Weaving Futures. Contemporary Textile Practices.
Report by Lala de Dios
Chantada, Lugo, ES
30.09. – 03.10.2023

Weaving Futures. Contemporary Textile Practices. Report by Lala de Dios Chantada, Lugo, ES 30.09. – 03.10.2023

Carmen D. Castañeda uses embroidery techniques that belong to the realm of Haute Couture to create refined and minimalist works of art.

Report by Lala de Dios

The seminar  Weaving Futures. Contemporary Textile Practices was held on September 30th to October 3rd in a quiet rural setting near the village of Chantada, Lugo, Spain, curated by art historian, vocational weaver and curator Lala de Dios, former president of the ETN.

The seminar venue, Espacio Vilaseco, is an old cow farm surrounded by huge oak trees and chestnuts that her owner - an art gallerist- has transformed into an artistic production center where contemporary art can interact with nature and the traditional culture of the territory. This was the place chosen by the Galician regional government to organise this seminar aimed to present the current panorama of contemporary textile practices and claim their diversity and innovative character. Certainly innovation in textiles can be proud of a long historical record from the invention of spinning and the loom in the Neolithic, to the mechanisms of thread selection of the Jacquard  loom that was invented in the 18th century featuring a data storage system on punched cards, a precursor to computing.

The key note speaker was Dutch product designer Simone Post who first became known for upcycling the famous Vlisco wax fabrics into rugs, wall hangings and even furniture. Her creative off-the-beaten-path way of thinking has led her to fill with colour the exterior of the Vlisco headquarters building or to decorate the Hermès Tokio flagship store with all kind of objects made of cotton candy cords.

The seminar was structured in four panel discussions each one of them revolving about a theme deemed relevant for contemporary makers and artists.

The first panel examined the topic of how textile workshops and studios fit into the current environment of the creative industries. Traditionally, the strengths of a craft workshop lie in its in-depth knowledge of a craft and the materials that are its own. Artisans are, therefore, specialists, in a world where the values on the rise are flexibility, the ability to reinvent oneself, to know enough about many things to orient yourself but without going in depth... In short: what the world seems to need now in the creative industries is transdisciplinarity. So the debate was if this specialization inherent to craft is an asset o rather a drawback. It was said that is precisely their status as specialists that makes artisans looked for by professionals from other fields thus opening the doors to different forms of collaboration and co-creation.

The theme of the second panel was Craft and Fashion.
It is a fact that Haute Couture is 100% handmade and that many of devoted to embroidery, featherwork, millinery and other painstaking techniques have survived because they belong to some of the large groups that control the luxury industry.

But fashion also has a dark side, encouraging irresponsible and unsustainable consumption. The textile industry is one of the most polluting in all phases of the value chain, from the production of fibers to the tons of waste they produce each year. Fast fashion and craft could not be more different.

Craft has a lot to offer fashion in the form of differentiated, sustainable products made to last. Due to its small scale, craft is sustainable by default. It can also collaborate with industries that recycle textile waste: a new source of non-traditional materials. On the other side, research and testing on new materials, or new uses for traditional materials or on new methods of digital manufacturing,  all need a high degree of craftsmanship, they are the 'new craft'.

The theme of the third panel discussion was Textiles, Art and Science.
Craft has always proven to be innovative, creative and with a considerable capacity to solve problems, while improving its tools and production processes. The industrial revolution began in textiles: the first machine allowed many threads to be spun at the same time and we have already mentioned the importance of the Jacquard loom in the history of computing. The invention of artificial fibers in the 1950s (rayon, nylon, polyester...) paved the way for technical textiles, with applications in architecture, medicine, or the aerospace industry.

Textile comes from the Latin textus. The result of weaving, braiding, interweaving words is a text. There are many cultures that relate the creation of the world and the word to textiles. Textiles have a meaning that transcends the object: they are carriers of codes that identify us and create a language. This is evident in artistic historical textiles, full of cult (and hidden) references; in popular and ethnographic textiles, although many of their meanings have been lost to us and in clothing and fashion, loaded with meanings about our affiliations, status and aspirations.

Precisely because textile objects - from a ball of cotton to a shirt - have so many levels of meaning, they are one of the fashionable materials in contemporary art. now that the obsolete distinction between Fine Arts materials and Applied Arts materials has been overriden.

Last panel discussed the current revival of local natural textile resources e.g. textile fibres or dye plants.
Industrial society assigns agriculture the role of supplier of raw materials that it sends to factories for transformation into products. For many years, the degree of development of a country was measured by its number of farmers: the fewer farmers, the more industry and the more development. In other words, if agriculture was important in a country, we were talking about an 'underdeveloped' country.

In agrarian societies, the production of objects was closely related to the annual rhythm of sowing, cultivation and harvesting; that is, to nature. Industrial society has pushed us towards alienation with respect to nature that has so become an 'external' space for humans, even though we are part of it. It has also led to the environmental catastrophe we are heading towards, the disappearance of extensive agriculture and livestock, the loss of biodiversity... Science has been providing data on what is happening for a long time.

We live in a post-industrial and digital society. We must change the way most of us feel and think (in that order); and in this challenge, all creatives, artists, designers and artisans have a great role to play, because they know how to reach our emotions: that is, how to reach the heart and from there move to the brain and to action. Craft is exceptionally well placed for the task because it has always had an intimate relationship with the territory where the craftspeople live, make and sell their wares and with its local resources. It is all about recovering valuable and sustainable materials and the know how associated with its production.

Weaving Futures offered two days for reflection and networking plus two days of training. Helen Leaf, UK, lead a workshop on ply-split braiding, an ancestral technique used in Rajasthan to make reins for the camels that have  by Peter Collingwood, Noemi Speiser and others. This little-used technique, halfway between weaving and basketry, is slow and laborious but it offers multiple possibilities for the creation of both functional objects, or unique artistic pieces. A digital weaving workshop in the TC2 was also planned although it had to be posponed.

To summarize: Weaving Futures has served to inspire participants and strengthen the compromise of each of us with our practice, in addition to sharing relevant information about the perspectives of contemporary textile crafts.


Simone Post, NL. The Vigilant Dresser. Upcycling Vlisco’ wax fabrics scraps.

Buj Studio, ES. Nests. Artist and researcher Raquel Buj works in the intersection between Art and Fashion
exploring biomaterials and new technologies.

Mutur Beltz, a project aimed to put into value the local wool of the Karrantza Valley in the Spanish Basque Country through Art-led activism.

Harvesting the first linen produced at Espacio Vilaseco is a project that unites ethnographic research
with artistic creation and interaction with the local community.

Belategui Regueiro, ES. Handwoven linen table mat.

Mourne Textiles is a design-led manufacturer of handwoven products based in County Down, North Ireland. For three generations their master-weavers have produced the mid-century visions of Norwegian design pioneer and founder, Gerd Hay-Edie. Now led by Gerd’s grandson Mario Sierra, Mourne Textiles creates contemporary home furnishings inspired by a rich weaving heritage. These are the 2022 scarves collection inspired by the Mourne landscape.

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