by Hannah Vickers, Harriet Perkins, Michelle Hunter, 2nd Year Students, MPhil Textile Conservation.
Recently, the three of us paid a visit to Edinburgh College of Art to talk to Textile students and Embroiderers’ Guild members about textile conservation. On an intensive, specialised course, it’s easy to forget how to describe and explain what we do to non-conservators, so this was a great opportunity to communicate our practice to a wider audience.
We gave advice on how the students can increase the longevity of their work through good storage and display. For example, using acid-free tissue to pack textiles is a cheap and easy way of preventing unwanted creases and discolouration from acidic conditions. We also talked about how they can make more durable work by considering the stability of their materials and construction methods, whilst acknowledging that some artists intentionally choose to make ephemeral art out of materials that will quickly degrade, leaving conservators with a tricky dilemma!
Our audience responded with questions covering wide-ranging topics, including: how do you roll flat textiles, what’s the difference between restoration and conservation and what dyes do we recommend using and why? For us, it served as a fascinating insight into the concerns of textile makers and practitioners. We also really enjoyed getting a peek at their current project; the students and Guild members were carefully examining the College’s collection of historic textiles that were once part of the National Needlework Development Scheme, identifying stitches and drawing inspiration from the objects to keep the techniques and patterns alive in their own work. The project served as a great reminder of why we preserve textiles, as important educational tools of techniques that might otherwise be lost, and powerful sparks for future creativity.
If you want to learn more about what the Edinburgh College of Art textile program is up to you can visit their blog at: