The 12th ETN Conference in Prato, Italy


Pfeil The programme from 18th to 21st September, 2003
Pfeil The international exhibition "Artists at Work - New Technology in Textile and Fibre Art"

Prato is exceptional among the locations that were once dominated by the textile industry in that it retains the charm of a small medieval town; the devastating influences of this industry are not encountered in the town centre, but rather in the surrounding landscape along the Bisenzio river. Unlike overcrowded tourist cities such as Florence, it is an easygoing and pleasant place for visitors to stay, although in September, when Tuscany's tourism is at its height, Prato is not exactly a cheap place to visit.
The decision to have the ETN Conference in Prato was the result of a happy coincidence during a project meeting of the European Textile Routes in Terrassa, Spain, in June 2002. At that meeting ETN President Lala de Dios and myself met Emanuele Lepri, the Director of the new - then as yet unfinished - Prato Textile Museum. Mr Lepri told us that he would like to do something spectacular to mark the beginning of the modern exhibitions in his museum. Patricia Kinsella, an American friend of mine resident in Prato who was to curate our exhibition, and I felt that a show illustrating the ways in which European textile artists explore new materials and techniques today would fit in best with Prato's recent development. For some time now the Prato textile industry has specialised in new textile techniques and technologies, whereas previously it focused on wool recycling processes.

The Exhibition
During the exhibition opening the wonderful new rooms of the Prato Textile Museum were packed. It was obvious that the exhibition had aroused the curiosity of the Italians, especially that of the press and television. I had a similar experience once before, at the opening of the "Textiles 2010" exhibition in Tilburg in 1995. Patricia Kinsella had found a good solution to the problem that some works needed to be seen in a dark environment whereas others required light. She created a darkened room in which extra spotlights were used to illuminate some of the works, making for a show that was rich in contrast.
I was not alone in thinking that this exhibition might be the start of a new Lausanne-style exhibition of textile art for our new century. A prominent participant, herself the organiser of a very successful series of biennial exhibitions, gave us the following advice: "Be more severe in the selection process, include the Japanese and the Americans, make the exhibition a travelling one and have the next one no earlier than three years from now!" Holding such a series of triennial exhibitions would require the Prato town council to recognise what treasure had been brought into being. However, as Prato's textile industry is still very much alive I fear that they will be more preoccupied with economic survival in these difficult times. Public interest in the cultural part of the textile industry usually arises only when that industry has ceased to exist, as in the case of Tilburg and so many other textile towns that now begin to treasure their textile cultural heritage.

The Conference
The number and type of visitors registering for the conference proved that we had the basic idea more or less right. The list of 117 registrations read like a Who is Who of European textile experts. Visitors came from 25 countries, with the largest numbers resident in Italy (19), the UK and Germany (16 each), the USA (7), France and the Netherlands (6 each), and 5 each from Spain, Sweden and Serbia. Further participants were from Norway (4), Estonia (4), Belgium (4), Canada (3), New Zealand (3), Australia (2), Austria (2), Romania (2), and there was one visitor each from Latvia, Taiwan, Japan, Finland, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Switzerland and Denmark.
Five further visitors from Russia, the Ukraine and Moldava were registered but were unable to come. We do not know the exact reasons, but we did hear that the one and only Eastern European participant who made it to Prato only managed to do so through great personal sacrifice. She had to put up with much harrassment to obtain her visa, a bus trip covering thousands of kilometres, and even an overnight stay in a Prato park because her hostel refused to open its doors at the late hour of her arrival. We are a long way from achieving human dignity for all Europeans... and this is not only true for travel to Italy, the entire European Union is building a new Iron Curtain to Eastern Europe!
Our Italian hosts were among the most helpful we experienced at any ETN Conference. The small number of registered participants from Italy was misleading. We were told that Italians usually just show up without registering, which turned out to be true as over 1000 visitors saw the exhibition on the first weekend and over 200 were present on the first morning of the conference when the five speakers gave their lectures on the conference theme. Suzanne Lee (who also wrote a detailed contribution for Textile Forum magazine 1/03) gave an overview of the development of the new textile technologies. She was followed by Frances Geesin - an artist well-known to ETN members - who presented some examples of young British textile artists' and researchers' current work in this field. Two companies from the Prato region, Luminex and Corpo Nove, presented their exciting products (both were featured in TF 1/03). Finally Cynthia Schira showed what US artists achieve today using the newer generation of weaving and jacquard machines.

