Congratulations on getting funding for this exiting project!  

– Thank you! We were hopeful that this was something with originality and currency. Our research includes ideas related to sustainability, that we hoped would be recognized, which it was, Tim Parry-Williams says.

[BEYOND HERITAGE: MATERIAL MAKING MEANING] emerges from the shared field of woven textiles and explores ideas of craft and production as well as material heritage and futures. The project will explore the reading and interpretation of textile histories, aiming to establish new understandings and potentials in national or regional textile practice. According to Tim Parry-Williams  that the project will investigate the topics of weaving as metaphor; as well as knowledge or cultural heritage in practice.

A wide ranging project
– Furthermore through the different arenas of the project, we will address reciprocity, ecology, and sustainability; cultural exchange and identity; as well as ideas of social fabric. These are to be addressed primarily in the context of Norway and the wider Nordic-region, but with reference to connected geographies, and emerging deglobalization,   

Tim Parry-Williams and partner in the project, Khio-based, Frans Petter Schmidt, explain that the project will involve a wide range of actors and collaborators. These are conservators, scientists, and historians as well as employees in the textile industry and the international community of textile artists.

Groundbreaking research 
The project will undertake groundbreaking research into  plant fiber production in Norway, with a particular focus on hemp. This is one of the three plant fibers  for investigation in the project, which are: Hemp, nettle and linen. 

– We want to remind the  makers and consumers of textiles that these materials are wonderful answers to sustainability. There has been reluctance to research new knowledge in this field, and a prevailing idea that the land needs to be used for other resources, namely of course food.

Parry-Williams says one part of the project is about seeking to prove the validity of these renewable materials. Actually plant fiber was very well established in Norway for many years, indeed embedded in yearly cycles of life, but the materials have fallen out of use and common understanding.

Hemp is maligned, nettle fairy tale!
– There are many biases connected to these materials, linen is regarded as a noble, something of luxury goods, whereas hemp is maligned, since it is currently illegal. Nettle, on the other hand, is fairy tale, Parry-Williams says.  

According to Parry-Williams it is difficult to know what useful material one can hope to produce without testing. 

– Norwegian national costumes for example include linen shirts, which demonstrates continued use. The fibre from the Nettle plant has been used as clothing in many places, Nepal being one example, and during WW1 and WW2 it was used as a substitute for cotton yarns. Early research has also indicated that it was used in sami textile culture. So what we in the end will be able to make might be only modest and indicative, but high-end quality, something that might be used for much longer.  

Background in linen, rami, banana fiber and wool
Will you do the whole procedure from planting to complete with weaving?  

– Planting is an intended part of the project, and there is an ambition to work with a national agricultural school to employ land that can be used for agricultural research to raise test crops of hemp or nettle. But we will not be able to go full cycle. We need three years to invest if we can raise a crop and develop a sustainable cycle. So after the first three year period, we will apply for another three years, says Tim–Parry Williams who has a background in research and development of linen and rami, which is also in the nettle family. He has also researched banana fiber textile, which was a common and luxury textile in south-western Japan, but wiped out in the second world war.

Frans Petter Schmidt on the other hand  is a recognized expert and innovator in the research and development of wool. 

–  When it comes to textile fibers, there has been a lot of focus on wool in Norway. But hemp and nettle have  huge potential in terms of sustainability. Indeed with nettle, the whole plant can be utilized, both for textiles and food for humans and animals, without any residues, Schmidt explains.

Longer lasting aesthetics   
Is there a danger that plant fabric will replace other materials, but we will consume just as much? 

– This is something we are very mindful of. Broadly we opposed to the ideas of making stuff – at least in terms of mass production. That said, our answer to consumer hunger might be in creating long lived aesthetics, where something might be used for much longer, and therefore we see this a way to contribute to consumer culture. Not only in fashion, but also in interior design and indeed the production of artworks

Parry-Williams adds that in the project they will also be working with museums, amongst others with Norsk Folkemuseum.

 – I have discovered a potentially strong link between my hometown of Stroud in England , and Telemark textile culture, but in fact woolen fabrics for the Norwegian national costume have long since been imported from England. This talks about fascinating histories of cultural exchange, which will be revealed and interpreted through the project.


Plan for a six year collaboration
The plan is that the collaboration will run in two parts: where KMD will lead the first phase that will run for three years, thereafter KHIO will lead the second phase. The project has both historical, philosophical and crafting strands. 

– In conjunction with the historical and material based research, we will be opening up the metaphor of weaving, as a way of thinking and exploring and visioning through   workshops for weavers and non–weavers. Philosophy is very fundamental to our project as it can be a driver of new thinking and understanding.


Facts: [BEYOND HERITAGE: MATERIAL MAKING MEANING] is a collaborative research project between, Tim Parry–Williams, Professor of Art: Textiles, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design (KMD), University of Bergen; and Franz Petter Schmidt, Professor in Textiles, Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO).  

The project is made up of three interconnected work packages 'Weaving:Making'; 'Weaving: Materials'; and 'Weaving:Reading', the project will deliver a range of research outputs including artworks, exhibitions, seminars, pedagogic material, practice models and policy, and publications.