippoldt brings to his historic replication work and contemporary experiments. Thinking Different is three shows in one presenting a group of five internationally renowned artist who where invited, a pre-selected invitational juried exhibition of 28 pieces and the work of three Taiwanese students that have been studying at Linz.  All of this work was executed on the TC-1 Norway an adaptable loom that was developed by Vibeke Vestby in the early 19990 with “innovation” funding from the Norwegian Government and is being used in many textile and design departments internationally and by a hand full of individual artist.

franz 1
Weaver Franz J. Ippoldt decussing his work, a left Damask silkand right "Pogodenburg Garden" Velvet, 1998- 2003 60 meters. for the German National Meusem, warp organzine silk , polchrome, weft: weft silk and sliver strips [photo:

the next step: The next step

With the type of intelligent planning and forethought shown by government and cultural funding bodies in Austria by supporting the development of the facilities at Haslach two things come together in the Haslach Textile Centre, the local “Human Capital” and “Knowledge Base” the main components of what is now being called the “Culture Class” The initiative to bring these elements together which has gained government support is in danger of losing momentum as it is stalled while waiting for decisions on the funding for the development of curriculum and hiring of an array of local and international educators from industry and the arts can turn this month long summer event into an international centre of practical applied and fine textile arts education and research. 

weaving equipment atTCH

ETN Conference particapants, Weh-Ying Huang from Tainan National College of the Arts, Tainan, Taiwan, Dianna Springall, emboriodery historian/ artist from the UK and Bethanne Kudson weaver designer and director of the Jacquard Centre/ Oriole Mill in North Carolina in the US, looking at one of the power looms from the weaving school which has been relocated to the Textile Centre [photo:joe lewis]

There are precedents for this type of textile research and production centres like the Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio in Italy, and the Textiel Lab and Academy Textiel at the Tilburg Textile Museum in the Netherlands. Many however have a research archives but not the production facilities. While Museums like the Silk Museum in Macclesfield, England have under utilized archives with the near by Loom Room where weaver, lecture Stacey Harvey Brown gives design and weaving workshops including an intensive two week crash course in Jacquard for experienced weavers there are not many places set up for University course equivalents. In North America center's like the Jacquard Center in North Carolina which has industrial weaving production equipment and the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles for hand and computer assisted hand weaving equipment teach design workshops for designers and artist producing samples or can be hired for limited run production, they do not house extensive archives for research. The MCCT in Montreal does operate as a contract classroom for Textile Construction Courses offered by a school with out the equipment and some individual teachers from American institutions have tapped into using the Jacquard Center to provide their students with the through line of experience from design to industrial end products meeting textile product standards

tc1 worshop
TC-1 loom being looked abt by Agnes Hauptli from New Zealand, Khatuna Popiashvili from Geiorgia and Vibeke Vestby from Norway who deveplod the loom.[photo Joe Lewis]  

 As the 1950 through 70s brought a new period rapid industrial expansion to Europe and North America, like the industrial revolution did a century before, the past 40 years have been a slow to rapid loss leaving industrial ghost towns. The concept of Living Museums which has fed into the preservation of historical sites points to one way the remaining contemporary factory can go if it is going to survive. A network of 8 Industrial Museums in Germany includes The Bocholt Textile Museum which is an authentic reconstruction of a typical cotton mill in the West Münsterland region, of which there were very many but no old mill to move into so the “Factory” was created. With a range of machinery covering 70 years of development they operate for demonstration purposes rather then production. Some of the staff does weave cloth on the old handlooms based on the historic collection and in ‘workers” house and garden you can learn more about the daily lives of weavers.

workers Home
  Display of pre industrialization "Cottage Weavers Home" at the Weavers Museum in Haslach [photo; Joe Lewis]

 In the way the Textile Centre Haslach is more then a Living Museum. Addressing both the historical textile production of the region, and housing an operating mill it is pointing to a new way of adaptive renewal which other countries may want to look at. As a “Living Museum” with an accredited and continuing education programming combining Textile arts and industrial design and production Textile Centre Haslach can become an important centre for curators, educators, and historians. It can as either an independent or auxiliary campus to the Textile and Design Department of Arts University Linz provide accredited undergraduate, graduate and post doc education. It can blend the ongoing actives of Textile Kultur Haslach’s workshops, exhibitions and symposiums that has brought international artist/ designers and the ever increasing ‘Themed traveler” textile tourist into the Haslach region each July with an international artist in residence program. It can operate year round and be both a model for and example of the future facility which “will act as a nucleus, and counter to the general trend of migration of textile knowledge and build cultural awareness by preserving historical heritage, technical equipment and skill in one place and is actively handed on.” Textile Centre Haslach is an exciting development in the recent Textile Manufacturing History of closure mills and disappearance of skill and may revitalize what remains “On Shore” 

weaving at Vieboeck
 Students working with staff at Vieböck Mill in Helfenberg in March 2006 during "projekt: M" [photo: Christina Leitner]

 As the local regional and national government has borough the Textile Centre Haslach to the edge of the future they need to be encouraged to take the leap. The concerns over this ‘current economic climate” must be accepted as the normal state of things for the immediate and foreseeable future. The Austrian government needs to continue to be innovative in its ways of remaking industry.  To quote Reinhard Backhausen: President of the Association of the Austria Textile Industry “The motto should be: lets raise textile manufacturing to the status of art.” 

 The future really is now


flax garden
 Flax growing in the natuarl dye garden in the transition level behind the Texile Centre Haslach [photo Joe lewis]

Links to websites for organizations mentitioned in this articel 
(i) Textile Kultur Haslach http://www.textile-kultur-haslach.at/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1
(ii) Manufactur Haslach http://www.alom.at/ 
(v) European Textile Network http://www.etn-net.org/ 
(vi) Projeck M
(vii) Context and Collaboration’ - generating cross-sector discussions between contemporary textile practitioners, curators and academics. The discussion specifically focuses on the role of museums, galleries and Higher Education Institutions in developing a framework for identifying needs and determining strategies for collaboration across and between sectors.

Context and Collaboration will take the programming of contemporary textile as a case study; how to enable the presentation or prioritisation of contemporary textile exhibitions http://www.contextandcollaboration.com/index.html


A fabric Collectors diary: Austrian Linen http://belovedlinens.net/fabrics/Austrian-Linen.html

I would like to thank the Canada Council for the Travel Grant that enabled my attendance at the European Textile Network Conference at the Textile Centre Haslach.