Within the School of Human Ecology, two programs are offered that specifically focus on textiles; the Textiles and Fashion Design Degree and the Textiles and Design Certificate. Both programs utilize the resources of the Center for Design and Material Culture, particularly the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, Ruth Davis Design Gallery, and Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery.
Textiles and Fashion Design Program
The UW Textiles and Fashion Design (TFD) program offers a comprehensive approach to textiles and fashion, focusing on materials and use, as well as the study of history, science, and design.
Textiles and Design Certificate
The Textiles and Design Certificate is open to any students from any majors, and offers a fundamental understanding of textiles and fashion design.
Many courses taught at UW–Madison come to visit the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) once or twice over the course of a semester to study textile objects that are relevant to a specific unit or topic covered in a class.
The Center for Design and Material Culture (CDMC) offers the opportunity for deeper collection engagement through our Collection-Intensive Course program. We partner with University faculty and instructors to develop new courses centered around objects from HLATC, using them as a “material textbook” that guide class content, discussions, and projects. In addition to the benefits of working in an extended, intimate hands-on setting with textile artifacts, the outcomes for these courses may include object research for the collection, a class exhibition proposal (to be produced in the CDMC galleries or online) videos, podcasts or programs, publications, public lectures, outreach, and more.
Past Collection-Intensive Courses
Design Studies 699: Independent Study: Textiles and American Politics
This year-long, 4-credit course used the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection as the basis for training in curatorial research and outreach on the relationship between textiles and American politics. Students conducted a thorough survey of the collection to identify objects that are relevant for this topic; drew key themes from this extensive sample of textiles; conceptualized an exhibition structure; and devised related public outreach events. Students focused on what practices of making, consumption, and display “activates” textiles to make them political; the relationship between politics, patriotism, and history; and acts of participation and representation as the intersection of textiles and political expression.
Art History 576/876: Needle, Thread, Silk and Tapestry uses HLATC’s Chinese textiles as a lens through which to analyze Chinese history and art.
Why should we include textiles when discussing Chinese art history? What is the relationship between textile and other media such as painting, mural, sculpture, and various decorative arts? How do we start treating textile as an object of research? Based on the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and recent scholarship on Chinese textile art, this course will discuss the major types of textiles and the discourses on textiles in the early modern China and introduce students to the analytical languages, methods, and issues for studying Chinese textiles. We will examine the multivalent roles of textiles in Chinese art and material culture—as artistic mediums, sign-bearing objects, structural and performative elements in religious and secular spaces, social agent, and objects of mobility in global exchange.
What Are Textiles?
Textiles are objects of design, and subjects of material culture study. On the one hand, textiles are intimate and personal: we wear them on our bodies, we sleep under them, we use them to make our homes more private. On the other hand, they reflect larger cultural traditions; technological development over time; and trade, or other forms of exchange, that can reach a global scale.
Our Textile Resources
Our unique resources allow for both specific understanding of textile, and broad thematic considerations of their place in the world.
Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
To further the study of textiles, the center stewards the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC). With its exceptional reach across time and around the globe, HLATC offers research opportunities for students and scholars from a broad range of disciplines; artists and designers in a variety of media; and the public at large.
Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery
The Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery focuses the broad lines of inquiry into textiles from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection into specific topics through changing exhibitions that highlight artifacts, as well as the relationship of textiles to other forms of material culture.