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.


The craft of storytelling has all but disappeared from the Western cultural context, and there remain few peoples for whom oral traditions are still a prominent part of their everyday lives. Fiber artists and their work are frequently discussed by craft historians, critics, curators and connoisseurs, but aside from infrequent interviews in monographs and craft journals, their own voices are rarely heard. This is being somewhat addressed with the practice of conducting oral history interviews with leaders in the craft and textile field in the US, through the Smithsonian Institute, with the Nanette L. Laitman Project for Craft and the Decorative Arts, and in the UK at the Constance Howard Resource and Research Center in Textiles at Goldsmiths University, to mention but a few. In Canada, however, there have been no steps taken to mine this rich an valuable resource and to provide necessary and pertinent primary research material. I will begin to address this deficiency by presenting the voices and experiences of Canadian fiber artists very briefly in this paper.

I conducted in-depth interviews with both Anna Torma and Candice Tarnowski in order to find out more about the life of the professional fiber artist today. The point of this paper is to share their own voices as they talk about their lives and the influences that their experiences have had upon their work. Therefore, this paper is academically focused in a non-traditional way, as I present primary research material derived from the interviews. I have chosen to present the cultural history, the personal choice of materials and medium, the sense of place experienced and the role of narrative and textiles themselves in the work of these two artists, as these are topical issues facing the fiber artist today. From this point forward in this paper, all of the information about Anna Torma was obtained from the personal interview I conducted with her on March 23, 2006. Similarly, all of the information about Candice Tarnowski was obtained from a personal interview with the author on September 24, 2006.