“Textile practices fascinate me. They embody craftsmanship and ingenuity. Their socio-cultural, economic and political impact is profound, while their aesthetics and tactility shape our everyday experience of the world,” says Katharina Sand, co-curator of Textile Design Now and professor at the Akademie Mode & Design (AMD). Humans, throughout history, have shared a rather intimate relationship with textiles, or soft materials. These fabrics, representing craft, culture and even making political statements, have been an augmentation of the user’s persona and a representation of their inclinations. Hailing from rich origins interspersed across the globe, textile design has taken giant strides of innovation, keeping up with the ever-evolving technology and transient global vogue. How has this intricate métier transformed in the past century, and more importantly, what is ‘Textile Design Now’?
Soft materials, their creation, evolution and innovation, take the stage at UQAM’s (University of Quebec in Montreal Centre de design. The exhibition titled Textile Design Now presents 23 works by women textile artists and designers from 14 countries including Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United States. Tracing the contribution of women designers over the past decades, the design exhibition ushers the viewers to today—a delineation of contemporary textiles and specifically women working in the sphere. The show will remain on view from November 30, 2023, to February 11, 2024.
A symposium entitled Textiles Beyond Crafts took place on November 30 and December 1, 2023, alongside the exhibition. Stirring a dialogue within the textile design community, it included an array of lectures, workshops and round tables. “The exhibition will be an opportunity to discover the remarkable work of women designers over the past century, but more specifically, the exceptional contribution of today’s women designers in the field of textile production,” said Louise Pelletier, co-curator of the exhibition and professor at UQAM’s École de design.
Founded in 1981, UQAM is one of the only venues in Canada that hosts exhibitions illustrating historical and contemporary trends in graphic design, industrial design, and urban design, as well as architecture and fashion. Since its inception, the centre has presented over 350 shows that invited design circles, students and the general public alike. The university, and its 400 square metres of exhibition space, has contributed to the development of design culture and its local and international influence. Through numerous travelling exhibitions taking the stage in more than 10 countries, the centre is committed to the recognition of Quebec design.
Partaking in the torrents of innovation in textile design, the invited creators dabble with varied and unconventional practices including weaving, 3D printing, sound-generating and solar textiles, bacterial dyeing, and the creation of replacement organs woven by silkworms. The textile works are astutely arranged within the exhibition, accentuating the juxtaposition of tradition and innovation, experimental practices as well as the emotional potential of soft materials. A historical section and a selection of books offer insights into the rich origins of textile practices and the complexity of their cultural and societal roles. “Soft materials are part of everyday life in cultures and societies across the globe. They are an inexhaustible source of inspiration and innovation. We are delighted to present this exhibition which celebrates women artists and designers who are passionate about materials,” shares Fabienne Münch, co-curator of the exhibition and Chair of the Department of Design at Ohio State University.
Textile designers and artists such as A+N Studio (Alissa van Asseldonk & Nienke Bongers), Yosi Anaya, Micheline Beauchemin, Estelle Bourdet, Felecia Davis, Aïssa Dione, Cécile Feilchenfeldt and Carla Hemlock among others display their work at the exhibition.
The symposium Textiles Beyond Crafts that accompanied the exhibition aspired to foster conversations within emerging practices in textile design, offering the visitors insights that emanate from this cross-pollination. Highlights of the symposium included lectures by remarkable women including the Mohawk textile artist Carla Hemlock, the designer and director of Japan’s NUNO Textiles, Reiko Sudō, as well as the Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Theo Tyson. “It has been a great intellectual and emotional pleasure to put together this exhibition with Louise Pelletier, Katharina Sand, Christina Contandriopoulos and the team at the UQAM Design Centre,” says Münch. To this, Sand adds, “I’m delighted that so many artists and designers can join us for the opening of the exhibition as well as the symposium Textile Beyond Craft, to weave a dynamic textile network.”
Material research and innovation burgeons at a rapid pace, unveiling a renewed palette of plausible interventions across fields. How this metamorphosis unfolds in collaboration with the history and craftsmanship as opposed to trying to subdue them becomes an intricate segment to explore. Traditional craft and cutting-edge innovation—alongside women’s role in both—come together under the same roof in Textile Design Now; layers of eras and techniques weave new tapestries as the show embarks on an investigation of what textile was—and what it is now.