Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


A master weaver at work is in a state of exchange with the material, the design, the craft and the process. The artisan at work is so fully engaged words and photographs alone cannot capture the action. Digital video can bridge that gap. Complex weave patterns published centuries ago are housed in rare book and manuscript libraries. Digital archives make them widely available. Jute fiber thrives in Bangladesh and India and factories in Patterson, NJ processed it until the 1950’s when the synthetic fiber market began to dominate the traditional jute trade. On-line research allows rapid access to historical and contemporary records documenting the jute industry. What is the connection? Digital tools have transformed the way I do research and handwork. The above scenarios figure in the work that I have been making over the past four years.

This paper explores ways I have used digital technology to research and develop design material. In particular I will discuss the relationship between drawing by hand and rendering sketches in Photoshop and ProWeave, comparing how the two tools have influenced my design process. Additionally, the ongoing impact of digital technology to document one master weaver’s technique is influencing me to develop a design conversation with hand-weavers in rural India who do have access to the Internet and electronic design tools in their workshops.

Finally, the ease of electronically researching obscure details of textile properties and history has enabled me to explore materials in ways that address their tactile and expressive potential. In 2012 a growing concern about the over abundance of polyester clothing led me to research recycled fabric as a material in an installation in Lincoln, NE while an exhibition in Patterson, NJ provided an opportunity to research jute fiber and use bamboo as a stand in for jute.

Weiss final.pdf (84678 kB)