Thursday, 3 January 2013

Textile trepidation turn-around?

I’ve been listening hard to Melvyn Bragg’s programmes on the Value of Culture this week but, unless I’ve missed a bit, I’ve so far heard nothing about the vital part textiles have played and do still in the development of human values and society. Are textiles just so fundamental that they are completely ignored in reporting and exploration of ‘culture’? If we take modern fashion to be a form of ‘high art’, then textiles are just as central to cultural identity today as they have been in developing societies since the dawn of time. Yet recognition of their importance as an expression of the inner being or of perceived power is almost always left out of programmes on TV and Radio.  

A repeat of The Forum’s episode ‘Real versus Digital’ over the Christmas holidays came a little closer, in that it at least acknowledged a human’s need to make things, exploring the links between virtual worlds, mathematics and craft.  But here again craft was represented by something extremely mainstream, namely pottery. Not a frayed edge nor a woven scrap was included, even though fabrics have been around almost as long as ceramics in history. It’s almost as if textiles just don’t exist.   

Happily though, a glance at the Textile Society’s events calendar, or a flick through the pages of my favourite Selvedge magazine proves that we do live on the same planet as these commentators. Maybe it’s up to all of us to start pushing harder for coverage of textiles and textile art in our ever-widening media. After all, there are surely enough of us either running or starting up textile and fibre-related business and contributing to the economy: look at the success of some of entrepreneurs who’ve set up successful enterprises with the help of PRIME – the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise.

So who’ll join me in fighting the good fight on behalf of textiles? If you think I’m barking up the right tree, why not come along to Textiles in Focus in Cottenham, near Cambridge, in a few weeks time, and we’ll exchange ideas. All the best campaigns begin at grass roots level so let’s put our heads together and have a go at pushing things forward. Without some kind of co-ordinated effort, textiles will languish at the dusty edges of media interest, and the vibrancy of all those arty people visiting shows like Textiles In Focus and who create their own fabulous fabric artworks will not get the recognition they deserve. Here’s wishing you a week full of recognition for your efforts.

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