The first Textile Forum took place in Eindhoven, Netherlands, and saw the Spinning Experiment taking place. With participants from all over Europe and even from the US, the beautiful museum environment, interesting presentations and even a two-day market, it was a wonderful start to our conference series.
The programme was split in three parts: morning sessions for the spinning experiment, followed by time to network and exchange crafts knowledge in the afternoon, and lectures in the evening. Our programme also included an excursion to the Weverijmuseum in Geldrop.
The Textile Forum 2009 was so well received, and proved to be such a good platform for learning, networking and research, that we decided to try and establish it as a yearly, one-week conference.
Our second European Textile Forum took us to beautiful South Tyrol, where the ArchaeoParc offered to host our conference. The programme did not include a large-scale experiment, but instead had a strong focus on individual workshops to learn or improve craft skills. The general programme thus followed the scheme of free time to work, try out things and talk about textile techniques in the mornings; the possibility to attend workshops about historical techniques in the afternoon; and a series of short paper sessions in the evening hours.
ArcheoParc Senales is a museum which has also open air spaces spread over 4,000 square metres and presents the Iceman's ambient, or being more accurate, how we believed his world to be. It's not sure that the Iceman lived in Val Senales, however, we are sure that he crossed part of the valley, entering in Val Tisa and died on the Tisa Ridge.
The ArcheoParc museum has a unique concept, blending information about vegetation and life in the alpine region where Ötzi was found together with information about his equipment. The museum's open architectural design, the information given in the museum and the open-air area with reconstructed houses blend together, encouraging the visitor to think about life in the late Neolithic and Copper age and to question some of the clichés about life in that time.
The ArcheoParc is very close to the place where Ötzi was found, in a valley in the South Tyrolean Alps. With this quite early background for the Forum week, we set a focus on the question of what makes a textile. Is it the material? The production technique? The use? The properties of the piece? What is the difference between a mat woven from grass and a mat woven from stiff threads? What concept does every single one of us have in mind when the word "textile" falls?
2012: Metals in the Textile Crafts. Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, Mayen, Germany, 10-16 September.
After a one-year hiatus due to a number of different problems, this Textile Forum was the first one to take place in the Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology - which was brand-new at that time. The new premises and our conference turned out to be the perfect match, and we were very happy to settle the conference in this place.
The 2012 Forum explored metals and their use or role in textiles, with topics ranging from the use of metal threads to an archaeological experiment researching the influence of the kettle material on the dyeing outcome.
2013: Decorative Elements in Textiles. Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, Mayen, Germany, 2-8 September.
The fourth European Textile Forum ran from September 2-8 2013 in the Lab for Experimental Archaeology in Mayen.
Our focus topic in 2013, "Decorative Elements in Textiles", included techniques such as dyeing, embroidery, printing, and painting on textiles. The week's activities included an experiment on resist dyeing as well as additional experiments about textile imprints in ceramics. For all these experiments, the wonderful infrastructure of the LEA again proved to be invaluable.
This year's conference included a slight re-formatting of our programme structure, matching each presentation with a corresponding practical session.
2014: Plant Fibres: Materials, Techniques, Problems. Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, Mayen, Germany, 3-9 November.
This year saw the switch from a September to a November date for the Textile Forum - with the possibility to use the heated indoor workrooms and lecture room, we were not limited anymore to the warmer half of the year as was the case when having the conference hosted by open-air museums. Many colleagues had also mentioned in the last years that September is an especially bad time of year for them, since there are many other events taking place, making good use of the end of the warm season.
Our focus topic in 2014 was "Plant Fibres: Materials, Techniques, Problems". Plant material in textiles is especially vulnerable to decay in the soil, and plant fibres pose their own challenges and have their own merits in comparison to wool and silk fibres. This was a topic with many aspects, including but of course not limited to: differences in working with plant fibres as compared to animal fibres, problems and possibilities of dyeing the material, conservation issues of plant materials on their own or in combination with animal fibres, garments or other pieces that were preliminarily made from vegetable fibres.
2015: Non-woven Textile Techniques. Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, Mayen, Germany, 2-8 November.
Our focus topic returned to technique from the more material-oriented topic from last year, looking at non-woven techniques in detail. The programme covered topics such as terminology, early knitting, the structural differences between knitting and nalebinding, and diverse other techniques such as sprang or needle-lace.
Mistakes are a part of work - and though they are usually nothing to be happy about, they can be immensely helpful for research. Mistakes, for instance, are often the only possibility to tell whether a braid was made with single ends or in a loop manipulation technique, or whether a piece is knitting or nalebinding. Other mistakes may point to the use of specific tools or work procedures. In some cases, what we perceive as mistakes might not have been seen as such, but accepted as a side product of a (possibly more efficient) technique.
Mistakes that happen when trying to reproduce or reconstruct a textile, garment, or textile tool can also yield valuable insights. Sometimes, a mistake leads to a fresh view of something and helps to evaluate a historical piece differently, leading to new questions and new approaches to a topic.
For the European Textile Forum in 2016, we explored aspects of mistakes - whether old or new - under our focus topic.