Lesley Millar - conference organisation

Conference: Digital/Material: developments in printed and woven textiles
University for the Creative Arts Rochester. 29 October 2017

Current developments encompass digital and hand skills and with this conference focussed on these two seemingly opposing approaches, remembering that it is not necessary to set up dichotomies, it shouldn't and doesn't need to be either or, but both.  The speakers were: Phillip David Stearns (Keynote), David Mabb (Keynote), Dr Sonja Andrew, Dr. Katherine Townsend and Dr. Ania Sadkowska, Sue Prescott, Coral Fowley, Sharon McElroy, Evelyn Bennett and Rebecca Waterworth. The day ended with a performance by Collectress and Rambert Dance Company with the Project “In the Making: Lightdial” December 2016.



Conference: The Matter of Material
Turner Contemporary, Margate. 27 April 2017

It is now almost 35 years since Sarat Maharaj asked the question ‘Textile Art- Who Are You?’, describing textile art as  “‘undecidable’…something that seems to belong to one genre but overshoots its border and seems no less at home in another. Belongs to both, we might say, by not belonging to either.” It is an even longer period of time since Eva Hesse confused the New York art world in the 1960’s with works combining cloth and thread. Since then, cloth as a narrative voice has threaded its way through feminism and political activism, from marginalisation to surety in its strength and appropriateness.

Textiles and textile thinking, as the medium of choice for art works, have featured in mixed exhibitions and exhibitions of specific material focus throughout the world, with the Kaunus Biennale currently leading the way in radical readings of textile and art. Featuring 10 new works and over 40 international artists, ‎‘Entangled: Threads and Making’ brings together a group of 20th century pioneers of textiles, tapestry and design alongside contemporary artists who incorporate similar materials and processes in their work.

The Conference ‘The Matter of Material’ will discuss the use of fabric in art, how textile can be seen as a piece of beautifully designed cloth; as contributing to the expanded field of textile art; or be appropriated for a particular work. Cloth is a universal material we love it and understand it, yet we overlook, and sometimes dismiss it as (im)material. Conference organisers invite submissions from different practices that reflect on, and about, the importance of the material in art, viewed from an historical and a contemporary perspective.

Speakers were: Dr Catherine Harper (Keynote), Karen Wright (curator 'Entangled), Freddie Robins, Dr Maxine Bristow, Dr Beverly Ayling-Smith, Dr Catherine Dormor, Shelly Goldsmith.



Conference: 'Craft History' (with the Crafts Study Centre)
University for the Creative Arts Farnham. 15 March 2017

The Crafts Study Centre is home to one of the great public collections of craft, comprising not only exemplar objects but also significant archives. The International Textile Research Centre places contemporary textiles in aesthetic, cultural and theoretical contexts, often setting out radical argument through exhibition practice. This is craft history written in the moment, interpreted through artefact. The combination of these elements can be seen as a narration of craft history written by the makers’ themselves. They are the unmediated materials for critical discourse. The speakers were Glenn Adamson and Alison Britton as Keynotes with Liz Cooper, Rachel Johnston, Dr Stephen Knott , Dr Gail Baxter, Kimberley Chandler, Dr Colin O Dubhghaill who developed ideas around  ‘Britain’s memory bank of craft’ in the words of Glenn Adamson.


Conference: How Can I Make It OK? the art of repair.
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. 2 March 2016

A Symposium to accompany the exhibition 'What do I need to do to make it ok?' showing at the Crafts Study Centre UCA Farnham.

The keynote speakers for the symposium are the ceramic artist Bouke de Vries and the textile artist Freddie Robins. Speakers were: Stella Adams; Charlotte Bilby; Colette Dobson; Marie Lefebvre; Marlene Little; Victoria Mitchell; Celia Pym and Claire Wellesley-Smith. Their subjects covered themes such as: anatomy; sustainability; prisoner quilts; photography; health and community.


Conference: The Art of Bereavement
University for the Creative Arts Farnham, 15th May 2015

Marking the death of someone who has died through the creation of art is a common practice in many cultures. There are public memorials for those who have died in wars, for example the Cenotaph memorial, or collective and personalised memorials, for example the AIDS quilts, or a painting of a family group which includes a recently dead child or wife.  Such acts are not only commemorations, they represent ways in which contact with the dead is maintained. We can all recognise this reluctance to 'let go': in Martin Cruz Smith's novel 'Havana Bay' his hero Arkady Renko, despite the sweltering heat, refuses to take off his winter overcoat, because it still retains the smell of his wife who has died. In the age of digitalisation and the internet, a Facebook page or a website can carry on as if the person were still alive. Messages are left as if the dead could read them.

