Tim Martin’s review of the TFSW Conference

Mapping the Future: A Personal Reflection

Conferences are about networking, making and building on connections and learning something new; likewise so are maps and mapping and as I discovered at Textile Forum South West’s excellent conference at Somerset College, Taunton on Sat 26th March they are also about much, much more.

After leaving college (many years ago!) with a degree in Fine Art and Geography I was very close to going on to study cartography, I didn’t, but chose to follow my artistic passions initially through pencil and paint with, I have to say, the occasional stitch.  Maps have never been far from my practice and the jobs I’ve had to do to support it, on leaving one I was given a full set of Ordnance Survey maps of Devon which remain dog-eared but in constant use today.

‘Mapping the Future’ approached its subject from a variety of perspectives: by considering historical and contemporary practice, technology, art and science, but most of all by sharing ‘personal’ maps and networks. The conference kicked off its eclectic themed programme with land surveyor Peter Merrett taking us on a colourful journey around the world in 30 minutes. From the ‘power’ and ‘influence’ that are maps, the fluidity of the earth’s surface that creates the need for reference dates (Epochs) to the high-tech world of GPS and laser scanning that can accurately 3D map to within 5mm. In contrast Dr Hilary Turner took us back to the sixteenth century to discuss Ralph Sheldon’s Tapestry Maps of Warwickshire and surrounding counties. These intricate visual maps, some still in existence today, present a powerful portrayal of Elizabethan England.

Dawn Mason explored the idea of stitch as a language and focused on The Stitching and Thinking Group in Bristol who as a research network of practitioners enable and provoke critical dialogue.  Her images of ‘Joints’ really resonated with me as did Kirsty Hall’s obsessive infectious approach to her multiple works.  Kirsty’s whirlwind journey through all things ‘on-line’ included interesting sites such as ‘Ravelry’, ‘Pinterest’ and ‘Central Station’

Following a networking lunch that involved ‘Tweave’ and Pom-Pom making the lights were dimmed for a live performance by multi-disciplinary artist Suze Adams.  By the afternoon I was feeling guilty that I had left my partner, an art teacher who works with stitch, looking after the kids. She would have really enjoyed both Liz Harding’s mapping a year of making work by creatively responding to a landscape, of using paint, dye and stitch, of playing with work outdoors. She would have found keynote speaker Dail Behennah’s practice, especially her enamelled museum labels, the product of a residency, a treat.

Meshworks, networks, and mapworks – so what did this day do for me? It made me discuss ideas brought up on the day with a group of artists, one a textile artist who wished she had been there, one who was featured in Dail Behennah’s presentation. It made me make some walking drawings the following day. On the evening of the conference I discussed the tidal rise and fall of Devon and Cornwall with geographer teaching friends. It reinforced my desire to stick with maps in the car rather than buy a sat-nav! It made me go and see Amy Houghton’s engaging exhibition at Plymouth College of Art and it made me think that the ‘Mapping the Future’ exhibition next year at The Brewhouse was going to be good.

Tim Martin

Artist and Visual Arts Officer, The Brewhouse, Taunton

photo Janet Haigh


Photo Janet Haigh


photo Janet Haigh


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