West Dean Tapestry Symposium : Skill based making in the contemporary art world

Edward James Foundation - West Dean College

Edward James Foundation – West Dean College

I have arrived at the beautiful Edward James Foundation – West Dean College, West Sussex, for the Tapestry Symposium, which takes place tomorrow.


I worked here as a student, many years ago, on placement at the Tapestry Studio assisting with the Henry Moore Tapestries.  I spent more time sourcing yarn than I did weaving ‘Moore inches’ but it was a fantastic experience and one that firmly set me off on a career of ideas and image based textiles.


I have been lucky enough to visit West Dean as a visiting lecturer a number of times since then and delighted that Philip Sanderson the Studio Director has asked me back to contribute to the symposium.




WEST DEAN TAPESTRY SYMPOSIUM 2015: Skill-based making in the contemporary art world

Friday 31st July 2015, 11.00-17:00
The symposium will explore the status of hand woven tapestry within the context of contemporary art and craft practices. Focus will be placed on engaging with complex questions concerning the history and future of tapestry weaving in relation to technological advances, and a renewed interest in skill-based making in contemporary art.
The symposium will bring together a number of speakers, including current practitioners, to contextualise and assess tapestry weaving today and will ask the questions:

What work is being produced by weavers today?

What challenges do tapestry weavers face within the art world?

What influence does a Professional Studio and its weavers have on the development of tapestry within the art world today?


11.00 – 11.15 ALISON BAXTER
, Head of Creative Enterprise, West Dean College. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SYMPOSIUM.

11.15 – 12.00pm ANNE JACKSON, Tapestry weaver. THE WITCHCRAFT SERIES.
Anne Jackson will discuss her current project within the context of wider contemporary tapestry and textile practice. She will offer her perspective on the place of tapestry in the contemporary art world, and address some of the recurring issues it faces.

Shelly will be presenting her multidisciplinary textiles practice talking about the highlights and challenges of working across a range of methods, techniques and applications (print, weave, stitch and photography).

12.45 – 13.45 Lunch

13.45 – 14.05 KATHARINE SWAILES, Master Tapestry Designer Weaver, West Dean Tapestry Studio. ARTISAN OR ARTIST.
A life working with wool. Swailes will look at her artisanal practice alongside her own works and the dialogue between the two. She uses traditional techniques with contemporary purpose. Her work covers a broad range of textile practice and construction, from costume for film, tapestries for palaces and small scale works for the collector and domestic market.

14.05 – 14.25 PHILLIP SANDERSON, Master Tapestry Designer Weaver, West Dean Tapestry Studio. DESIGN, TRANSLATION AND PRODUCTION.
The talk will show the development of tapestry design and production within the Professional Tapestry Studio and how the two parallel strands of Philip’s practice have overlapped and influenced each other.

14.25 – 15.10 YVONNA DEMCZYNSKA, Gallery Owner, Flow Gallery, London.SELLING TEXTILES – A GALLERIST POINT OF VIEW.
The talk will concentrate on the various ways of promoting both functional and fine art textiles within the gallery environment focussing on Flow gallery’s in house exhibitions, touring shows and art fairs.

15.10 – 15.40 Tea

15.40 – 16.00 DR. LIZ CLAY, Textile artist. A TALE OF TWO (SMALL) CITIES.
A collaborative project and practical exchange of ideas between two weavers from Aubusson and a felt maker from Wells.

Lesley Millar will discuss the role of tapestry and tapestry weaving as a conduit between traditional practice and radical thinking. She will reference particular cultures where tapestry has carried both overt and covert narratives and the current, the highly energetic, young tapestry weavers in Japan.

16.45 – 17.00 Q & A session

17.00 – 17.30 Informal visit to the Tapestry Studio

17.30 – 19.00 Private view of ‘Heallreaf’ – Tapestry in a Public Space, The Auditorium, The Edward James Studio’s, West Dean College
The Old Library, West Dean College, West Dean, Chichester, West Sussex

Friday 31st July 2015, 11.00-17:00, £25


Symposium speakers
Dr Liz Clay

Yvonna Demczynska

Shelly Goldsmith

Anne Jackson’s

Professor Lesley Millar

Philip Sanderson

Katharine Swailes




One Response to “West Dean Tapestry Symposium : Skill based making in the contemporary art world”

  1. Hi Shelly,
    Just to say, it was a pleasure to meet you, and spend a little time, at West Dean. It was a fantastic event! I feel totally haunted by the house, and the strange figure of Edward James; have you seen the 1970’s film about him on YouTube, narrated by George Melly? A big thanks to him for the College anyway.
    I’m very intrigued to see you’ve been looking at good luck charms. I was thinking of incorporating a St. Christopher in my fishing superstitions pieces, as many fishermen carry them, but I couldn’t make the imagery work. Spooky!
    All the best,

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