TSA Symposia: From Textiles & Politics To New Directions

Reflecting on the inspirational talks and exhibitions I experienced during in•ter•face, SDA’s 2013 conference held in June in San Antonio, Texas, I couldn’t help but compare the quality of those events to others I have recently attended.

McDade_TSA Textile Museum Opening_2At the top of my list is Textiles & Politics, Textile Society of America (TSA)’s 13th Biennial Symposium held last September (2012) in Washington D.C. TSA’s website elaborated on the theme by stating that “Throughout human history and across the globewhether as intimate artifacts of interpersonal relations or state-level monumental works, textiles have been imbued with political importance.

Baltimore-based keynote speaker Joyce Scott energetically launched the proceedings with a heartwarming talk about the countless ways in which her mother, renowned textile artist Elizabeth Talford Scott, influenced her creative, political, and cultural development as an African-American woman and artist. The rousing themes of heritage and a collective duty to empower the next generation were touched on again and again throughout the 4 days of events.

The primary mission to promote textile art and appreciation worldwide is shared by SDA and TSA; both organize action-packed biennial conferences in non-competing years. While SDA focuses on contemporary textile art and design creation, innovation, exhibition and career development, TSA more broadly covers all aspects of textiles from “artistic, cultural, economic, historic, political, social and technical perspectives.

McDade TSA Michel Garcia Dye presentation photo by HubbellTSA’s biennial event is a forum for members to share a wide array of new and evolving research. Concurrent sessions feature 5-6 themed seminars of 1-5 presenters each. In comparison, SDA’s biennial conferences offer longer, in-depth presentations (about 45-60 minutes each) with audience Q&A and fewer concurrent sessions.

Since its founding in 1987, TSA has rebalanced its historical and technical offerings to include more contemporary makers and curators. The jaw-dropping program of activities listed “over 200 presentations on all aspects of textiles, including juried papers, films, and artist demonstrations, as well as behind-the-scenes access to textile collections at DC-area museums.” 15 site visit options included the Textile Museum to see The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming of Ottoman Art,  a stunning exploration of complex textile floral motifs developed since the 16th century.

McDade_Textile Museum TSA opening Sultan's Garden_3

Another site visit, with a special curator-led tour, was the eclectically contemporary 40 Under 40: Craft Futures exhibition at Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. Show organizer Nicholas R. Bell gave great backstory on the 40 makers that included intriguing work in textile media by Dave ColeStephanie Liner,  and L.J. Roberts (who was featured in SDA Journal Summer 2013 Gender issue).

McDade TSA 40 U 40 Renwick cc LJ Roberts

As a patriotic feminist, I voted for a first-time visit to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum (DAR) site option for an exhibition preview and historical overview of Fashioning the New Woman 1890-1925 with curator Alden O’Brien. The show, which “explores the revolution in women’s fashions that took place during the Progressive Era, largely due to women’s expanding roles and circles of activity, including changing undergarments and sportswear…,” was on display through August 31, 2013.

McDade_DAR Museum TSA site visit_9The inside scoop on this show’s development and installation approach was informed by a tour of the impressive textile and fashion holdings. Afterward, I enjoyed a self-guided stroll around the rest of the historic building to see dozens of rooms lavishly appointed with original works of art, textiles, clothing and home furnishing from various periods throughout American history.

A related (but off-program) fashion show entitled A Dress to Change the World: A Tribute to Princess Grace by 40 Under 40 artist and eco-friendly designer Jeff Garner (aka Prophetik) was a rerun of 1950s glamour (with the addition of conspicuous external zippers); the elegant historical gallery setting was the star of the show.

McDade_40 Under 40_Jeff Garner Fashion Show_7

This summer, TSA made the majority of the proceedings available (as it also did for their 2010 event) to read online or download through Digital Commons and the University of Nebraska/Lincoln website at digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/.

A few (of many) contributing SDA member/presenters included new SDA Board Member Karen Hampton (CA) with Stitching Race. SDA Area Representative (MA/RI) Adrienne Sloane spoke about Knitting the News and Other Stories. San Francisco Bay Area artist and TSA board member Barbara Shapiro presented “The Political Voices of Three Left Coast Artists: Linda Gass, Gyongy Laky, and Linda MacDonald.” Artist/filmmaker/educator Carolyn Kallenborn (WI) presented her film Woven Lives at the special film screenings, which also included documentarian Mary Lance‘s Blue Alchemy: Stories of IndigoTali Weinberg (CA) examined Making (in) Brooklyn: The Production of Textiles, Meaning, and Social Change.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAIn June 2013 Weinberg was appointed TSA’s new (and first) Executive Director. Her impressive credentials include an MFA from California College of the Arts, a BA in International Development and an interdisciplinary MA with honors from New York University. This 26-year-old organization will be well-served by her “decade of experience working for nonprofits and a knowledge of textiles that reaches across disciplines, creative practices, and national borders.” This significant change in leadership comes in response to the on-going growth of TSA membership and program development.

It is a pleasure and a privilege to step into this role at such an exciting moment for the TSA,”  Weinberg wrote in a recent press release. “I look forward to getting to know all of you in the years to come and seeing many of you at the 2014 Symposium in Los Angeles.”

TSA New Directions 2014 graphicThat upcoming 14th Biennial Symposium, titled New Directions: examining the past, creating the future, will take place and, after over 20 years, return to Los Angeles September 10-14, 2014 at University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA) campus and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) .

The Call for Papers is open now through October 1, 2013.

To ignite the brainstorming, organizers ask: “Where have we been and where are we going? What are the moments that encapsulate change, shifts in direction for cultures, technology, creativity and knowledge? Papers will be welcomed that address a broad view, including ancient, contemporary and future-thinking ideas and works, as well as focused studies on individual textiles, makers and innovators, groups, culture areas, addressing material from new perspectives.”

TSA Website homepageTo submit abstracts for papers, panels, organized sessions, films, etc. for consideration – and to learn more about the “New Directions” theme, click to textilesocietyofamerica.org/symposia-home/upcoming-symposium.

Questions? Email NewDirections@textilesociety.org.

TSA’s recently redesigned website rewards exploration. It offers textile arts-related resources, events and opportunities – along with a blog. Click to textilesocietyofamerica.org.  TSA is also on Facebook.

Weaver, educator and SDA Newsblog/Journal contributor Sara Goodman had this to say about her experience at TSA’s DC symposium:

McDade TSA Ethicus presentation image HubbellTSA is by far the most international textile conference I have ever been to in the US. At the busy marketplace, I connected with friends from India, Indonesia, France and from all over the US. I was sharing a table with Yoshiko Wada, Ana Lisa Hedstrom and a couple from Ethicus in India. I was handing out information about my Indonesian Symplocos project and my handwoven shibori carpets.

Our table was ridiculously crowded with Yoshiko’s DVDS (Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia), Ana Lisa’s DVDs (Arashi Shibori: The Language of Stripes) plus her gorgeous textiles – and the fabulous organic cotton fabrics from India. The highlight for me was taking an order for a custom naturally dyed carpet from Dominique Cardon, which now sits in front of her fireplace in France. Designed in New Hampshire > handwoven in Nepal > at home in France!”

Marci Rae McDade
Marci Rae McDade is the editor of Surface Design Journal and former editor of FiberArts magazine. She received an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in film and video production from Columbia College Chicago.

She is also a mentor and instructor with the MFA Applied Craft and Design program (cosponsored by Oregon College of Art & Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art) in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. You can find her on Facebook.

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