Category Archives: The Textile Reader

Sixteen to go

Tom Moore, Mary and Larry Beeston, Lise Cruickshank, Cresside Collette, Merrill Dumbrell, Joy Smith, Cheryl Thornton, Kate Derum, Pru la Motte,

I’ve found very little  about Tom Moore


Just another day (detail), 1986,  Tom Moore

Again there is very little information about Mary & Larry Beeston

Mrs Mary and Mr Larry Beeston at The University of Newcastle, Australia (1988).
Photo from The University of Newcastle (Australia).

Raw silk shawl, Ikat woven. Lise Cruickshank, Australia. 1983

Cresside Collette New Horizons, woven tapestry, 31 x 65 cm, 2011 (one of three)

Cresside has a website here.


Euan Heng                                                              Euan Heng

Head Study                                                             Head Study

Weaver: Merrill Dumbrell                                        Weaver: Merrill Dumbrell

Joy Smith Chilly lilies (pastel)  2002  23 X 19 cm

Here is Joy’s website.

Artist: John Olsen  Title: Rising Suns over Australia Felix  Weavers: Grazyna Bleja, Georgina Baker, Merrill Dumbrell, Owen Hammond, Claudia Lo Priore, Milena Paplinska and Cheryl Thornton

There seems to be much collaboration between the Australian artists – again I’ve found nothing for Cheryl Thornton.

Kate Derum  Inside Out 1990 Woven Tapestry, wool, cotton, linen 20x30cm

Kate’s website is here.


Member of the Board, Pru La Motte, Australia, 1978

I had the names of more artists but there is nothing other than the odd mention here and there about their work – no images but I think I’ve spent enough time looking at tapestries, Time for me to read the article.



The next three……..

Or maybe I’ll be able to work through more artists today. Here are the remainder; Margaret Grafton, Mona Hessing, Ian Arcus, Tom Moore, Mary and Larry Beeston, Lise Cruickshank, Cresside Collette, Merrill Dumbrell, Joy Smith, Cheryl Thornton, Kate Derum, Catherine Hoffman, Elaine Gardner, Pru la Motte, Gary Benson, Marie Patrick, Sue Rosenthal, Lucia Pichler.

Firstly Margaret Gratton. What luck! I’ve come across a great website which sums up her work.

Margaret Grafton, 'The Third Day', 2003. Metal weaving: Copper, aluminium, polyester cord, 120 x 120cm.                       

The Third Day, 2003                                     Untitled, 2004                            Stringy Bark, 2004

Copper, aluminium, polyester cord                 Copper, plastic                          Aluminium, copper, plastic coated wire

120 x 120cm                                                    800 x 550cm                             detail


Mona Hessing  Untitled 1976

An interview with Mona Hessing interviewed by Hazel de Berg in the Hazel de Berg collection where she talks about her life and practise.

“I ad lib everything ……. I work out roughly what I what ….. I allow the materials I am using to dictate the pace of what i want …. to be aware of constant change …. keeping in touch with the total…. the behaviour of material… it telling you what it wants to do……….. I like to spend a lot of time alone.” This lady is quite happy making the last statement – she’s not apologetic but sees her need for solitude to be a bonus to her work. I take comfort from her words as all too easily I escape into my own bubble – but with a slight unease that I shouldn’t. Mona speaks with such a gentle voice – the rhythm of her father’s Scottish accent coming through as she uses the H in why, where, when, what ……… most people ignore the H – me included in spite of my father also pronouncing the letter.

Ian Arcus – unfortunately I’ve not been able to find any images of his work, just a catalogue entry  for the exhibition Walls and Pathways written by Diane Wood Conroy.

And that is my lot for the day – meetings with builders about my new kitchen will fill up the rest of my time.

Tapestry and Identity in Australia – cont.

As I thought It’s going to take me awhile before I start to read the essay as I’ve so many artists to find out about – 24 in total and I reckon I can research about three in one sitting – that’s 8 sessions! Better get on with it……..

