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We asked our contributors: what has been your personal renaissance?

arie Taillefer


A renaissance, as derived from the French: ‘Rebirth’, can occur at any time. We all know of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th Century, when there was a resurgence of interest in classical learning and wisdom after a long period of cultural decline and stagnation. In this issue we take the textiles of the Renaissance and the renaissance of the textile industry in with the same breath. In doing so we see that change often comes from looking to the past.


We examine the symbolism found in Renaissance portraiture, much of which lives on in our shared visual vocabulary. Textiles have long been used as a vehicle for conveying a message and we look at how cloth has been utilised to create banners to good effect in the recent past as well as the more subtle messages communicated discreetly through our clothes.

There are many kinds of renaissance including the one I have witnessed first hand in the UK textile industry after a long period of deindustrialisation following globalisation in post-war Britain. We are now seeing cotton being spun in at Fine English Cottons in Lancashire for the first time in 50 years as well as companies like Laxtons who had moved their production overseas only to bring it back in order to maintain quality. We know a small number of mills won’t right the wrongs of the textile industry as documented in the work of Alke Schmidt but it is heartening to see that a single business can act as a catalyst for reviving a neglected neighbourhood, equally a group of enlightened individuals can energise a community as in Kala Ghoda.


We also see personal renaissance in a shift of career after illness for Jeremy Bonner. So whatever prompts your renaissance enjoy the journey. Take time to recharge over the Christmas break ready for your own renaissance, even if you only darn a neglected sweater to give it new life.

Polly Leonard, Founder


I have lots of ‘re’ in my life at the moment. Two years ago I left academia to return to full-time studio practice. I relocated from the UK via France to rural Ireland, and now I am re-immersed in the daily life of being an artist. I revisit previous work and re-use some of it to produce new pieces. My new work involves learning how to use recycled silver and to also repurpose discarded exotic timbers, as well as antique beads, textiles and leather. This is my personal renaissance, a re-establishment of what and who I am.

I was recently invited to a Grandmother Moon Ceremony on the Lac du Flambeau reservation in Wisconsin, a spiritual and uplifting experience that still resonates in my life. The Moon cycle is a time for women to clear body, mind and spirit and ask Grandmother Moon for direction in life. It is a time to pray and share stories around the fire circle. The talking circle is a chance for renewal and strength. We brought tobacco and a yellow prayer cloth that we threw into the fire. Our long skirts connected us to Mother Earth. We felt part of a sisterhood.

The times in my life when I have felt the most refreshed and rejuvenated, invariably revolve around travel and meeting people I would never ordinarily come across. One of the most memorable times was visiting the island of Taquile on Lake Titicaca in the High Andean Plateau where I learnt about the extraordinary weaving and knitting traditions of the men and women there. Although I was only there for a day, I remember seeing a group of men, knitting with such speed and concentration with such fine knitting needles: their unique culture and way of life literally being created in their hands.


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