In Western Society we now hardly observe those rituals of grief and mourning, which served as Waymarker's through the loss. And yet, eventually, mediated or otherwise, each of us arrives at a point of acknowledgement. How we have reached that recognition may well determine our subsequent emotional life. This conference and accompanying exhibition explore the means by which artists, through the making of art, the writing of a text, are in the process of finding alternative interstices for acknowledging the death of someone close, or confronting their own mortality.

The Conference included papers from artists, researchers and writers on subjects which addressed the theme of the conference through the following :

  • Analysis of an artist’s, performer’s, film-maker’s or writer’s work related to the subject. 
  • Cultural expressions of mourning
  • Artistic depictions of grief and death
  • Mourning and memory
  • Contemporary mourning practices 
  • Creativity and bereavement
  • Communal / community responses to bereavement


Abstracts and images

Colloquium: The Erotic Cloth
Art Workers Guild, London, 20 March 2015

From the beautiful cloth which is quietly suggestive, to the bold expressions of sexuality, cloth is a message carrier for both desiring and being desired. Cloth offers those 'porous, reversible, intimate atmospheres that can be transformative' as described by Giuliana Bruno. The materiality of cloth allows for the nuanced, rather than direct, reading of the body: the shape beneath, the space between, the haptic narrative. Cloth in motion, the sound and smell of cloth. In our liaisons with cloth we become Other since, as in a second skin, we can play out the disguises of the idealized form, and the imaginary of our hidden selves.

The Colloquium 'The Erotic Cloth' considered the ways in which the qualities of cloth to seduce, conceal and reveal have been investigated and exploited in art.. Presentations were from different practices and in different formats: dance, film, art, fashion, installation, illusion and performance, each playing out  the seduction of cloth. They considered the explicit and the delicately suggestive, the lingering eye, and the textures of sensation; the aesthetics of cloth to excite or indeed disturb.

The Erotic Cloth was a collaboration between the International Textile Research Centre, University for the Creative Arts and MIRIAD Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University

Programme and papers

  • Video:  Moi Non Plus - Liz Rideal
  • Always in the Act of Becoming: Folds, Scissors and Cleavage in Giovanni Battista Moroni’s Il Tagliapanni - Angela Maddock
  • Textual Textiles - Undressing Anne Lister - Caroline Baylis-Greene
  • A Perverted Taste: Italian depictions of Cloth and Puberty in mid-19th century marble - Dr. Claire Jones
  • Articulating Our Tactile Experience With Textiles: Undisciplined Conversations On The Unspoken - Bruna Petreca et al
  • Kink in the classroom: pedagogy and erotic clothing - Brigitte Stockton
  • Beyond the Mat: Deciphering Eroticism in the Over-the-top Aesthetics of Professional wrestling - Ali Khan & Farida Ali
  • Video:  A Man of the Cloth - Sharon McElroy
  • The shirt off your back, Jack, James and Bobby - Prof. Catherine Harper
  • Guilt and Pleasure - the transposition of the historical fetishist image - Dr. Nigel Hurlstone
  • Transgressive Touch: The fetishizing of cloth in Hitchcock’s  Rebecca (1940) - Samatha Broadhead
  • Video:  Windmills of your mind - Louise Adkins
  • Curvatures of Cloth: ‘The Heart of True Eroticism’ in Serpentine Dance - Dr. Georgina Williams
  • Caressing Cloth: the warp and weft as site of exchange - Dr. Catherine Dormor
  • Perception in the Folds: The Requirement of Having a Body - Grace Williams
  • UN/DRESS - Masako Matsushita

More information and paper abstracts

Symposium: Cultural Difference and the Creative Process
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, 6 February 2004

‘Cultural Difference and the Creative Process’ looked at the specific experiences of through the surface participants and also widened the debate to encompass other creative disciplines and ideas surrounding creativity and cultural diversity from a global perspective.