Diana Wood Conroy, Sara Lindsay, Liz Nettleton, Margaret Grafton, Mona Hessing, Ian Arcus, Tom Moore, Mary and Larry Beeston, Lise Cruickshank, Cresside Collette, Merrill Dumbrell, Joy Smith, Cheryl Thornton, Kate Derum, Catherine Hoffman, Elaine Gardner, Pru la Motte, Gary Benson, Marie Patrick, Sue Rosenthal, Lucia Pichler.

What must I do now? Woven tapestry in wool, silk and cotton. Handspun wool and alpaca by Elizabeth Kalucy. 60cm x 180cm, 2013. Diana Wood Conroy

Among the bones, music, wool and linen tapestry fragment, 20cm x 20cm, 1998-2012 Both these images come from Diana Wood Conroy’s website and the catalogue for the exhibition Breathing Space is here Breathing_Space_Catalogue2

Parampara Sara Lindsay

There doesn’t seem to be much information about Sara Lindsay so I was very pleased to come across Debbie Herd’s website where she has a review of Serendip an exhibition in 2008. There is also a short article on the American Alliance Tapestry website.

Liz Nettleton – Floor rug

Again there are very few images or articles about Liz’s work. I could spend more hours trawling through website but as tapestry isn’t one of my favourite textile media I’ll use my time to a better use.

A gem of a website – Craft – not be confused with the British one of the same name this one is Australian and has interesting videos of artists talks etc as well as the back catalogue of some of the exhibitions in the gallery in Melbourne.


Tapestry and Identity in Australia

I’ve had a quick skim through the next essay in The Textile Reader edited by Jessica Hemmings and it includes the names of many artists I’m not familiar with so I’m in for a treat. Tapestry and Identity in Australia  was written by an honorary fellow in the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong, Diana Wood Conroy, to accompany an exhibition in 1994 entitled Text from the Edge.

Marie Cook, Valerie Kirk, Kay Lawrence, Diana Wood Conroy, Sara Lindsay, Liz Nettleton, Margaret Grafton, Mona Hessing, Ian Arcus, Tom Moore, Mary and Larry Beeston, Lise, Cruickshank, Cresside Collette, Merrill Dumbrell, Joy Smith, Cheryl Thornton, Kate Derum, Catherine Hoffman, Maria Cook, Elaine Gardner, Pru la Motte, Gary Benson, Marie Patrick, Sue Rosenthal, Lucia Pichler. What a list of artists, thank heaven for google search!

Marie Cook
Sunbather 1977

woven tapestry; wool, cotton
180.0 x 150.0cm
Collection of Ararat Regional Art Gallery

Valerie Kirk. A copy of her MA dissertation is here – I’ll return to read it later along with her blog.

Kay Lawrence Translation – woven tapestry 45 x 315 cms

Kay Lawrence talks about her work here and a written  article is here.

Lawrence writes

“The early morning – that space between waking and beginning the day’s work – is the most important time for thinking.  I gaze at the sky, hear the magpies warbling outside the window, thoughts drift in and out of consciousness as the clouds float by and I idly note the particular quality of the air. Today, utterly clear, still, a sky of the palest blue fading to white at the horizon.

This is the space for reflecting.  Thoughts catch, coalesce into ideas, and if I’m lucky, into insights. One thought leads to another to create unexpected conjunctions, strange relations. But they must be caught, fixed to the pages of my journal with words or drawings, before they vaporise into the atmosphere.”

This is the time when most of my ideas come to me but I’ve not been able to express myself so poetically.

In the article the word fossicking is used and I’d not come across it before. It means to rummage around an (abandoned) area for minerals or materials.

Here are three tapestries (Each 45.4 x 37.5cm) Lawrence made based on enamel tableware she found on a fossicking trip to Thunderella. She goes on to write about the pearl button industry – something I didn’t think about when I made my car-boot find of shell buttons.