The Accompanying Programme
The afternoons were filled with visits to places and institutions of textile interest, and the lectures continued in the evening with presentations by ETN members. The first conference day culminated in two performances, one by Patricia Black from Australia and one by Sha Sha Higby from the USA. Their performances took place in the rooms containing the Textile Museum's historic collections, which offered a playful contrast.
Aside from all these scheduled events, we saw the most important effect of such meetings - an intensive dialogue and practical, individual arrangements relating to new projects, co-operative ventures, further meetings etc.
As usual at ETN Conferences, only a small number of participants (17) attended the General Assembly. Participants expect to be asked to take on voluntary tasks to help the Network survive, and these are easily avoided by joining the attractive alternatives that are offered concurrently for non-members, like trips to the countryside and visits to museums.
The farewell dinner after the end of the Conference gave visitors some positive surprises. The venue of the dinner was a long way from Prato in the Apennine mountains. When we arrived at the location, which was in fact another former textile factory converted into a museum, we were awaited by a historical association dressed in the style of the Italian Renaissance; they led us to our places (small tables in the large hall) and served us an extraordinary dinner with specialities from the region.
Around 50 of the participants decided to spend their last day in Lucca and take part in a tour of the Palazzo Mansi in the morning and a tour to some of the former Lucca textile factories in the afternoon.
Our Prato hosts succeeded in making the event a good experience for all participants, and we all have pleasant memories of the museum, the town, Tuscany and the entire country. Let us meet again in Prato!
Beatrijs Sterk

The 12th ETN Conference, including the General Assembly
"New Technologies and Materials"
From 18th to 21st September, 2003

Textile Museum, Via Santa Chiara 24, I-59100 Prato/Italy
Conference location: Industrial Auditorium, Palace of Industry,
Unione Industriale, Via Valentini 14, I-59100 Prato

PROGRAMME speakers, events, workshops/pre- and post-conference workshops

Thursday, 18 September - Location: Textile Museum
15-18 h Registration
19 h Opening of the exhibition "Artists at work - New technologies in textile and fibre art"
Friday, 19 September - Location: Palace of Industry, Auditorium
9-10 h Last minute registration
10-13 h Welcome words by the City Council and by the President of ETN
Keynote speakers to the Conference theme:
Suzanne Lee: "Smart Talk" (Brandnew fabric and fashion developments)
Frances Geesin: "Some new developments in the UK"
11:30 h

Coffee break
Cristina Bini: Fabrics with optical fibres by the Luminex S.p.a.
Susan Clowes/Antonio Giallorenzo: Clothing in the frame of the ESA technology transfer and examples of clothing from plants including Stinging Nettles
Cynthia Schira: "Computerized Jacquard weaving in the USA"

13-15 h Lunch time
13-18 h

Tours and visits
a) Tour to the woolmill Gualchiere Remole (14 h)
b) Visit to the Costume Gallery in Florence (13 h)
c) Prato Industry Tour (14 h)
d) Visit to Fondazione Lisio, Florence (14 h)

19 h Lectures - Location: Textile Museum
- Working with optical fibres, Sarah Taylor, Galashiels/UK
- Textile Art Work by Use of Industrial Computerized Jacquard Looms, Jon Pettersen, Bergen/Norway
- Vibeke Vestby: "CAD Jacquard designs with the TC1 system"
- Reconstructed Bauhaus Textiles from the Gropius Room, Anna Silberschmidt, Studio Aphorisma, San Pancrazio, Italy
- Bed Spreads of the Serbs in Vojvodina 1850-1950, Bratislava Idvorean Stefanovic, Novi Sad/Serbia
- New Zealand Textile Artists, Kelly Thompson, New Zealand
21 h Party with performance by Patricia Black (21:30 h)
Saturday, 20 September - Location: Palace of Industry, Auditorium
10-13 h Lectures continued
- Projects from the Kuopio Academy of Design, Kaisa Klemola, Finland
- Crimea Cultural Tour with Workshop, Liana Listunova from Mykolaiv, Ukraine
- Hands in handweaving - Europe shakes hands with Africa, Eva Basile, Italy
Themes related to ETN activities
Decisions from Riga 2001:
- International European textile art touring exhibition, Lala de Dios/Mirjana Teofanovic
- Membership inquiry, Beatrijs Sterk/Dietmar Laue
- Work in progress: The virtual European Textile Routes, Beatrijs Sterk/Dietmar Laue
Other subjects
12:15 h Coffee break
Candidates for the AC and for the leadership of Working Groups will present their programmes for the period 2004/2005
13 h

