Textiles, through their modes of production, the materials used and invented motifs, are particularly effective producers of histories that entwine place and people, especially site-specific, collectively made textiles. It is the enjoyment of making and the promised sense of achievement acknowledged by the completed work that drives a group to convene and continue making. Yet, once completed, it is all that is in excess of the artefact that remains: the exchange of stories, celebratory events, tensions in the relationships, the faded sensations of handling the work. The artefact exists as a residue of the collective activity, eventually relinquishing its material presence to its representation.
Although it is not the fate of all textile artefacts to end up in semi-permanent storage, given the widespread practice of collective textile making, there are inevitably some. The uncomfortable absence of the material artefact in the leftovers of collective endeavour provokes questions. How are the once-so-precious connections to a specific group of collaborators and a specific place transformed years later when the group has disbanded and moved on or away? What conditions are necessary to excavate faded memories when the material artefact is abandoned in storage? How does this change the meaning of the work?
Drawing on examples of my own collective textile making projects in France and the UK, this paper explores the complexity of remembering works made in and for specific places in the absence of the work itself.