Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at “Textiles and Settlement: From Plains Space to Cyber Space,” Textile Society of America 12th Biennial Symposium, Lincoln, Nebraska, October 6-9, 2010. Copyright 2010 Textile Society of America.


European tapestry techniques reached the U.S. in several waves of cultural transmission, starting in the late 1800s when the first tapestry studios were established on the east coast. The differences between the two continents and their focus on different types of technical knowledge appeared almost instantly. In Europe, institutions guarded the logic and purity of their techniques through systems ranging from educational programs to state-run tapestry studios over several hundred years. In the U.S., tapestry existed primarily as a commercial enterprise serving a small sector of the population over a few decades. Further, the lack of an educational component prevented the spread of tapestry to younger generations.

The result was that the technique did not establish a foothold on the American side. In other words, each wave of European tapestry weavers tended to disperse requiring subsequent retransmission from the source. It is not until the 1950s with another wave of European immigrants with an educational component that a resurgence of crafts practitioners succeeded at establishing tapestry in the U.S.

This paper will trace the path of cultural transmissions specifically through tapestry traditions traveling between Europe and the U.S. from the 1950s. It will then focus on the work of a few contemporary tapestry weavers using a European approach to tapestry as they adapt the methods to fit a tech-enhanced American culture.