Date of this Version
Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium (2004)
For the past 15 years my practice as a textile conservator and artist has stimulated an ongoing dialog between myself as a textile maker and the weavers of ancient textiles. A human hair caught in the web of a cloth, a weaver’s choice of interlacement patterns and the deliberate manipulation of woven motifs all mark the presence of “the weaver.” Who were these people, why do their creations make us marvel and how can our experience as contemporary weavers add to the scholarship of ancient textiles?
Because of the structural simplicity of tapestry weave, analyzing an intricate design from a culture such as that of Pre-Columbian Peru allows us to come face to face with an individual weaver’s decision making processes concerning technique and design. In tapestry, the weaver is essentially “drawing” with thread, an individualized act that reflects personal and cultural sensibilities and enhances the immediacy of the medium through time.
Through slides gleaned from research and my conservation practice, highlighting the recent conservation of a pictorial Wari tunic, I will elaborate on the following theme: The tapestry medium offers considerable freedom to the creator. Viewed through a continuum of several centuries, the decision-making processes of the weaver, evidenced in such practices as lazy lines, dovetailing, and slits, gives us clues to what these people valued and thought, and offers insights for contemporary tapestry artists and textile scholars.