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Conference report

April 16, 2012

At the end of March I attended the 11th biennial conference of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. As a delegate I attended the AGM during the conference, and was interested to discover what the Association actually does, other than produce a journal and organise the conference!

Wrapped around the AGM were fascinating lectures. The theme of the conference was “Outside the Circle” and therefore the speakers were chosen from beyond the traditional “craft” circuit.

Dierdre Wood’s talk “Beyond the straight and narrow” began by giving us an insight into the strip woven mudcloths of Mali, before describing her “architectural tapestries”. These are created by using a backed cloth technique, which creates a double faced, warp faced cloth. This sculptural medium, which Dierdre then twists and stitches together. I will certainly be investigating the possibilities of displaying my work in this way, particularly when using the inkle loom to create similarly narrow, warp faced bands.

The final section of Dierdre’s talk demonstrated the continuation of the theme of twisted textiles by the creation of curved pieces. This was achieved through the use of warp threads with differing stretch (silk and linen), which caused the fabric to “slump” when removed from the loom. Taken to its extreme, this can be used to create circular strips of fabric, and comment was made that the Olympic Committee had clearly missed out on utilising this artists skills!


The second lecture was entirely different in tone. James Laxton, whose spinning mill has been run by his family since 1907 gave us a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of the British yarn production industry. From producing many tonnes of fancy yarns in its heyday, the company had been manufacturing almost all of its products in Europe for a number of years, before the decision was made to bring all production back to Yorkshire. From teddy bear fabric to London fashion week, air gun dart tails to “Pinkie knits” (finger knitting kits) diversification is clearly the key to survive in the manufacturing industry in the UK. Laxtons website provides further information about the array of different projects the company is now involved in.

Finally, Jan Bowman creates spatial divides, panels and sculptures, and bases her work on the rhythm of nature, incorporating many non-traditional weaving materials into her work, such as metal, wire, beads, reed, bamboo, paper and willow. These artworks are achieved through the use of a monofilament warp in a doubleweave structure, which holds the textural items in place while allowing the materials to retain their own characteristics in the weft.

In addition to the lectures, there was a display of work from the last summer school, held in 2011 in Edinburgh:

Examples of work to inspire us to enter the 2012 Association exhibition:

And further inspiration in the form of work submitted (and passed for) the Certificate of Achievement:

All in all it was a thoroughly inspiring weekend.

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