The Austrian based Society for Textile-Art Research (TKF) organised a specialist tour in association with the International Conference on Oriental Carpets (ICOC) on 15–20 September 2014. Venues across Vienna hosted a full schedule of lectures, auctions and exhibitions for three days, before our group crossed from Austria into Hungary. A broad range of textiles was encountered, and while the main passion of many of the participants is for antique pieces, we were also inspired by evidence of a vibrant, contemporary Viennese textile scene.
Barbara Putz-Pleko, head of the department of Textiles at the University of Applied Art, opened ‘The Ikat Project’ exhibition in an atmospheric room within a historic university building, accompanied by the ten students involved and their tutors. The culmination of over two years’ study and development of ikat dyeing customs, the programme took direct inspiration from past techniques and included a ten-day research trip to Uzbekistan. The spectacularly varied works produced were being presented for the first time. Lengthy study of the time consuming technique has provided the students with a solid grounding that has allowed them to deviate, developing new methods of their own which marry ancient methods with modern design.
Close by the university exhibition, at the shop of Herbert Bichler, innovative contemporary weavings by Beate von Harten and her daughter, Celina, were displayed in the space adjacent to the main antique carpet gallery. Beate’s latest work ‘Kitchencarpet’ is woven from pure linen and the subtle shimmering surface is embroidered with quirky kitchenalia line drawings. Modern technology and ways of conveying information have been explored with flatweaves that mimic barcodes and QR codes in beautiful technicolour. A graduated pile rug in wool and silk was started by Celina three years ago at the age of 18, working to her mother’s design. Through projects such as this and growing up surrounded by weaving, she has developed a love for the process and an innate understanding of the art.
At the Künstlerhaus, the starting point for Inspiration Textil was global textiles. The sponsor and textile specialist Frau Fischer, the wife of the Austrian president, opened the show, which included seven expansive Berber shawls, N’dop tie dye fabrics and Punjabi Bagh embroideries ‘in dialogue’ with the work of contemporary artists who work with, or are influenced by textiles.