Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
“Modernist Influences in Churchill Weavers Textiles: 1922-1949” is an interdisciplinary study of the Berea, Kentucky, handweaving production center, Churchill Weavers, which operated from 1922 to 2007. It documents craft production from Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills that exhibited a fusion of traditional and modern craft practices while incorporating a modernist design style. The study highlights traditional hand weaving production with a modern look from the interwar period, coming from a location not typically thought of as a center for innovation, national, or international movements. The study examines textiles designed by Eleanor Churchill in the beginning decades of the company and woven on flyshuttle handlooms designed and built by David Carroll Churchill. Taking into account the cosmopolitan influences from India, Sweden, and the German Bauhaus school, the research documents a craft production center that provided economic development in a rural community. The project highlights the unique role that Churchill Weavers played in American handweaving and craft history by moving textiles into the modern industrial age while maintaining an artisanal practice. The study notes the influences that early twentieth-century feminism and cultural pluralism played in the economic development work of craft promotion, and how Churchill Weavers’ founders navigated those influences in their economic enterprise. The Churchills were settler-colonialists whose commitment to artisanal work made a long-lasting contribution to the lives of many in Berea, Kentucky. The author is a Kentucky Community Scholar and a former designer at the company with multiple exposures to the archives of the Churchill Weavers company’s rich material culture.