Lunch time/time for informal meetings

GENERAL ASSEMBLY (for ETN members and guests)
Location: Textile Museum

15 h

Report by the Administrative Council (AC)
- Activities since July 2001
- Balance sheet 2001/2002 and preview 2003/2004
Release of the AC for the financial period 2001/2002
Reports of Working Groups

16.30 h Coffee break
17.00 h

1) Election of ETN's Administrative Council
2) Election of ETN Working Group leaders
3) Decision on the funding of ETN's Internet services
4) Decision on the ETN membership fee from 2004 onwards
5) Location and organiser of the 13th ETN Conference 2005

17.30 h Other topics (e.g. subjects addressed by members)
18.00 h End of the General Assembly
13-18 h Tours and visits (programme for non-members)
a) Tour to the woolmill Gualchiere Remole (see Friday, 14 h)
b) Visit to the Costume Gallery at the Palazzo Pitti, Florence (see Friday, 13 h)
e) Visit to the Stibbert Museum, Florence (14 h)
18-20 h Free time
20-23 h
Farewell dinner Location: Restaurant outside Prato, travel by bus, meeting point: Textile Museum
Sunday, 21 September
10-17 h f) Tour to Lucca to see the textile collection at Palazzo Mansi



The speakers of Friday morning:
Suzanne Lee,
Senior Research Fellow at the School of Fashion & Textile Design/Central Saint Martins, London, will give an overview on new developments and future technologies;
Frances Geesin, Senior Research Fellow at the same College (see above), herself an artist, will show works by artists in the UK working with new technologies;
Cristina Bini, Lumineux S.p.a. in Prato, will talk about optical fibres
Susan Clowes from the Italian research company "Grado 2000 Espace" will highlight clothing derived from space technologies
Cynthia Schira, the wellknown US artist working with CAD Jacquard weaving, will tell about electronical Jacquard weaving used by US artists

a) Tour to the woolmill Gualchiere Remole:
One of the most significant remaining sites of the extensive mediaeval Tuscan industrial complex, this ancient mill on the banks of the Arno river was dedicated to the processing of wool. Still today, the water-powered machinery is perfectly functional. Visit guided by Textile Museum director Emanuele Lepri, departure from Prato 14.00 - return to Prato 17.00 - max. 25 participants; cost € 10.-.

b) Visit to the Costume Gallery in Florence:
Founded in 1983, the Galleria del Costume in the Palazzo Pitti still is the only museum of its kind in Italy today dedicated to the history of clothing. The cultural evolution of materials and techniques from the 17th century to the present day is documented by 6,000 items of clothing and accessories. Visit guided by Director Caterina Chiarelli; departure from Prato 13.00 h, return to Prato 17.00 h - max. 25 participants; cost € 15.-.

c) Prato Industry Tour:
Spinning, weaving and finishing in the textile factories of Prato. One of the most important textile manufacturing centres in Italy since medieval times, Prato has remained in the forefront of this industry by continual innovation and investment. The tour is guided by textile designer Patricia Kinsella; departure from Prato centre 14.00, return to Prato centre 17.00 h - max. 25 participants; cost € 10.-.

d) Visit to Fondazione Lisio, Florence:
The Foundation was set up in 1971 by Fidalma Lisio, daughter of Giuseppe Lisio who, upon her father's death, inherited the most famous manufacture of handwoven silks in Italy. Today it has attracted a specialist staff of technicians, weavers, historians and teachers. The main aim of Fondazione Lisio is to ensure the survival of the finest handweaving techniques, especially of the velvets and brocades of the Italian Renaissance. Visit guided by Director Roberta Orsi Landini; departure from Prato 14.00 h, return to Prato 17.00 - max. 25 participants (a second group is possible); cost € 10.-.

