Monday, 6 February 2012

On Words and Books

I have come to realise that words have a mind of their own. Some weeks they are sorely lacking, as I sit in front of my laptop with either very little new to say, or no way of ordering the words I do have into complete sentences. Other days they come pouring out too quickly, not giving me enough time to structure them into coherent sentences or arguments. These mindsets have happened to me successively in the last two weeks, before settling into a happy medium today in which they flow, not too fast, not too slow. Hurray! I finally realise that this is a cyclical thing - I imagine next week I will be tearing my hair out again.

Whilst I plod on with my thesis, others have been busy publishing some beautiful books on tapestry and textiles. Textiles The Whole Story is a gloriously illustrated book, published by Thames & Hudson, written by Beverly Gordon, Professor in the Design Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her intention with the book is to take an holistic approach to textiles, in which they are seen in the context of our bodies, society, the land and communication. The book is structured thematically, rather than chronologically. Some might say that this leads to the exclusion of a historical narrative, but it is an inspiring and thought-provoking tool.

A recent publication which is more specifically relevant to me is Tapestry A Woven Narrative published by black dog publishing. The authors have produced a really rich book, with historical context, contemporary weavers, in focus pieces on three major weaving studios (Dovecot included of course!) and a section on the technique of tapestry weaving. Particularly interesting are the appendices, which include two essays from Dovecot Studios' 1980 exhibition catalogue Master Weavers. Both Tapestry A Woven Narrative and Textiles The Whole Story are available from the Dovecot shop in Edinburgh.

Two further interesting publications are coming out later in the year, and both are edited by one of my supervisors, Dr Jessica Hemmings.

The Textile Reader follows on from Berg's highly successful The Creaft Reader and The Design History Reader. It brings together contributions from makers, academics, curators, blogs and fiction and is thematically structured under the headings 'touch', 'memory', 'structure', 'politics', 'production' and 'use'. Warp and Weft, published by A&C Black, will focus more directly on 'the woven structure and its use in recent experimental art and design'. I can't wait to read both.

And for a bit of self-promotion... The Art of Modern Tapestry, Dovecot Studios since 2012 will be published by Lund Humphries in July, and will be available directly from Dovecot. The book, edited by Dr Elizabeth Cumming, features a historical essay by Elizabeth herself, a shorter essay by Dovecot Director David Weir on Dovecot's recent history and its future, followed by an in focus section which looks at 38 tapestries from Dovecot's history. These include Lord of the Hunt (1912-1924), the Had Gadya series designed by Frank Stella in the 1970s, and quick, slow (2010) by Clare Barclay. The in focus section includes contributions from artists, weavers, patrons, curators and me!

You can probably tell that books are my greatest weakness and luxury - for me, an iPad or a kindle will never manage to replicate the excitement of opening up a new art book, in all its glorious technicolour!

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