Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

How do you Footnote a Smile?

How do you Footnote a Smile? a dialogue about two extremes of textile research

Jessica Hemmings & Birgitta Nordström

The following text started life as a seminar conversation open to the public and was held in the weaving workshop at HDK, University of Gothenburg, Sweden between research colleagues Jessica Hemmings and Birgitta Nordström in late 2018. Our intention was to expose the breadth of current textile research and inspire colleagues to see across disciplinary boundaries to the unexpected similarities their research interests might share. Jessica Hemmings spoke of her interdisciplinary interest in reading the textile through literature (Hemmings 2004, 2008, 2018) and Birgitta Nordström discussed her ongoing research into the woven textile as an object that can help us confront, and hold, death (Nordström 2016a, 2016b). These two examples arguably represent extremes along the spectrum of methods used in textile research, but both share an attention to topics often treated with silence that may find useful alternative forms of communication in the textile. Our two areas of research share three central concerns. First, our projects explore what communication may be possible through the textile for experiences often met with silence. Second, we consider how lived experiences which do not conform to ‘valid’ research data can be brought into academic discourse. “How do you footnote a smile?” (Hemmings 2018). Third, we both began from an anxiety that our research could be misconstrued as “benefitting from another’s trauma” (Nordström 2018). In the edited and adapted text that follows we discuss two seemingly different approaches to textile research that we hope may assist other researchers in finding ways to build dialogue with colleagues whose methods and vocabulary are very different from your own.

forthcoming TEXTILE: the journal of cloth & culture