Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


I have recently been researching maps and their connections to textile. Looking back on my own body of work, I realize that maps have frequently provided a sense of geography and metaphor as I continue to seek ways to tell stories that are important to me. Dennis Wood describes mapmaking as “a transformative process.” I would argue that working with cloth is also transformative -for both the cloth and the maker.

Looking at maps has expanded my ideas of narrative. I like Margaret Atwood’s definition of narrative. She says it’s “one damn thing after another” with the operative word being “after.” But, she stresses that events occur in relation to one another. This does not necessarily evoke a linear progression, the thread of the story so to speak, but rather a broad building up. I think maps appeal to me as a narrative vehicle because they evoke a territory and a sense of passage, of time and events within geography.

Alighiero e Boetti, of the Italian Arte Povera movement, worked with Afghani embroiderers to create many world maps. Each country is represented by its characteristic shape and flag alternately stretched or condensed to fit the shape. Descriptions both in books and on the web, vary between calling the technique embroidery or tapestry - to a textile person a specific practice - yet to the art world not important to distinguish. These maps contain the personal narrative of Boetti for whom Afghanistan was a beloved place, the story of the embroiderers –some of whom worked on these maps in refugee camps– and the more readily apparent narratives of nations’ identities and evolution.