These aims were realised through the presentation of formal papers and by informal discussion sessions led by experts in the fields of museum studies, film making and graphics. Speakers included world famous textile innovator Junichi Arai and felt maker Jeanette Appleton, both of whom are through the surface participants; Professor Joost Smiers, author of ‘Arts under pressure: promoting cultural diversity in an age of globalization’; and Yuniya Kawamura from the Fashion Institute of Technology New York, author of 'The Japanese Revolution in Paris Fashion'.

The Symposium was chaired by Martina Margetts, Senior Lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art and author of numerous books on the crafts, most recently ‘Michael Rowe’ (with Richard Hill).


  • SYMPOSIUM PRESENTATION  - Given in turn by Jeanette Appleton and Naoko Yoshimoto

Symposium: ‘Ambiguous Spaces’
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, 11 November 2005

Reiko Sudo’s textiles are a conduit between artisan and highly technological, industrial practice; in her approach, she has placed her work in a deliberately ambiguous space, avoiding the categorisation of her textiles even to the point of having no designated front or back to her fabrics.  Her textile titles are indicators rather than descriptors; our relationship with her textiles is dependent upon the position we choose to take up. She invites us to use her textiles as the vehicle for movement between a somatic and an imaginative response. She speaks of her textiles as “not just a pleasure to look at, they are a marvel to be experienced with all five senses: the feel of textiles in the hand or on the body, the periodic rustling sounds, even the taste on the lips.” 

 This sensory approach is the unspoken narrative of textiles. It could be described as the space between material and materiality; the space between the rigour of the making and the sublime outcome, in which the artist as maker is guided by her or his intuitive responses; the space between cloth and surface. It is the space between delicious anticipation, and the sensual bodily experience as described by Reiko Sudo above. This is a space that has no boundaries other than those we choose to set.  Speakers on the day will be drawn from different areas of textile involvement, exploring ‘Ambiguous Spaces’ from their particular perspective.

Keynote Speaker:
Matilda McQuaid, curator ‘Extreme Textiles’ Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, co-curator ‘Structure and Surface’ Museum of Modern Art, New York


  • Bradley Quinn, author ‘The Fashion of Architecture’, ‘Techno Fashion’.
  • Dr Boyana Pejić, curator (unable to attend because of Visa problems. Paper read by Lesley Millar. Full text published here)
  • Sophie Roet, textile designer
  • Catherine Bertola, textile artist
  • Julia Griffiths Jones, textile artist
  • Philip Delamore, Research Fellow, London College of Fashion

education programme : AMBIGUOUS SPACES :

Seminar: Ambiguous Spaces 2
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, 9 December 2005

A Seminar to develop further the themes and issues raised at the earlier Symposium conceived as a cross-sector initiative, practitioners and exhibition programmers discussed how to work together to increase the profile of contemporary textiles. Sue Prichard (Victoria and Albert Museum) and Moira Stevenson (Manchester City Art Galleries) described the importance of textiles within their collections and the difficulties encountered when looking to programme contemporary textiles. All the speakers presented examples of different initiatives with particular reference to:

  • the constraints
  • the strengths
  • the role educational establishments could play in developing collaborations.


  • Sue Pritchard, Curator contemporary textiles, Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Paul Harper, writer
  • Moira Stevenson, Deputy Director, Manchester City Art Galleries
  • Melanie Miller, Tutor, Textiles and Embroidery, Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Helen Parrot, textile artist

Related articles: Seminar notes | Abstracts | Comments | Paper

Conference: Memory and Touch: an exploration of textural communication
Royal Institute of British Architects, London 7 May 2008

Media Partner: Blueprint

The term ‘haptic’ primarily relates to the sense of touch, but can also include all sensory perception. All of the experiences of human perception occur on the membranes of the body. When we choose to activate the sense of sight, the sense of touch is also engaged. As curator Kenya Hara says:
“Without resorting to new materials or abstractionism, we can infer that there is something vital in the domain of the senses. That’s why we can understand the tactile sensation of a scrubbing brush without actually experiencing it.”

Conference presentations drew on a wide variety of interpretations, disciplines and experiences, exploring the symbolic, cultural, social and technical aspects of textural communication. Speakers came from many different disciplines, demonstrating the breadth of interest in the importance of touch as a means of communication. Keynote speaker was the highly influential Japanese designer Kenya Hara, whose exhibition Haptic – awakening the senses, opened at the RIBA Gallery on 7th May.

