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).


Textile artists often use items of traditional textile material culture as sites for primary research or encounter within their conceptual and physical practice. This research practice is, however, far more than aesthetic or visual analysis: rather, it allows for the observation of that border territory in which a new work of art begins and ends - the very place from which the ideas come - and also of how influences are layered, and evolve within our psyche. Ruth Hadlow, has described the use of traditional West-Timorese woven textiles as “a ‘tool’ with which to think?” (Hadlow, 2013). Through such tools, primary research may operate as a type of conversation. Mieke Bal, describes the elusive process of research as offering four ‘tools’: “...(1) analogy - a form of logic ? between recognition and discovery; (2) motivation - to understand on levels that logic and facts alone cannot provide; (3) serendipity - mostly remains unacknowledged; [and] (4) secrecy - discretion [a measured approach]?”(Bal, 2008). In this paper, the working research methods of three visual artists will be explored in light of these four tools. Ruth Hadlow physically maps the space between two cultures in her artwork using pieces of traditional Timorese hand-woven cloth. Wendy Lugg intuitively investigates used, worn and repaired Japanese Boro cloths and re-positions them both within and alongside her own practice. Elisa Markes-Young uses a collection of traditional Polish needlecraft as a psychological tool of remembrance. In each case, the site of the research is active and organic encounter, conversation-like and ever-changing. In this paper, the unique research methodology of each visual artist will be explored in relationship to a specific set of textile material, cultural items: Japanese Boro, West-Timorese backstrap-weaving and Polish needlecraft. It will encompass the acute observations that are undertaken, and consider how these may be synthesised in a new form.