January 2017 News

HERE & NOW - contemporary tapestry exhibition

Visitor figures for the show at National Centre for Craft and Design 12,204!

The exhibition has now closed at NCCD. A selection of the work in the exhibition will be shown at MAC Birmingham from April 1st - June 4th. The whole exhibition will then be shown at The Holburne Museum Bath from June 24th - October 1st.


March 15th - Craft History Conference at UCA Farnham.

Keynote speakers Glen Adamson and Alison Britton. Booking through the Craft Study Centre (partner organisation) on  craftscentre@ucreative.ac.uk or 01252 891450

April 27th - The Matter of Material at Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Supporting the exhibition Entangled: the threads of making curated by art critic Karen Wright for Turner Contemporary. The exhibition contains historic work from Anni Albers and Sonia Delaunay to Eva Hesse and then more contemporary artists. The conference will discuss the importance of cloth in art and includes presentations from Prof. Catherine Harper, Dr Maxine Bristow, Freddie Robbins, Shelly Goldsmith and Dr Beverly Ayling-Smith.

Booking through Turner Contemporary - Not yet up on their website - the exhibition doesn't open until January 28th, updates here soon and on their website.

July 14th - Digital/Material: developments in printed textiles.

This will be held at UCA Rochester. No details available yet as the Call for Papers is still out. Updates here soon.


Jo Lovelock and Naoya Doi, UCA MA Textiles graduates September 2016, exhibited their work at the famous Gallery Gallery in Kyoto from January 6th - 12th 2017. It was a wonderful opportunity for both the artists and for UCA to disseminate the excellent work of their MA's.  The Private View was very well attended, attracting artists and designers travelling from Tokyo, Nagoya and Kobe.

Jo and Naoya also gave presentations about their work to students at Kyoto City University of Fine Arts. The event was fully subscribed, with lively discussions following each. Naoyo also translated for Jo.


Beverly Ayling-Smith was awarded her Doctorate for her practice based PhD: The space between mourning and melancholia: the use of cloth in contemporary art practice to materialise the work of mourning.  Her Viva exhibition was shown at the James Hockey Gallery UCA Farnham.

October 2016 News

HERE & NOW - contemporary tapestry exhibition

The exhibition has now opened at the National Centre for Craft and Design and will be shown there until 15th January 2017 and then tour.

HERE & NOW – visitor update:
1 Oct – 17 Nov: 6535!

Still time to see the exhibition if you haven’t visited yet… show closes at NCCD on January 15th 2017

The installation was extremely smooth thanks to the team at NCCD and, although the work is diverse, all agreed that the flow through the specially created 'rooms' works very well. Broadly the exhibition reflects rural, urban and political concerns and works that are all of those. The level of skill and different approaches to the medium of woven tapestry is exceptional, and the energy in the work of the younger weavers is the hope for the future. The Private View was well attended with many of the artists able to be present, including those from Japan, Latvia and Norway alongside the UK artists. The following day exhibiting artist Caron Penney gave a workshop that was fully booked and the Head of Exhibitions, Bryony Windsor, and I had an informal discussion in the Gallery with the other artists and the public.

Find out more about the Here & Now exhibition. The beautiful, fully illustrated catalogue is now available from the exhibition or by mail order.

Image: Electric Egg courtesy of NCCD

Image: Electric Egg courtesy of NCCD

Lecture at UCA Farnham by Keiko Kawashima

Keiko Kawashima, Director of the highly influential Gallery Gallery in Kyoto, gave a presentation at UCA Farnham on 3rd October. Keiko Kawashima has been a long time colleague and co-ordinator in Japan for all the Anglo-Japanese projects undertaken by the International Textile Research Centre, and so it was a great pleasure to welcome her. The presentation was part of Farnham Craft Week and so open to the public as well as students and it was very well attended. Keiko spoke about the importance of textiles within Japanese culture and then went on to describe an exhibition of contemporary Noren (cloth room dividers) she had curated for Kyoto Arts Centre in 2015. The variety of work for a single theme was extremely interesting and inspiring.

