Mapping – a physical two- or three- dimensional representation of a given place at a given time.  Maps are usually associated with a scale, a grid, an orientation, and presenting information.  They can be geographical, social, economic, linear, bird’s eye view, a footprint.  They can indicate power, land ownership, a way of thinking, a direction, physical properties, an impression.

This, and more, I learnt at Textile Forum South West‘s conference on Mapping the Future: Where are YOU now?  It was held in the Somerset College of Art & Technology in Taunton and featured 7 speakers!  A feat of organisation which passed off really smoothly.  A hugely diverse speaking panel, starting with geomatician Peter Merrett and including maps and mapmaking, tapestry maps (Dr Hilary Turner), Networks (Dawn Mason), Mapping Impossible Islands : the internet for artists (Kirsty Hall), a sense of place embodied in a performance piece by Suze Adams, a mapping of a textile journey (Liz Harding) and keynote speaker, Dail Behennah talking on Grid, Line and Symbol.

As you can see, very varied fields of knowledge, and wonderfully thought-provoking.  I especially enjoyed Peter’s presentation of 3-D animated fly-pasts of Greenland, and mine shafts, along with Dawn’s Stitching and Thinking group doing research through hands-on crafts-based practice, and Dail’s presentation on her wonderful willow-work.

This is the fourth of TFSW’s conferences and sadly, it might be the last unless new people volunteer to give time and energy into sustaining it.  In the Midlands Textile Forum, we too have had to change format due to the lack of volunteers to keep it sustained at its previous level.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, though.  Every organisation has its lifetime, and may have to re-invent itself as funding streams change, the organisers want to reclaim their own making time for themselves, and we all know that there are those who will never commit to helping out whilst wanting all the benefits, alongside those who work really hard to contribute.  That is life.  Whilst it would be very sad to think that such an active and vibrant group as TFSW would not survive, that is the harsh reality of funding cuts and burnout.

I had the added pleasure of staying with fellow weaver Janet Phillips in her lovely cottage in Nether Stowey.  Janet runs weaving courses in her purpose built studio up the path in her garden and we did a video interview for the WeaveUK video series I’m currently working on.  Janet is well known in the weaving world from her two books, The Weaver’s Book of Fabric Design (1983) and Designing Woven Fabrics (2008).  The former is out of print, the latter you can get direct from Janet.  I had only met Janet once before, and that only briefly, so it was really a privilege to stay with her and to chat over a couple of days.

An extra bonus was to find that her husband, Nigel, is also an amateur geologist and we went out to East Quantoxhead to look at amazing strata and limestone pavement, and then to Blue Anchor Bay to see the Jurassic/Triassic interface and marvel at huge blocks of peach-coloured alabaster that have sheered from the cliff!  Stunning!  What a wonderful way to spend a weekend – weaving, textiles and geology!