Spotlight on textile writer and researcher Jessica Hemmings

Textiles writer and researcher Jessica Hemmings will be visiting Australia during Sydney Craft Week from Sweden where she is Professor of Crafts and Vice-Prefekt of Research at the Academy of Design and Craft (HDK), University of Gothenburg. While she is here, Jessica will be giving two presentations - one at Barometer Gallery, and one at UNSW Art and Design.

Hemmings writes about textiles. In 2010 she edited a collection of essays titled In the Loop: Knitting Now published by Black Dog and in 2012 edited The Textile Reader(Berg) and wrote Warp & Weft (Bloomsbury). Her most recent editorial and curatorial project, Cultural Threads, is a book about postcolonial thinking and contemporary textile practice (Bloomsbury: 2015) accompanied by a travelling exhibition Migrationswhich was exhibited at the Australian Design Centre in 2016.

On the topic of our theme "handmade in a digital age", Jessica says: "I think we use the term technology to refer to a specific set of things that are relatively new to us now. Digital processes and the ubiquity of the Internet are often what I mean when I say “technology”. I’m not sure this is fair - technology as in advancements of the tools that we use has been occurring for centuries. 

"While I do think that the Internet has remarkable capacities to connect, I exist as part of perhaps the youngest generation alive today that did manage to live before the advent of the Internet. I find it incredibly worrying to see young people acting as though life ends when they can’t get online. I find that mindset one of the most corrosive aspects of our digital reliance today. I also happen to think that our online lives are rotting our ability to concentrate and that may be one of the most important contributions craft can make - as an antidote to that erosion. I think that so many of the problems that face society today are going to require concerted concentration to even begin to address. The development of patience, concentration and even the discipline to keep focused on one task for long enough to get some real thinking done are not, in my opinion, taught online - but they are taught by many of the demands of craft."

Jessica's talk at Barometer Gallery will centre on the work of Emelie Röndahl and contemporary craft practices in Scandinavia. Barometer Gallery is exhibiting Weaving Labour, the work of current University of Gothenburg PhD candidate Emelie Röndhal. Röndahl’s practice-based research in hand-weaving investigates low resolution pictures in fluffy overgrown pixels woven in a traditional manner with wool-piles on a linen warp.

Jessica's public lecture at UNSW Art & Design considers the unique demands of craft education through comparisons with other models of education that require a student to acquire tacit knowledge. While craft research often prioritises material knowledge, education systems delivered by organisations as varied as the Pony Club and the Canadian Avalanche Association also grapple with the shared challenge of how language may begin to convey – although never substitute – tacit knowledge of materials. Jessica's lecture considers what craft education may stand to gain from greater awareness of these alternative models of education.

Image: Jessica Hemmings, Professor of Crafts, Academy of Design & Crafts (HDK), University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Image: Emelie Röndahl, Rana Plaza – the Collapse (April 24th 2013) (detail), handwoven rya tapestry, recycled yarn, wool and recycled clothing.