Chair:  Vicky Richardson, Editor Blueprint, Media Partner for Conference and Exhibition

Click on names to read Paper Abstracts


  • Kenya Hara, Chief Executive Nippon Design, Chief Designer MUJI, curator of Haptic – awakening of the senses
  • Professor Masayo Ave, Estonia Academy of Art, Founder of the Centre for Haptic Interface Design, Berlin University of Art, creator of the Haptic dictionary
  • Robert Zimmer and Professor Janis Jefferies, Goldsmiths Digital Studios, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Kate Baker, Belinda Mitchell, School of Architecture and Interior Design University of Portsmouth
  • June Hill, Curator, writer
  • Dr Mark Paterson, School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, University of Exeter, Author: The Senses of Touch: Haptics, Affects and Technologies
  • Short presentations
  • Mary Schoeser, Senior Research Fellow, University of the Arts London, curator, writer
  • Fiona Jane Candy, Senior Lecturer, Department of Design University of Central Lancashire,
  • Trish Bould and Kathy Oldridge, University of Southampton
  • Dr Frances Geesin, Reader in Textiles and Materials, University of the Arts London
  • Lesley Sutton, Artist, project leader Stories of Cloth

COLLOQUIUM: TRANSPARENT BOUNDARIES - Learning to see through....
University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, 26th October 2012

Transparent Boundaries is about seizing a moment, changing attitudes, providing possibilities - now. The project makes links across cultures and between generations, finding ways to increase the visibility of the Elder as a vital force with a cultural contribution and impact to be included and referenced. This is a project of empowerment, which will take micro and macro approaches to create a place and space for dialogue and a new kind of visibility through relationships that function between and across cultures.

 At this Colloquium, Project Partners from UK, Italy, Greece and Denmark discussed their approaches, which included dance, mapping, lace, net-works, song and poetry. There was also a presentation from Australian artist Fiona Davies, who discussed her exhibition 'Blood on Silk' in the James Hockey Gallery, UCA, Farnham.

Transparent Boundaries blog

Salts Mill, Saltaire, Yorkshire. 24 August 2012

A discursive seminar exploring issues raised by Cloth and Memory. The Seminar held to accompany Cloth and Memory was very well attended, with 29 delegates representing curators, writers, collectors and practitioners. The intention of the afternoon was that of an informal discussion – between the artists, organisers and delegates – around the theme of the exhibition. The discussion was thoughtful, reflective and insightful.  Amongst the points raised were:

  • The relationship between the fluidity of imagery and the ambiguity of memory as could be seen in Bob White’s paintings with particular reference to edges.
  • How we understand and recognise the Gothic and the potential reading of Carol Quarini’s work as a narrative of repressed violence and the hidden menace of familiar objects.
  • The nature of memory and loss as evidenced in Beverly Ayling-Smith’s work, in particular her black wall ‘Remembering, Repeating and Working Through’. This work is one that many of the delegates had found absorbing, relating closely to the density of process she had employed.
  • The importance of the specific location: Salts Mill, the history of the building and those who have spent their lives working in the building and influence of these aspects on the work in the exhibition.
  • The qualities of cloth which make it such a suitable medium for the representation of memory and the use of metaphor in the work of the artists and other possible approaches.

Cloth & Memory report



13 September 2013: Cloth, memory and touch

Metaphors of memory are overwhelmingly physical: ....we use verbs such as impress, burn and imprint to describe the processes by which memories are formed. *

Of all the materials that accompany us through our lives, cloth is the one that most absorbs and retains the traces of our passing. Rips, stains and mendings: all are records of the touch of the body and the hand. Several of the artists in Cloth & Memory {2} have developed their work in response to the potent narrative of cloth, memory and touch. In this Seminar we will discuss works in the exhibition and the work of other relevant artists.

* Charles Ferneyhough (2012). Pieces of Light London. Profile Books P.6

Seminar Report and images


26 October 2013: Cloth and the translation of memory

...memories are mental constructions, created in the present moment, according to the demands of the present. *

Cloth and memory share many descriptors: threads, folds, piecing, patching, layering. In this Seminar we will look at the approaches to what we remember and how we remember, as developed by artists in the exhibition We will discuss which works are of memory and which are works on memory: which embody memory and which describe memory, and the importance of cloth in the translation process.

* Charles Ferneyhough (2012). Pieces of Light London. Profile Books P.6

 Seminar Report and images