Contextile 2016

I was very honoured to be asked to give the Keynote Paper at the 3rd Contextile Biennale Conference in Guimaraes, Portugal on 23rd September. I had previously given a Paper at the 1st Contextile in 2012 and was really pleased to return and meet colleagues again. The theme of the conference was 'What Place Is This?' and I had been asked to address the theme of 'Cloth and Memory' - a theme with which I am extremely familiar! The textile exhibitions throughout the city of Guimaraes were beautifully installed and very interesting. As at all events of this kind, the chances to meet artists and academics from all over the world and discuss those ideas about which we are passionate is wonderful.

August 2016 Update


Here & Now

We have completed the writing and editing of the catalogue and it is looking fantastic. The exhibition will open to the public on Saturday October 1st and many of the exhibiting artists will be on hand to discuss their work. Also Caron Penney will be giving a workshop during the day and be 'in discussion' with Bryony Wilson, Head of Exhibitions at NCCD and me over lunchtime. Full details from info@nationalcraftanddesign.org.uk

Erotic Cloth Book

Almost all the chapters have been received and Alice Kettle and I are slowly reading through, and writing our Introduction. Such interesting thinking around the subject - it is going to be an amazing book (due out late 2017).

Contextile 2016

Delighted to have been asked to present a paper at the Contextile 2016 Conference 'What Place Is This' 23rd and 24th September in Guimaraes, Portugal. And most excited that the other Keynote is Janet Echelman whose work (and TED talk) I find incredibly inspiring. For information:


Travels in France

Two exhibitions worth making the trip to see (I did and loved them both):

Retournac: An exhibition of work by Lost in Lace artist Annie Bascoul titled 'Vivre et Rêver… En Dentelle' at the Le Musée de Manufactures de Dentelles de Retournac. Her dresses and their shadows hold the form of the absent body. 

There is also another opportunity to see her work from Lost in Lace - 'Moucharabieh' and 'Jardin de lit, lit de jardin'. The exhibition continues to 15th December. 

Aigues Mortes: An artist I have wanted to work with for many years but he is always too busy. It is Motoi Yamamoto who creates large scale, site specific floor based installations from salt. This time he is working in the ramparts of a medieval town whose wealth was built on salt. The 2 Yamamoto's are spectacular - the first created by addition (the lace work) and the second by taking the salt away (the labyrinth).

Walking the ramparts to see the works in the towers, slipping on the stones worn away by the feet of those who have walked the ramparts for hundreds of years, and looking out to the salt mounds at the edges of the water beyond - I can't imagine a more perfect setting for his work. (Image)

International Textile Research Centre News

The ITRC is delighted to congratulate Gail Baxter and Carol Quarini on the completion of their PhD studies. Both were awarded their Doctorate in February 2016 for:

Dr Gail Baxter
Re-Viewing lace in archives: Connecting the lacunae.

Dr Carol Quarini
The domestic veil: exploring the net curtain through the uncanny and the gothic.

Dr Baxter now has a part time Research Fellowship at Nottingham Trent University and Dr Quarini has begun to Supervise her own MPhil/PhD student at UCA.

Gail Baxter: : Reading shadows (detail) - Obscured information

Gail Baxter: : Reading shadows (detail) - Obscured information

Carol Quarini: Marking Time

Carol Quarini: Marking Time


Kawaii update - February 2016

The exhibition has been and gone at Farnham and was very successful, with almost 7,000 visitors. It is now at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum and looks very different as the gallery is circular. Chika Ohgi's cherry blossom looks particularly spectacular and Everywhere Teddy now has shining eyes! Rugby has an energetic outreach programme and the Education Area is very much a part of the exhibition space. As of writing the Cosplay competition is still to happen, which I am looking forward to seeing but not taking part in...I will report back here. Also jeweller Makiko Minewaki's workshops. After Rugby the exhibition will return to Japan and we are very hopeful that it will be shown there - again updates on this News page.