No work for a white man

Prior to the Second World War 80% of the world’s pearl shell came from 400 luggers working out of Broome.  Much of this shell was exported to Great Britain to be made into buttons for the textile industry in centres like Birmingham.  The Kimberley pearl shell industry, dating from 1860, was first built on the labour of local indigenous people and later on the labour of Chinese, Japanese, Koepanger, Malay and Manilamen.  In the wake of the White Australia Policy in the early 20th century, an experiment to introduce white labour into the industry failed, giving credence to the popular belief that diving for pearl shell ‘was no work for a white man.’The work entailed great risks, and during the early years hundreds of men died from beri-beri, from diver’s paralysis and from drowning. The pearl shell buttons used to adorn the clothes of ordinary people were the product of an economically volatile industry characterised by difficult and dangerous working conditions.” Taken from ATA’s Educational Article Series 

Lawrence exhibited her work based on the pearl divers in an exhibition This Everything Water in 2008 at the SASA Gallery in Adelaide.

Tadashi wearing pearl undertrousers front

These pearl button encrusted  trousers are based on ones worn by the divers – originally made out of blankets to keep them warm whilst wearing their diving suits for many hours.

Talking of many hours I think that’s enough for me today. As I thought it’s going to take awhile before I even start to read this essay.

Gandhi and the Khadi

What a contrast in the weather from yesterday, its cold and damp but I’m being cheered up by being taken back to my days in India. The next article in The textile Reader  edited by Jessica Hemmings is written by art historian and anthropologist Susan S Bean who worked as the curator of South Asian and Korean art at the Peabody Essex Museum. 

Gandhi and Khadi, the Fabric of Indian Independence.

“English cloth had become the most potent symbol of English political domination and economic exploitation.”

“Gandhi’s choice of of dress to communicate his political values was of crucial to a nation with multiple languages and high illiteracy rates, which made visual (rather than written or spoken) communication all the more vital.”

India Flag

The Indian flag symbolises Gandhi’s philosophy by incorporating a spinning wheel (Ashoka Chakra)  in the centre.The Ashoka Chakra has twenty-four spokes and represents the eternal wheel of the progress and righteousness. By law the flag has to be made from kadhi, a coarse hand-spun fabric which became politicized in the long fight for independence of Indian from the British which was eventually achieved in 1947.

Let’s go back a bit.

“As he (Gandhi) came to appreciate the semiotic properties of cloth, he leaned to use it to communicate his most important messages to followers and opponents and to manipulate social events.”

“Once he had appreciated the economic importance of cloth in India,  he made it the centrepiece of his programme for independence and self government.”

Gandhi and The Vegetarian Society

Gandhi in London with the Vegetarian Society.

He came to London in 1888 to train as a barrister and “was sensitive to the connection between costume and social position required changes in costume.” He exchanged his Bombay- style clothing with “clothes regarded as the very acme of fashion.”

File:Gandhi group South-Africa.jpg

Gandhi with the leaders of the non-violent resistance movement in South Africa.

In 1893 Gandhi went to work in South Africa where his style of dress caused problems – to wear a turban or English style hat (and end up looking like a waiter). Due to his Indianness he was throw out of the first class train coach but later persuaded the railway authorities to allow Indians to travel 1st class if they were ‘properly dressed’ i.e. in western style. “In order to look civilized our dress and manners had as far as possible to approximate to the European standard. Because, I thought, only thus could we have some influences, and without influence it would not be possible to serve the community.”

When to dress as Europeans wasn’t possible they adopted the Parsi style of dress, his wife wore a sari and his children a coat and trousers. “Of course no one could be without shoes or stockings. It was long before my wife and boys could get used to them. the shoes cramped their feet and the stocking stank with perspiration.”

Gandhi returned to India in 1901 and met some Indian rulers at the India Club in Calcutta wearing dhotis.

