Empowering textile communities and their social impact

Round Table

Curator: Jasmina Ferček (Oloop) / Participants: Svetlana Slapšak, Barbara Brinovec Pribaković, Tjaša Bavcon (Oloop), Hasnija Dugonjić (Razkrite roke), Anka Pintar (Breja preja), Martina Kališek (No-Border Craft), Rachael Matthews (Rag School), Lisa R. Garlock (Storycloth Database), Savneet Talwar (Creatively Empowered Women), Katy Emck (Fine Cell Work)
June 29, 2023
at 18:00
Škrlovec Tower
“Handicrafts are a sign of belonging to a group, especially a group of women, because they can erase social, cultural and age differences between them, giving them power and a special authority.” Svetlana Slapšak


○ Savneet Talwar: https://youtu.be/_1tX1cNn2lk
○ Lisa R. Garlock: https://youtu.be/fxzNo8lz178 
○ Katy Emck: https://youtu.be/D6jQe07vGvE 
○ Rachael Matthews: https://youtu.be/tsn8wMUUkN8 
○ Panel Discussion: https://youtu.be/8l3Oh2JbNuM (in Slovene)


Textile making dates back to the beginnings of civilisation and has always been the preserve of women, the domestic environment and the community; textile handicraft is inherently interdependent, intergenerational and is creating connections among people. Women have been weaving, spinning and sewing together for millennia. Although modern textile makers use the same raw materials and techniques as their ancestors, but the purpose of their work has changed – in pre-industrial societies, traditional handicrafts were primarily produced for human needs, whereas in post-industrial times, textiles are manually produced primarily as a means of self-fulfilment and to satisfy psychological, spiritual and social needs.

Svetlana Slapšak stresses the importance of handicrafts for women’s emancipation and independence. She suggests that the hands are an instrument of female ability that is socially recognised in comparison to the (female) head. In manual work, she says, it is exactly the head that our hands are miraculously linked to. Therefore, when a woman works with textiles, she has complete freedom of thought. Handwork can thus be a “suspicious space” of female freedom and authority.

Throughout history, women have used textiles to speak also the unspeakable. Sewing in groups has strengthened their community. In the process, they managed to reduce their personal pain; they shared their burdens and built resilience while connecting with others. Because of the bonding nature of textiles, creating with them today remains an appropriate way of collective care and nurturing.


About the Round Table

At the symposium, women leading the various Slovenian textile communities will present and share personal experiences when it comes to the meaning, purpose and quality that textile making brings to their personal lives, to the life of their communities and to society at large. We will focus on the need for connectedness, collective identity, healthy living environments and belonging, which is often lacking in today’s society.

Throughout history, activism linked to textile making has made the world a better place. Therefore, we will shed light on the historical role of textile communities in the Balkans and present textile activism, which offers a soft and peaceful way to protest, express opinions, draw attention to social injustices and spread sometimes profound political messages both in Slovenia and around the world.

This round table will be a chance to get to know a rich diversity of experiences and it will open the space for different stories and unique perspectives. A community will be introduced that took up the practice of picking up discarded clothes from the banks of rivers and weaving them into beautiful carpets; we will hear about textile creation in prisons, involving 600 inmates who embroider precious items for the home decor; we will learn about the creativity of Bosnian immigrant women abroad and we will find out more about an archive of textile stories from around the world (Storycloth Database).

What will bring us together is our love of textiles, an ancient language, because no matter where we come from, as textile makers we are of the same nationality and we share the same folklore.

Cover photo: Tjaša Bavcon

Supported by the ACF in Slovenia 2014-2021 Fund