Contemporary International Tapestry Exhibition - 1 October

'Here & Now' opening at the NCCD. Sleaford Lincolnshire 1st October 2016

I am very honoured to have been asked by the National Centre for Craft and Design to curate the first international contemporary tapestry exhibition in England since the one I took part in at the Barbican in 1994. The selection process is now completed and I am happy to list the participating artists, which includes some very exciting work from Japan:

  • Joan Baxter (UK)
  • Sara Brennan (UK)
  • Jilly Edwards (UK)
  • Yasuko Fujino (Japan)
  • Barbara Heller (Canada)
  • Fiona Hutchinson (UK)
  • Aino Kajaniemi (Finland)
  • Valerie Kirk (Australia)
  • Ieva Krumina (Latvia)
  • Rolands Krutovs (Lativia)
  • Ai Ito (Japan)
  • Ayako Matsumura (Japan)
  • Caron Penney (UK)
  • Erin M. Riley (USA)
  • Fiona Rutherford (UK)
  • Kristin Sæterdal (Norway)
  • Philip Sanderson (UK)
  • Saori Sakiai (Japan)
  • Tonje Høydahl Sørli (Norway)
  • Pat Taylor (UK)
  • Misao Watanabe (Japan)


March 2 at University for the Creative Arts Farnham

A Symposium to accompany the exhibition 'What do I need to do to make it ok?' showing at the Crafts Study Centre UCA Farnham.

The keynote speakers for the symposium are the ceramic artist Bouke de Vries and the textile artist Freddie Robins. After a peer review process, the following speakers have been invited to present papers: Stella Adams; Charlotte Bilby; Colette Dobson; Marie Lefebvre; Marlene Little; Victoria Mitchell; Celia Pym and Claire Wellesley-Smith. Their subjects cover themes such as: anatomy; sustainability; prisoner quilts; photography; health and community.

Tickets : £45.00 / £15 Students and unwaged - includes lunch and must be booked and paid for in advance from the Crafts Study Centre: 01252 891450

Registration : 10.00am at the Crafts Study Centre - Symposium : 10.30am - 5.00pm - Reception : 5.00pm - 6.30pm - a reception and viewing of the accompanying exhibition will be held for symposium delegates.

Freddie Robbins - 'Basket Case'

Freddie Robbins - 'Basket Case'

NEWS - The Erotic Cloth book

Professor Alice Kettle and I are delighted to have been given the go-ahead from Bloomsbury Publishing for a book based on the colloquium last year: The Erotic Cloth. We are both so excited - watch for updates!

Kawaii: crafting the Japanese culture of cute NOW OPEN

The exhibition Private View at the James Hockey and Foyer Galleries at UCA Farnham was opened by UCA Vice Chancellor Professor Simon Ofield-Kerr on October 29. The exhibition looks terrific and reception was very well attended. We were delighted that the Director General of The Japan Foundation, seven of the artists, the Coordinator from Japan and the Senior Exhibitions Officer from Rugby Art Gallery and Museum (next venue) were also present.

The next day (October 30) we all met again for a seminar hosted by The Japan Foundation at Kensington Conference Centre in London. I had been invited to give an introduction to the exhibition followed by presentations by Kawaii artists Minako Nishiyama, Mitsuo Toyazaki and the Gendai-bijutsu Nitouhei partnership. We then had a very lively discussion with the 80 or so attendees, chaired by Professor Simon Olding, Director of the Crafts Study Centre.

On Saturday October 31, I led the first of the free curator's tours of the exhibition. There were 20 who had booked and several who joined as we went round. On both these public occasions I have been very interested in the range of ages, which has both surprised me and validated my thinking that the exhibition will appeal to a wide audience - from the young kawaii enthusiasts to the older craft aficionado and all who are interested in Japanese culture.

On November 13 we will hold a public seminar at which we will discuss the issues raised by the exhibition. 

UPDATE: KAWAII!!? - crafting the Japanese culture of cute


This project now has its dedicated section on the website and everything is moving along. The catalogue is almost ready to go off for printing and looks terrific. All the artists have written in Japanese and English about their understanding of what is Kawaii, which is really interesting to read, particularly as there are as many understandings of Kawaii as there are artists in the exhibition! There are also contributions from Jessica Litherland, Senior Exhibitions Officer at Rugby Art Gallery, our partner venue, who is very knowledgeable about Kawaii and who has been incredibly helpful to me as I learnt about the various and many aspects of the culture; and from Mikako Sawada, a Japanese freelance journalist with a keen interest in Kawaii.

The stop press on the exhibition is that exhibiting artist Minako Nishiyama will be undertaking a residency at UCA Farnham for the two weeks before the exhibition. During this time she will create her installation of sugar paste roses. She will also be giving a lecture about her work - date and time to be announced here.