Dhoti Study

Dhoti Study  Anthony Christian Silkscreen Print

But on days the English officials arrived the Indians changed into trousers and boots so looking like the waiters (khansamas). Gandhi asked why.

“We alone know the insults we have to put up with, in order that we may possess our wealth and titles….. we are Lord Curzon’s khansamas. If I were to attend in my usual dress, it would be an offence.”

Gandhi became even more aware of the meaning of cloth – “their importance as indicators of status, group identity, social stratification and political believes.” Whilst in Indian he travelled 3rd class wearing a dhoti.

He rejected his previous ideas about the need to adopt western dress in order to be deemed ‘civilised’.

The British had decimated the Indian economy – overtaxed the cotton farmers, cloth manufacturing taken back to the industrial north of England. R.C. Dutt Economic History of India 1901. Indian had previously exported to Asia, Japan, China, Egypt and Europe – the trade was ruined so leaving farmers, spinners, dyers, weavers in poverty.

“The quality of Indian dyeing was proverbial in the Roman world, as we know from a reference in St. Jerome’s fourth century Latin translation of the Bible, Job being made to say that wisdom is even more enduring than the ‘Dyed colours of Indian’.”

Trading continued throughout the centuries but in the early 1700s both England and France had banned Indian fabric as both needed to protect their own industries.

By the end of the nineteenth century the mechanisation of spinning, weaving and dyeing in England had killed the textile trade in India.

Bean asks the question “Did India fail to industrialise because Britsh policy prevented it or because Indian society was infertile soil for industrialisation?”

Swadeeshi – the promotion of indigenous products even if they may prove to be dearer or less satisfactory than finer foreign goods.

Political leaders vowed to wear and use only swadeshi articles – boycots of British cloth took place in 1896 (Gandhi was still wearing western clothes. “English cloth had become the most potent symbol of English political domination and economic exploitation.”

But a paradox. arose – the nationalists wanted to show the British they were  gentlemen (i.e. someone who know how to dress well) in order to demonstrate they followed the fair play rules of the British so the hybrid costume arose of suit and boots but with an Indian headdress. “They expressed their belief in English values and their right to English justice by comparing themselves as English gentleman in English dress (albeit with a special hat or turban  to signify a slight cultural distinctiveness).”

By 1913 Gandhi had adopted his recognisable dress – a lungi (prounced loo ngi and is like a sarong), kurta (a collarless shirt), shaven head, bear feet and carrying a staff. However he still dressed in English clothes when he visited England in 1914.

He returned to India in 1915 and wore the Kathiawadi style of dress. “He deliberately used costume not only top express his socio-political identity, but to manipulate social occasions to elicit acceptance of, if not agreement with, his position.”

But this costume was full of indications of region, class and religion – he knew he needed one than transcended all – one that the whole of India could identify with regardless of cultural area be it physical, religious or based on wealth.

Gandhi took to wearing a white homespun cap instead of a turban in 1919 but he discarded it by 1921.

In this year he began the national programme to revive homespun cloth, Khadi. As it was expensive he encouraged people to wear as little as possible.

“I know that many will find it difficult to replace their foreign cloth all at once …. Let them be satisfied with a mere loin cloth… India has never insisted on full covering of the body for the males as a test fopr culture…. In order, therefore, to set the example, I propose to discard….. my topi (cap) and vest and to content myself with only a loin cloth and a chaddar (shawl)…… I have always hesitated to advise anything I may not be prepared to follow.”

“In so far as the loin cloth  spells simplicity let it represent Indian civilization”

He never compromised on this. He attended the Round Table Conference in London – 1931 – wearing his  dhoti.

File:Mahatma Gandhi Round Table Conference 1931.JPG

“By dealing openly with a man in mahatma garb, the British accepted his political position and revealed their loss of power.”

“The communicative power of costume transcended the limitations of language in multilingual and illiterate Indian.”

