Virtual meet up for PhD researchers – May 2020

We (Sally Cooke and Emily Rickard, both first year PhD researchers at Nottingham Trent University) had the great pleasure of hosting a virtual Stitching Together get-together at the end of May, aimed at PhD researchers who use participatory textiles practices within their research. We had 17 people attend in total. Eight of the PhD researchers involved gave a 5 minute introduction to their practice followed by a brief Q&A style discussions. We wanted to create this post to share the topics that were discussed, with the hope of generating new conversations and/or further meets in the future if people are interested.

The morning spanned a varied range of topics. The discussion explored the many roles of textile craft practice and multiple ways of connecting through stitch. It provided a space to share competencies and ways of ‘doing’ in practice research, encompassing many different approaches to the use of materials and craft as process.

Several researchers were exploring hapticity, tactility and the sense of touch, through high and low tech means. From HCI (Human Computer Interaction), exploring the senses through digital haptics and wearable technology, to DIY in the everyday textile practices of amateur makers. There was a focus on hand skills and the sense of touch, shining a light on what is tacit and often under-recognised, where skills are embodied through sensory experience and tools can become an extension of the body through the practice of craft.

We also discussed the value of craft as process, through which we can explore meaning, identity and wellbeing. Crafting as a process, lends itself to time, to understanding, and to connection. The focus being the deliberate actions undertaken to create, rather than the specific outcome, encompassing the concept of thinking through doing.

We explored craft’s connection to language, where materials can be metaphors and journaling through stitch and colour can be a physical means of telling stories and connecting to wellbeing. We also touched on the value of craft process in making social connections, inviting reflection, raising questions (e.g. of authenticity and artifice) and connecting with different cultural and political contexts.

Several researchers were also using film and photography as a valuable means to explore, record, document and iterate practices that are embodied, material, iterative and consequently hard to write down. We also particularly liked the idea of a scavenger methodology which emerged in the discussion. This seems to suit subjects that are under-studied and are themselves something of a scavenging activity. This reflects finding and connecting of materials and ideas through iterative exchanges between theory and practice, hands and materials and would be an interesting topic for further discussion.

If anyone is interested in a subsequent informal meet up around any of these topics, or others they identified, then please do pitch the idea to the group or to the wider network. On a final note there is also an ongoing opportunity to submit case studies to the Stitching Together website for anyone who is interested in writing about participatory textile making projects they have facilitated, either as a means of research or as an artistic or community initiative. Case studies are a great way to share experience and for the network to build a more detailed picture of the diverse and exciting textiles sphere reflected in our virtual meet. Case studies and details about how to submit your own are here.

It was great to meet you all. Thanks to all those who contributed and best of luck with your research.

Emily & Sally

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