Recent activities - visit to Marian Bijlenga in Amsterdam

I had the great good fortune to be invited by Marian Bijlenga to visit her at her studio in Amsterdam as preparation for a text she has asked me to write for a monograph chronicling her 30 years as an artist. Her studio was an oasis of calm in a baking hot, tourist filled Amsterdam and it was a great privilege to look closely at so many of her works from very early ones to the latest, and to discuss them with her. It was particularly interesting to see some of the 30 miniatures she has recently created to represent a work or series of works from those 30 years, each one a tiny and complete version of a larger work. 


West Dean Tapestry Symposium 2015: skill-based making in the contemporary art world.

Next year I will be working with the National Centre for Craft and Design in Lincolnshire in the curation of an international tapestry exhibition due to open at the NCCD in October. This will be the first such major exhibition in England since 1994 and I am very excited to be involved. Therefore it was extremely timely to be invited to present a paper at the West Dean Tapestry Symposium and I was delighted to take part. There was an excellent turnout, with many of our most eminent tapestry artists in the audience. Anne Jackson and Shelly Goldsmith both spoke in depth about the ways in which their work has developed over the years whilst retaining its original research focus. There were also presentations from West Dean Studio weavers Katherine Swailes and Philip Sanderson described the balance between the Studio commissions and their own work. Other presentations were by Yvonna Demczynska who spoke about the promotion and selling of textiles in her Gallery Flow; and by Dr Liz Clay who described the progress and outcome of her collaboration as a felt artist with two Aubusson tapestry weavers. I wound up the day by reminding us of our recent history and discussing ways in which tapestry weaving can reflect contemporary social and political ideas. The event was followed by a viewing of the exhibition 'Hellreaf'.  

Transparent Boundaries nominated for a THELMA

I am absolutely delighted that the EU Transparent Boundaries project has been nominated for the Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award 2015 most innovative and original initiative in knowledge exchange. For Higher Education in the UK this is an equivalent to an Oscar nomination!

Transparent Boundaries is a project that has been incredibly important for me personally. It was built on my previous research (Lost in Lace) and developed beyond my dreams. We are a small university with great strengths in our specialism's, and through those specific particularities we have created a truly innovative initiative, bringing together specialist organisations from across Europe. I am particularly pleased that many of my PhD and MA students and also textile staff were involved in the project, which created a real sense of 'ownership' from the University and the School.

      The project set out to answer the question 'Where are the older people and why doesn’t society recognise them more in popular culture?' At a time of an increasing, and increasingly, older population who are only represented in the media when there are problems, Transparent Boundaries aimed to provide a platform for positive, creative outcomes. The project brought together craft practice (textiles) and performance arts (dance, singing). Younger artists/practitioners worked side by side with older people to find ways in which the creative contribution of the Elder would be visible and disseminated to the wider population.

The Award Ceremony will be on June 18th in London - and although winning would be wonderful, the nomination itself is a fantastic validation of a project that made an actual, rather than a theoretical, difference to people's lives.

for further information, see the Transparent Boundaries project page or visit the website: www.transparentboundaries.com 


Yesterday, March 20th, we held The Erotic Cloth Colloquium at the Art Workers Guild in London. The event was a joint initiative with Alice Kettle and originally we had planned it to be an informal, low key and fairly intimate discussion forum with a maximum of 40 attendees. However the number and quality of abstracts we received from our call out ended with our selecting 16 presentations and when the booking form went live all available places were sold within a week. The venue can hold 90 people seated and so we decided to fill the venue and create a different type of 'intimacy'. The full 90 places were taken within 2 weeks with an ever growing waiting list. Registration was scheduled for 10am - 10.30am but almost everyone had arrived by before 10am and the buzz was amazing.

The abstracts sent in covered a great deal of ground and Alice and I tried to make sure the selection was as representative as possible - in terms of disciplines and notions of the erotic - from the art historical to the autobiographical, covering pedagogy, performance and the political. Presenters were drawn from art and design practice and academia. There were also stand-alone video presentations throughout the day, which allowed for a variety of texture. A full programme is at the end of this news entry.