Darshan – the sight of an eminent or holy  person blesses and purifies the viewer.  people came simply to see Gandhi.

He realised the cloth industry (but not the industrialization of it) could lift India out of poverty. “he was soon to elevate the spinning wheel to significance as an economic necessity, a religious ritual and a national symbol.”


Next Article – by Elissa Auther

Fiber Art and the Hierarchy of Art and Craft 1960-80

So the first thing I did was find out who Elissa Auther is, her website states that

“Elissa Auther is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and Adjunct Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver. Her book, String, Felt, Thread and the Hierarchy of Art and Craft (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), examines the innovative use of fiber in American art and the impact of its elevation on the conceptual boundaries distinguishing “art” from “craft” in the post-war era.”

She starts by comparing two works of rope and wire.


Untitled  1968 Alan Serat

Rope and Cable Structure  (1964) Alice Adams

29” diameter, 26” h.

rusted steel cable and tarred rope

Auther points out that these two pieces could have been made by the same artist but there were received very differently when exhibited.

Adams work situated amongst avante garde artists Eva Hesse, Bruce Nauman and Keith Sonnier

No title

No title Eva Hesse
March 1966
Nets, enamel, papier-mâché, metal, and cord

Lighted Center Piece, 1967–68. Bruce Nauman

Aluminum plate and four 1,000-watt halogen lamps, plate: 2 1/2 × 36 × 36 inches (6.4 × 91.4 × 91.4 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Panza Collection, Gift, 1992, 92.4161. © 2013 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: David Heald

“Fiber art in this period (1960s & 70s) was typically viewed as neither art not craft, but as between the two categories, thwarting the works’s potential to undermine the hierarchy of media responsible for fiber’s low aesthetic status.”

“The reasons surrounding the art world’s resistance to fibre art were complex and varied, involving the cultural connotations of fiber, popular trends in fiber crafts and gender bias deriving from fiber’s association with woman and the domestic realm.”

Lenore Tawney’ early work caused controversy, “open-warp weaves …. caused quite a controversy amongst weavers. No one had done this kind of weaving…. It’s against the rules and those people who go by the rules were against it.”

But in 1963 reviewer from The New York Times “… is more than just a weaver- she is also an artist. Unfortunately , craft work has for many years implied to the general public work done by amateurs….. with little mereit… Miss Tawney’s craft is in marked contrast to this mistaken concept and her woven forms are considered by experts to be works of Fine Art.”

However thirty years later in the same publication “Mrs. Tawney’s work exists in  a limbo that is endemic to much contemporary craft; it has departed from craft and function without quite arriving at art.”

Walling Hangings was the first major fibre art exhibition at MoMA Cuated by Constatine and Larsen – the leading experts. The press release is here.

Unfortunately Louise Bourgeois was less enthusiastic.

“The pieces in the show rarely liberate themselves from decoration and only begin to explore the possibilities of textiles. A painting or a sculpture makes great demands on the onlooker at the same time that it is independant of him. These weaves, delightful as they are, seem more engaging and less demanding. If they must be classified, they would fall somewhere between fine and applied art”

” The opposition she reinforces – that between the merely attractive object and that which requires sustained attention – is central to the hierarchy of art and craft, which associates art with the cognitive realm, craft with the mere surface effect.”

“The identity of fiber artists, because they worked in a medium traditional to craft, required authorization different from that bestowed upon artists working securely within the ‘high art’ world.”

“Do you know when a pot is no longer a pot but a work of art.” “The story also foregrounds the authority that rested in the curator (in the capacity of his or her ‘eye’) to discern quality in objects of cultural significance – that is, to distinguish between good & bad, ‘high’ and ‘low’, ‘fine art’ and mere ‘craft’.A theory of boundary maintenance in the arts that pointed to the role of extra-aesthetic factors such as gender, different The pieces in the show rarely liberate themselves from decoration and only begin to explore the possibilities of textiles. of production, or cultural presumptions about craft ….” “to the extent that the authorization of an object as art is only as good as the aurothity of the authorizer.”

