Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


In research for support material for a presentation on my conservation of an important Pre-Columbian tunic of the Huari people of Peru, I came upon a statement that intrigued me as an artist and conservator. The statement comes from Rebecca Stone Miller in her PhD thesis on Huari tunics, completed at Yale in 1987:

The sheer elaboration of imagery made possible through material and technical choices bespeaks both an investment of importance of the images depicted and a corollary investment of labor in their creation. The importance of the woven images takes place in the realm of beliefs and ritual, the weaving itself becomes a virtuoso act of praise, the depictions sacred, and by extension, the wearer a participant in the sacred realm.

For an accepted scholar to take the leap from the secular world of anthropology to the sacred world of belief in the description of her subject caught me by surprise, yet resonated with my own understanding of the symbolic significance of the tapestry medium.

What might be the conclusive evidence within the accepted archeaological and anthropological findings to substantiate such a claim? As a tapestry artist deeply invested in the idea of material content of a craft-based medium and its possible symbolic import, I thought I’d speak to you today of my discoveries found in the literature on Pre- Columbian tapestry, with the hope of stimulating discussion on specific ancient tapestry materials and technique, and suggest to contemporary weavers to participate in the professional dialog on weaving technology and its cultural implications.