notes from coralie

For ‘Débrouillardise et Coquetterie’ I want to hybridize my ‘ethnographical – encounter’ practice with tools from textile conservation.

At the core of my ethnographical practice lies LISTENING to the other, as a receiving and a taking care of its story. Hosting the story in my dilated present.

Somewhere in between ethics and Sensoriality/Sensuality.

Textile is for me intimately related to touching, I like touching with closed eyes. Feeling softness, rugosity, holes, threads.

As listening with the closed eyes is every time again a beautiful and deep sensorial experience.

Receiving the voices of my interviewees as a precious gift, enjoying soft, slow, fast, textured voices.

Textile pieces and threads came up as ‘CONCRETE’ METAPHORS for the sensations i like to focus on when I interview and listen.

Deepening the experience of touching a textile, learning the words, concepts and parameters used to analyze a piece of cloth would allows to receive more complex insights in the textures of voices given to me during the process, by analogy-thinking.

Textile conservation came up as the most complete approach to analyze textile in depth, its fascinating multidisciplinarity : in between chemistry , biology, art history, craft…A lifelong learning process…

If the operating concepts of textile conservation seduced me to apply them on the sensorial level of the voices of my interviewees, it now interest me in the context of D&C to apply them on the story as such. On the very words of the story to be preserved, on how the words are sewen together in sentences, on the narrative structure of the story as a whole.

Textile conservation also attrackts me as a discipline:

Because it is a lived, bodily practice to focus on minutiae – as this focus is also central to my practice of ethnography.

The infinite pleasure I have of focussing on « little » things, I am curious to apply them through textile conservation exercices.

« Little » things are disscrete and apparently insignificant thruths, that I search for in my ethnographical explorations. ;

Values of the conservator that I admire: -Sticking to the concrete -Taking utmost care of the piece you are in charge of -Humility in the presence of the object -Respect of the integrity of the object -Develop a deep affinity with the object -Commitment to extremely slow processes -Accept that after the short moment of excitement you will commit to a long time of routine tasks, you will be bored. -Minutiae /Precision of craftmanship.

The textile conservator is constantly involved in finding out all kind of strategies : conservation is about inventing ways of handling difficult objects. Your ability to handle difficult situation in everyday life will help you a lot, they say in the guide for textile conservation!

I became more and more curious to apply metaphorically the tools for conserving pieces of cloth on micro-narratives from the past.


The Nature of the piece of textile is of fundamental influence on what can be at best done to preserve it. This rules inspires me ver much… but which words to define the nature of a story ?

Tex Conservation nations that are ‘operative’ or applying them on ‘narratives’ :

Texture of the piece of cloth : its fabric and structure.

Characteristics : Loose patterns Zig Zag Patterns Unevenness in tension Missing parts Schilferend Scheuren Extreme cases of total fragmentation

Qualities: Extensibility Elastic limit Flexibility Density


Size – weight – complexity

Fragile zones

How much repair needed ? How much alteration has bien carried out ?

The irreductible individuality of the story.

Actions / Performatives:

-cleaning (I don’t like the ideo of ‘cleaning’ a story though)

-sewing (steunweefsel naaien) : the stories I collect from elderly spontenously receives ‘steunweefsels’ from helping people surrounding, for example from other pensionees, or from their children that actively support them in the process of remembering,reactivating by details the flow of the story, filling the holes, proposing corrections or other interpretations, raising questions, identifying contaminations from remebrances from other epochs (fusion of timelines).

-To raise the piece of cloth/ to raise the story -To cover the piece of cloth/ To cover the story -Framing, positioning the piece of cloth/ the story -Unroll the cloth/ the story

Pinning : involves making holes, or having marks that tends to remain

Transfer to other contexts : the fragile condition of the story that is being displaced

Unprotected condition of the released object/story

What does this displacement of concept from the conrete realm of the cloth pieces to the immaterial realm of the words and narratives mean to me, and what does they mean to you ?


At risk of dissapearing.

Decaying is part of their very essence.

The responsability of our disciplines is to slow down these built in process of decay.

                  Some Notes on my apprenticeship in Textile Conservation:

Hands on ! course followed at the Kunstakademie of Anderlecht, sectie ambachtskunsten.

teacher :

Joke has an impressive knowledge in chemistry, crafts, art history and insects. She tries with a lot of patience to transmit me the basic skills of a textile conservator. The skills needed in this course are very challenging and difficult to me : patience, concentration, assiduity.

Something Joke says that I like very much : « Behandel elk stuk alsof het het meest waardevolle ter wereld is. »

I still can’t separate the Gutterman thread into its 3 consitutive threads. It’s a kind of choregraphy with the fingers you have to master, I just can’ grasp it. We have to do this because when restauring a piece we have to use the finest thread possible, so that the intervention is as invisible as possible.

I like the cleaning ritual of textile conservation : Conservators have to obsessionally clean their hands before manipulating the cloth pieces, but also regularly during the process. First year students have the tendency to forget this, so part of the teaching process of Joke is to repeat it all over again…

In the beginning of the apprenticeship we learn :

-the core (ethical) values of conservation through the little gestures of the practice, ‘richtlijnen bij het manipuleren’

- how to make a ‘behandelingsrapport’ : identification form of the textile piece, description (from technique to art history background) condition report every action that is executed on the piece of textile has to be thoroughly documented (through pictures, calques, draing, samples, formulas…) cf. ‘dagboek der werkzaamheden’ - to make a support fabric and a protection fabric, to learn the most important sewing techniques in this regard Bibliography : * « Textile Conservation: Advances in Practice », ed. By Frances Lennard and Patricia Ewer, 2010 * « Textile conservation and research: a documentation of the textile department on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Abegg Foundation », by Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild, 1988 * « The textile conservator's manual » by Landi Sheila, Butterworths series in conservation and museology, 1985

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  • Last modified: 2013-02-08 07:36
  • by nik