Day two was just as jam-packed with fascinating papers so I have picked out some of the highlights.
I was captivated by Sharon Blakey (MMU) and Liz Mitchell's (MAG) presentation on their collaborative work on the Mary Greg collection at Manchester Art Gallery for their project Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. Mary Greg donated her collection of 'heirlooms and handicrafts' to the gallery in 1922 where it has remained in storage for decades, uncatalogued and unloved. The collection consists of everyday objects and paraphernalia from Greg's life and represents the society in which she lived. Inspired by John Ruskin, she intended the collection to be of benefit to the public, especially the working classes. Their progress has been charted on their fabulous blog.
On day 1 a number of us had been discussing the pros and cons of blogs. As you can tell, I quite enjoy mine and many of the teachers had made blogging part of the curriculum for their students. But what also became clear was the number of teachers/makers who did not use it, for a number of reasons: it interrupted their train of thought, they did not want to share ideas before they had time to germinate, a fear of plagiarism and a feeling that they already wrote enough about their work. The pairings project at MMU had originally had a blog for all participants to communicate with, but it proved to be unsuccessful to its technicalities and the feeling from participants that it was an unnecessary addition to the communication they were already having with their partners (by email, phone or face to face). In the case of the Mary Greg collection, however, it was a really successful way to introduce the public to live research and allow them to view images of the objects.
Avni Varia and Cindy Gould spoke on the Savarkundla Project, in the Gujarat region of India. The project teaches local women how to create textile pieces which they can then sell, creating a sustainable economic future for them and their families.
HAT Project, Jeremy Theophilus and Barney Hare Duke.
The day was finished by an early-evening performance by sampler-cultureclash. Consisting of a collective of DJs, embroiderers, sound artists, textile designers and many more, they come together to explore the relationship between sound and textiles, using the common theme of the 'sampler' as a starting point. One of the performers had sensors attached to her finger and embroidery frame whilst she was sewing, one of the many sounds added to the DJ's samples as the music developed. It was an enveloping and absorbing performance.
So, what does all this have to do with tapestry? What became evident during the conference is that many practitioners encounter the same themes and issue which I have encountered during my research into Dovecot Studios: the challenges and benefits for interdisciplinary collaboration, the issue of receiving credit for your work and skill and the importance of thinking as well as doing. For me, the conference was especially valuable as an opportunity to spend time with people for whom 'process' is a major part of their work and research. In an art history department, such as Edinburgh, it is all too easy to become fixated on the object without a thorough investigation of the processes involved in its making. Two days with 50 makers is enough to persuade you otherwise.