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THOMAS CRONENBERG:  Tapestry: Identity and Collaboration

My work centres on issues of identity and memory. I am interested in how the individual and society interact, on the intersection of the public and the private. And in aspects of belonging or not belonging to society, in what it means to be a part of -- or stand apart from -- groups, subgroups and identities.
In my presentation, I will outline my artistic, and in part, my personal journey, which are intertwined with tapestry. And detail my collaboration with colleagues in European Tapestry Forum (ETF).
Though always fascinated with words and writing, I also have had a fascination with textiles for as long as I can remember. I learned to weave as a child, and soon discovered tapestry, inspired by the needlework done in my family, tapestries in castles, and also by American Indian blankets and carpets.
Tapestry began as a private form of self-expression. After training and working as a journalist for more than ten years, I came back to tapestry in the 1990s after the death of my father and trained with weaver Rosemarie Romann-Moeller in Hamburg and at West Dean College in Sussex/United Kingdom. The experience of studying in a new-to-me country led to introspection on identity, ethnicity, nationality and belonging. This resulted in a series of identity-based works, including my “TOMMY series” (shown at Kárpit 2 at the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest in November 2005).
For over a decade now, my life has largely focused on tapestry: making it, publicizing it; writing about it and reviewing tapestry and textile art for specialist journals.
Since 2003, I have been involved with European Tapestry Forum and been on the Steering Committee which organizes the ARTAPESTRY shows. Collaboration with tapestry colleagues at ETF and all around Europe these past years has been another focus of my energies.
The second part of my talk will focus on European Tapestry Forum and what I have called our collaborative model of working. Comprised of tapestry artists from several European countries who work on a volunteer basis, ETF works to provide a platform for tapestry weavers and to increase the visibility of tapestry as an art form. The committee members – who have extremely busy lives as artists, teachers and organizers – have found a collaborative, somewhat ad hoc style of working which suits our needs as individuals and as an organization.
Meeting so fellow artists through ARTAPESTRY and my tapestry travels with ETF has been very inspiring. The fellowship and collaboration are a good foil for long hours spent alone in the studio. All told, this focus on tapestry has greatly enriched my life.