Despite the manner in which Wall Hangings was displayed (white walls, carefully lit, pieces in isolation) – the formalised setting fibre art retained its low status.

At the same time traditional crafts of weaving, quilting, embroidery, dyeing, macramé had a resurgence. Folk art and the hippie movement – the reclaiming of these crafts by the feminist movement contributed to reinforcing the craft element and that it was ‘women’s’ work’.

Claire Zeisler “I do mind the word macramé because macramé today means a decorative knot and I use my knotting technique as structure…… the knot becomes the base for the piece.”

Mary Atwater seems to have come in for a great deal of criticism from the fibre artist  of the day  such as Anni Albers as  she (Atwater) described weaving as a pass time and was very prescriptive in her correspondence course in weaving, “She told Americans what to weave, how to weave, what to do with their weavings.”

This makes me wonder how many of the fibre artists didn’t in fact look at her ‘recipes’ when learning how to weave. We all have to start somewhere and I think some of the artists were a bit snooty.

Critic Rose Slivka (1972) “characterised the loom as an impotent instrument, a gendering of technology that had the unintended effect of associating off-loom fiber art with the perceived masculine virility of modern art.”

Critic Katherine Kuh (1968) “until recently, I always considered weaving a ladylike pursuit for frustrated housewives, but I am drastically changing my mind. the best weavers are still women, but some of them are also first-rate artists.” Note the word also.

Soft Art included works by Richard Tuttle, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Eva Hess and Softness as Art by Jackie Ferrara, Harmony Hammond, Richard Serra, Hannah Wilke.

Richard Tuttle Cloth Piece 1969

Robert Morris, Untitled, 1969

Floorpiece VI

Harmony Hammond

” I was influenced by and contributed to early feminist art projects. I painted on blankets, curtains, and bedspreads recycled from women friends, literally putting my life in my art. Rag strips dipped in paint and attached to the painting surface hung down like three-dimensional brushstrokes, their weight altering the painting rectangle. Eventually the rags took over and activated the painting field. Girdle, consisted of a soft crocheted grid altered by the weight of the painted rags. This led to the series Bags, and the slightly larger than life-size Presences. These new pieces could be touched, retouched, repaired, and, like women’s lives, reconfigured. In 1973, I created a series of six floor paintings made out of knit fabric my daughter and I picked from dumpsters. Strips of fabric were braided according to traditional braided rug techniques, but slightly larger and thicker in scale, coiled, stitched to a heavy cloth backing, and partially painted with acrylic paint—the “braided rug” literally and metaphorically becoming “the support” for the painting. The Floorpieces occupied and negotiated a space between painting (off the wall) and sculpture (nearly flat). Placed directly on the floor they called into question assumptions about the “place” of painting.”

Richard Serra. One Ton Prop (House of Cards). 1969 (refabricated 1986)

Richard Serra One Ton Prop (House of Cards) 1968

Critic James Collins (1973) “one of the things artists shouldn’t do today is to make art with anything soft”.

Constantine and Larsen battled to elevate the status of fibre art but Alan Serat and Alice Adams were viewed as art and craft respectively.

Louise Bourgeois changed her attitude to fibre – making soft sculptures from her own linens.

Is fibre art now accepted as ‘high art’? Tracy Emin –  Grayson Perry?


“I’m following the path of the heart. I don’t know where the path is going.”

I came across Lenore Tawney whist at uni. I used this image in my workbook  when I was looking at methods of displaying my work.

The Crossing, 1998, waxed linen, 96 x 48 x 24″, photograph by George Ermi

Untitled [MR55], c.1960

linen,feathers and twigs

105 x 8 x 3 1/2 inches, signed

(u)common Threads at the Michael Rosenfield Gallery

There is a comprehensive article on the artist published in FiberArts with a more up-to-date one on the American Craft Council website