Cordis Symposium

The Thread Runs Both Ways

The Heritage and Future of Tapestry Art

Saturday 16 March 2019
RBGE Lecture Theatre
20a Inverleith Row

In celebration the fourth Cordis Prize for Tapestry, The Cordis Trust is delighted to present a symposium bringing together an international panel of speakers to discuss and debate the wealth of talent and creativity in contemporary tapestry.

Since its inception, the Cordis Prize has brought to Edinburgh the best work of the world’s most outstanding tapestry artists. To complement the 2019 exhibition the symposium will reference the pivotal role Edinburgh has played in the development of contemporary woven tapestry. While it is important to reflect on the past it is the future of tapestry the symposium wishes to explore. Bringing together artist, curators, critics and academics to consider ‘What is tapestry?’ and its future as a creative medium in contemporary art practice.

As well as a number of formal presentations by prestigious speakers the symposium will offer opportunities to meet fellow-weavers, share knowledge and suggestions, promote contemporary and future projects, and of course to view the Cordis exhibition in Inverleith House.

Tickets £65 (£45 concession)
10am – 4pm
Light lunch and coffee provided

Tickets can be booked online until the morning of the event


Headline Speakers

Nicholas Oddy


Head of Design History & Theory
Glasgow School of Art

Prof. Jessica Hemmings

Professor of Crafts & Vice-Prefekt of Research
HDK, University of Gothenburg

Prof. Lesley Millar MBE

International Textile Research Centre

Nicolas has been invited to chair our symposium more through association with tapestry makers, rather than focused research. At Edinburgh College of Art tapestry and ceramics tended to share some sort of commonality, while both have shared a common fate of being largely eliminated from undergraduate provision in UK higher education. 

What is NOT tapestry today?

As textiles experience an increasingly warm welcome in galleries known for exhibiting Fine Art, we find increasingly varied descriptions of the textile and textile structures. In our post-disciplinary era, what benefits are gained from the continued organization of a discipline around a technique? Does skill have a place in our definition of tapestry today? And what may we stand to lose when contemporary practices that use tapestry avoid the term? This lecture tests the limits of how we are willing to define contemporary tapestry and considers examples of work that are loosely – sometimes very loosely – woven with a discontinuous weft. 

Contemporary Tapestry: Finding Its Place?

Is there a place for contemporary tapestry? If so where is it? What is the context? And do we want it anyway? In this presentation Lesley will discuss various options for contemporary tapestry based on her experiences and observations of visitors to the two exhibitions Here and Now and Weaving New Worlds.

(photo credit Damian Chapman)

Susan Mowatt

Senior Lecturer in Intermedia
Edinburgh College of Art

Kate Grenyer

Exhibitions Curator
Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh

Lisa Mason

Assistant Curator
National Museums Scotland

Weaving the line, disrupting the thread. Where does tapestry weaving sit in the 21stcentury?

 At a time of textiles exploding into previously inaccessible spaces, this talk will look at the relevance of tapestry as a method of art production in the 21st century.

Archie Brennan: a life sized model of St Paul’s Cathedral rendered in matchsticks.

A central figure in the history of tapestry in Edinburgh and internationally Brennan has worked in the field of tapestry for six decades and has used the medium to question contemporary culture, the function of tapestry in contemporary society, and engage with key artistic movements of the twentieth century.

Short Talks


Joanne Soroka

Ceci n’est pas une tapisserie

All tapestry weavers will have experienced most people’s misunderstanding of the word ‘tapestry’. This presentation rants against this confusion and is a call to arms to all textiles practitioners. It is time to start the battle against ignorance. The Bayeux Tapestry is not a tapestry!


Anne Stabell

Slowly through the woods
A presentation of my current exhibition project about nature and human presence, as described in the German term Waldeinsamkeit
Walking in the woods and fields brings me inspiration as well as plant dyeing materials. The slow growth of tapestries connects to life in a vibrant, natural way. That’s why I weave.  


Jo McDonald

The Physic Garden Tapestry

The thriving tapestry community of Edinburgh and around are working together to create an exciting new group tapestry for the Education Centre of the Place of Holyroodhouse. Working to a commissioned design by Natalie Taylor, based on the history of the Physic Gardens, each weaver is working on a small section. By collaborating and communicating with their fellow weavers, the team will come together to turn the usually solitary process of weaving into an inclusive and collaborative community tapestry project.


Lívia Pápai

Digital Analogies

The completeness of an artist’s oeuvre mostly depends on how richly managed to express artistic visions. In tapestry art there is a strong need to anticipate the final solution. The digital world provides not simply faster but better quality tools for innovative attitudes. This graphic based environment correlates with several flowering tapestry epochs.


Ben Hymers

Tapestry and Illusion

On weaving what isn’t there and why tapestry is like a magic trick.


Anna Olsson

I try to understand the world in my loom and the tapestries become my answer.
I weave because I want to tell you something. I listen, see and meet people. I think, ponder and pictures arise. Images that then turn into tapestries. Now my tapestries are about meetings with children and young people who fled war, persecution, crises and disasters.


Brita Been


Brita Been presents a tapestry from her latest project, the HEIRLOOM series, and explains how it began with an official commission in 2015. This body of work has its origins in the rich, decorative textile tradition of Telemark in Norway, and its production led the artist to explore patterns and techniques different to those she had previously worked with.


Sara Brennan

In Defence of Quiet (Thomas A Clark)

The talk will be an introduction to Sara’s recent work and her ways of working. It will include images of her new tapestries for a forthcoming exhibition (Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire). She describes her tapestries as ‘being an unspoken response to place, using a simple palette and as a reaction to landscape, in particular a northern landscape’. This talk will illustrate her current work and explain her working methods.


Jessica Brouder

Jessica deconstructs and reconstructs, making reference to the story of Dido who, when she landed in North Africa purchased land, and was given an ox hide and told she could have all the land that it could contain. She cut it into very thin strips, tied them together and so mapped out all the land that later Carthage occupied. A pleasing concept, a clever idea, and it was of course a woman’s.


Emma Jo Webster

The Journey to Colour Shift

Oneof the lead weavers at Dovecot studios, Emma Jo, talks about the journey her own work has taken in shifting from minutely detailed, hand woven portraiture, to large scale and colour dense abstract pieces.

Presentation Slideshows:

RBGE Conference Centre

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Lecture Theatre and Conference room are located at 20A Inverleith Row. Doors will open at 9.45 for a prompt 10am start (Please note access is via 20A Inverleith Row only, not via the Garden or the John Hope Gateway). Pay and display parking is available on surrounding streets. Bus Numbers 8, 23 and 27 go regularly to and from the city centre.