e) Visit to the Stibbert Museum, Florence:
Conceived as a single collection, this museum represents one of the rare examples that have remained of a 19th century house transferred into a museum. The collections were entirely set up by Frederick Stibbert in the second half of the 19th century, as a documentation of his interest in the history of civil and military costumes, European and Oriental weapons, clothes and accessories (16th-19th centuries), tapestries, period paintings, ceramics. textiles, porcelain and furniture. Visit guided by Mary Bulgarella; departure from Prato 14.30 h, return to Prato 18.30 h - max. 25 participants; cost € 12.-.

f) Tour to Lucca to see the textile collection at Palazzo Mansi (in the morning):
The 18th century Palazzo Mansi is a testimony to the exquisite taste of Lucca artists and patrons. The interior is preserved with the original furnishings, upholsteries and tapestries. A special area of the Palace is dedicated to textiles and 18th century costumes. Further remarkable objects: The Newly Weds' Room with a carved and gilded alcove and 18th century embroidered silk hangings and wallhangings. There also is a weaving workshop and a period loom.
In the afternoon: Visit to the city of Lucca. One of Italy's finest mediaeval treasures, the centre is sprinkled with palazzi, towers, and countless splendid churches. Of special interest will be visits to sites of textile-industrial archaeology, a.o. the Coats Spinning Mill and the Spinning Mill ex Filanda Viani. Visit guided by staff members of the Prato Textile Museum, departure from Prato 10.00 - return to Prato 17.00 h - max. 50 participants; cost € 20.- (without lunch).

15-17 September "Jacquard weaving with the TCI"; course leader: Vibeke Vestby, Norway
Three-day workshop on the design of Jacquard fabrics and the use of the TC-1 electronic loom. This is a rare opportunity to combine historic textile techniques with state-of-the-art technology.
22 Sept.-3 Oct. "CAD Jacquard Course"
A 70-hour CAD textile course on Jacquard with course leaders Julie Holyoke and Eva Basile.
Location and information detail: Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio, Via B. Fortini 143, I-50125 Florence;
Tel: +390-55/6801340; Fax: /680436; e-mail: info@fondazionelisio.org

The juried international exhibition "Artists at Work - New Technology in Textile and Fibre Art" from 18 Sept. until 3 Nov. 2003 at the Prato Textile Museum

(The deadline for entries was April 7th, 2003)

The jury met on 25th/26th April to consider submissions by 158 artists from 24 European countries for inclusion in the exhibition and catalogue. For reasons of space the selection had to be restricted to 37 items. Thus 37 artists from 10 countries remain: 14 from the UK, six from Germany, three each from Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark, two from Slovakia and one each from Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Slovenia and Latvia. A pleasingly high number of applications came from countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain, although regrettably, only six out of the 24 submissions passed the selection. Insofar as I can judge as a member of the jury, less than half of the artists have already made names for themselves by participating in many international exhibitions. The not so well-known names included many young artists.
The artists selected are:
1 Anniken Amundsen, UK
2 Hildegard Bachler, A
3 Sharon Baurley, UK
4 Zane Berzina, UK
5 Philippa Brock, UK
6 Ciempiés, E
7 Simon Clarke, UK
8 Hil Driessen, NL
9 Janet Emmanuel, UK
10 Silvia Federová, SK
11 Irina Grodzinskaja, DK
12 Bitten Hegelund, DK
13 Anke Hennig, D
14 Ainsley Hillard, UK
15 Gisela Hoffmann, D
16 Janis Jefferies, UK
17 Anda Klancic, SI
18 Wilma Kuil, NL
19 Katarina Mácová, SK
20 Anja Madsen, F
21 Gina Morandini, I
22 Monica Notarbartolo, I
23 Philip O'Reilly, UK
24 K. Politowicz, UK
25 Dorothea Reese-Heim, D
26 Ann Richards, UK
27 Sophie Roet, UK
28 Scilla Speet, NL
29 Peteris Sidars, LV
30 Norma Starszakowna, UK
31 Erika Streit, CH
32 Sarah Taylor, UK
33 Katharina Thomas, D
34 Machi Ue, I
35 Sonja Weber, D
36 Grethe Wittrock, DK
37 Ute Wolff, D
Jury member Frances Geesin was invited to participate in the exhibition outside the competition.
Beatrijs Sterk