Project Lead: Fiona Curran and Freddie Robins

Number of participants: 15

Duration: 3 days

Project Outline:

“Knowing is a direct material engagement” Karen Barad

This three-day experimental project uses ‘thinking through making’ as a methodology for opening a dialogue on textiles, craft and gender. Prior to the project participants will be given set texts to read to prompt the discussion that will be held during the making process. The making process will be based around traditional tapestry techniques introduced to the participants by Philip Sanderson Master Weaver Designer at West Dean Tapestry Studio. Philip graduated from the RCA in 1993, having studied Tapestry under Mary Farmer. The Tapestry department closed shortly afterwards.

In the past decade, there has been a resurgence of interest in the use of textile practices by a new generation of artists with a number of high-profile exhibitions at key institutions worldwide and an attendant repositioning of artists who have (or had) a long-term commitment to working in the medium (for example the American artist Sheila Hicks, German designer Anni Albers and Scandinavian weaver Hannah Ryggen). The accompanying scholarship for these exhibitions has focused primarily on historical revaluation, on rethinking and reclaiming textiles from its “repressed” position within Modernism for example and in exposing the gendered and institutional bias involved in exhibiting, commissioning and theorising textiles practices.

The emergence of the field of critical craft theory has also offered some interesting developments through reconfiguring ‘craft’ as an active verb rather than as a noun with shifts towards understanding the importance of process and the relational aspects of making between subjects, materials and objects.

In this short project we take a practice-led approach that furthers thinking through making with yarn, thread and fibre through hand woven tapestry techniques. This workshop aims to teach participants the basics of tapestry weaving whilst developing a critical discussion around textiles as a pluralistic discipline, which operates across design, craft and art. The gendered nature of textiles, outside of its industrial context, cannot be ignored. It has shaped its past and continues to dominate its current position. What does the future hold for the discipline and how might, or even should, its heavy gendering be addressed?


Day 1: Tuesday 5th November (at RCA and Off site)
AM – Introductory meeting and talk giving an historical overview of Textile (‘fiber’) Art Practice 1960s to the present. Initial discussion of set texts.
PM – Group visit to Tate Modern display Materials and Objects

The Materials and Objects display looks at the inventive ways in which artists around the world use diverse materials. Increasingly over the last hundred years, artists have challenged the idea that certain materials are unsuitable for art. Some employ industrial materials and methods, while others adapt craft skills, or put the throwaway products of consumer society to new uses.

Day 2: Wednesday 6th November (at RCA)
Demonstration of basic tapestry weaving techniques by Philip Sanderson. The day would be spent setting up a warp, learning basic weaving techniques, practising, and experimenting with technique, process and material.

Day 3: Thursday 7th November (at RCA)
Tapestry practice and introduction to more experimental weaving techniques with Philip Sanderson. Thinking through making continues through practice, experiment and discussion of the set texts whilst working.