Did you enjoy reading the excerpt of World Textiles the other day? We were delighted to interview author and leading textiles authority Mary Schoeser, who will be taking part in the Selvedge Textile Literary Festival this week.
Could you tell us a little about the School of Textiles? What are its aims and how did it begin?
The School is a not-for-profit centre founded in 2016 that aims to share my collection of books and textiles, and the knowledge I've acquired over the years.
It includes collections passed to me for safe-keeping, such as weaves and related paperwork by Marianne Straub and textile designs as well as prediction service documents by Keith Robson.
We do occasional events - the next one on 28th April is a rare chance to see Sanderson's early modern textiles courtesy of Keren Protheroe, SDG Archivist - but otherwise it is open by appointment for advanced researchers. Visit website www.schooloftextiles.co.uk for more info!
You have said that you have 'accidentally' written so many books and curated so many exhibitions. If you were on a desert island which exhibition and which book would you choose to take with you!?
Difficult! Perhaps Fashion's Memory: From Peasant Art to Wearable Art, a 2004-5 exhibition co-curated with Jo Ann C. Stabb and shown at University of California Davis (where she had taught me many years before), Central Saint Martins, where I was a Senior Research Fellow, and the Knit & Stitch Show in Harrogate. It brought alive connections among artists, curators and institutions that inspired all involved. The book would have to be Textiles: The Art of Mankind (T&H 2012), reprinted in 2013 and now in German, French and Chinese.
What brought you to London at the start of your career?
I came to Edinburgh first, to study Fine Art at the University - medieval art history and one day a week at the art college. The latter introduced me to Archie Brennan who, with Bernat Klein and Revel Oddy (then Assistant Keeper of Decorative Arts at the Royal Scottish Museum and guarantor of the Weavers' Workshop in the Royal Mile), encouraged me to pursue writing and curating alongside my weaving and dyeing.
What is it about textiles that has maintained your interest throughout your career?
Textiles touch everyone and are fundamental to human enterprise and identity. That makes them endlessly interesting.
Do you have time to sew or create textiles yourself? If so, what do you enjoy making?
I haven't sat at a loom since the 1980s nor had the sewing machine out since about 2000 - making curtains - but occasionally I still toy with basket making with scraps of paper.
What do you hope attendees of the Selvedge Literary Festival will take away from your talk?
Be receptive to those who are passing it forward, and take your turn to do the same when the opportunity arises.
We're delighted that Mary will be taking part in the Selvedge Textile Literary Festival on Saturday 2 April. She will give a quick overview of a career that for over 30 years has been as a freelance historian, specialising in textiles and wallpapers. Her focus is on how she came somewhat accidentally to have written so many books - as well as curating over 40 exhibitions.
Her hope is that some viewers will be inspired to follow the opportunities that life offers no matter how diverse these are.
Book your tickets and find out more here: