European Textile Forum - a platform for historical textile crafts

The idea of the Forum, in a single word? Networking. We want to give everyone connected to historical textiles the chance to meet others working in the same area. Most importantly, we want to make it possible for academics with no craft background to meet crafters with no academic background. We have seen again and again how much helpful input this generates for both sides, the academic side and the crafting side.

Research about old textiles - archaeological finds, relics and museum pieces - is a wonderful way to learn from the ancient workers. The quality, detail and knowledge that went into making many of the surviving historical textiles is stunning, and it's not always possible to see at first glance how it was made. In these cases, the crafts perspective and craft knowledge can be the key to reconstruct processes or to explain odd details. This is when thorough research and applied skills can work together at their best.

Craft skills are also an invaluable asset when designing and running an archaeological experiment that includes craft elements. The Forum with its large number of skilled textile workers is the ideal opportunity to run a large-scale archaeological experiment concerning textile works, like the Spinning Experiment in the Forum 2009. It is also very well suited to getting input and brainstorming help from different perspectives, and to consult crafters with different backgrounds.

We actively encourage the exchange of information and craft skills - networking is a very important, if not the most important aspect of the Textile Forum. Our craft focus is also evident in the organisation of the programme, as each paper or presentation is usually accompanied by a practical session related to the paper. This includes everything from workshops on the basic technique to in-depth and hands-on brainstorming about possibilities to achieve a specific outcome as evidenced in the original item.

Our original idea also included a market for the opportunity to buy rare, specific and usually hard-to-get tools and materials especially for historical textile techniques. While our first market at Eindhoven was very well received, the format of the conference doesn't really support a full-fledged market. There is, however, the opportunity to buy or sell specialist items at the Textile Forum - from books to materials or tools.

The Textile Forum is a friendly, open place to meet new people and get in contact with both craft practice and scientific research - for the benefit of all.

Location for the European Textile Forum

The conference started out as a travelling conference, moving to a different museum each year. In 2012, however, we found a wonderful permanent partner in the Labor für Experimentelle Archäologie (Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, short LEA) in Mayen, Germany, and have since settled down in this place.

This Laboratory for Experimental Archeology is established by the district Mayen-Koblenz, the town of Mayen and the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (RGZM) in Mainz. The Laboratory address is An den Mühlsteinen 7, Mayen. At the core of the Laboratory are possibilities for running archaeological experiments with iron, non-ferrous metals, glass, pottery and textiles; an open space for outdoor experiments is also available. An archaeological technician and an executive/managing scientist are part of the staff.

The Laboratory is intended not only for the research projects of the RGZM, but also to be a place for cooperation and networking in research, teaching, communication and marketing. The aim is to provide the necessary infrastructure for high-quality experimental archaeology.

With these aims, the Textile Forum and LEA have a lot in common, and we are extremely happy for the opportunity to hold the Forum at this place. We have already had several opportunities where the ready availability of lab rooms and workshops have made it possible for some spontaneous extra research to happen, to the great delight of all those involved.

If you are interested, you can read more about the Laboratory (German language article with short English summary) here.

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