Alice and I had programmed the presentations in groups of 3 with indicative headings to these groupings, and in the event our grouping was very revealing with each presentation throwing a different but linked perspective on the others in that group - which was a great relief for Alice and me. The level of commitment that all the presenters had given to the development of the theme within their own field of interest was remarkable and was met with an equal commitment from the audience. We had asked that people would not leave before the last presentation had been completed and almost everyone remained. And the reward was an extraordinary performance from the dancer Masako Matsushita. See video. The whole audience was absolutely silent throughout; Masako said afterwards that she had never before made this performance to an audience who held her so intensely from start to finish. As one delegate emailed afterwards: "A truly stunning finale, you could have heard a pin drop!"

There were presentations during the day that I will never forget and I am sure it is the same for all of us - and in the same way that what is considered to be erotic differs from person to person, then I imagine that we will all have different 'favourites'. However I think everyone there was totally moved by Professor Catherine Harper's outstanding paper and its delivery.

We are in discussion with a publisher and so this may only be the beginning. As one of the presenters emailed:  "It was such an interesting day, with a great range of fascinating - and sometimes unexpected - perspectives on "the eroticism of cloth": long may the discussion continue!" 

Find out more about the programme here


Partner Meeting

Today, March 19th, we had our 2nd full partner meeting, which took place at RIBA in London, to discuss our application to EU Creative Europe. This time it was an extended grouping with several of the project artists also attending and contributing ideas. All confirmed partners have now completed their work programme and it was very exciting to now begin to make the connections between the proposals and discuss the exchanges, collaborations and modes of dissemination in more concrete terms. The areas of development are located within textiles, paper and performance with many potential connections across and between. With 10 partners from across Europe there is a real sense of internationalism, and at the same time it is challenging to draw the threads together in ways that everyone feels comfortable. However this meeting was very positive and we all felt we had been able to resolve anxieties on many issues. Although Uwe and I have visited all partners, sometimes on several occasions, it is so important that we meet as a total group and after the meeting and supper together there was a great feeling of being together, which will really help as the next stages will have to be negotiated through Skype.


Just returned from Japan - I had the great honour of being invited by Tokyo Zokei University to give a Paper, on October 26th, as part of their 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Tokyo Zokei University was founded on Bauhaus principles and I was asked to speak about the history of craft and design education in the UK and what I thought the future might be. Two of my fellow speakers, Professor Ulrich Schendzielorz and Professor Matthias Held, were from Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd in Germany, also founded on Bauhaus principles. The third was the eminent scholar, Professor Emeritus Shutaro Mukai, Professor of Design Science, Morphology, History of Modern Design, Musashino Art University, who had studied at Ulm and was a close friend of Josef and Annie Albers. The day was facilitated by the cultural commentator Professor Michio Hayashi, Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Sophia University.

At a time when art education in the UK is under so much pressure, it was a wonderful counterpoint to be asked to take a leading part in such an extraordinary event with many interesting and penetrating questions from the audience.


The Next Project - Kawaii!!!?

Whilst in Japan I also carried out further research for the next Anglo-Japanese project, one which really pushes me into new territory. It is an exploration of the Japanese culture of Kawaii - a word we understand to mean 'cute', as in Hello Kitty. However Kawaii is much more than Hello Kitty and I am working with artists who have trained in traditional craft techniques and who are challenging the popular, commercial, understanding of Kawaii through their work.

I have made a provisional selection of 15 artists who are working with textiles, urushi (lacquer), glass, porcelain, sugarpaste, and plastic. The discussions I have had with the artists have been extremely interesting and stimulating and I am very excited about the exhibition. I will be updating on progress over the next few months - the exhibition will open at UCA James Hockey Galleries in Farnham in September 2015, and will travel to Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in early 2016. We are looking for a third venue at the moment. In the meantime, here is a taster...

22nd May Poland

From Paris I went directly to Poland, to the Adam Mickiewicz University in Kalisz to give a Paper, Surface Tensions, at their international conference: Creativity in Arts and Arts Education. Alongside the conference were two exhibitions, one of which was the work of Hank Foreman, artist and Vice Chancellor of the Appalachian State University, who also presented a paper at the conference. The other exhibition was that of Diana Harrison, artist and UCA lecturer, whose exhibition for Transparent Boundaries in Wroclaw had toured to the university, and I had the happy honour of Opening it in its new location. The Adam Mickiewicz University will be one of the partner organisations going forward for our next EU proposal and this was an excellent opportunity to develop the relationship and discuss the proposal.