Thursday, September 04, 2008

Serious Study Needed 

After a few days at IEC (International Embroidery Conference - EGA) in Louisville, some thoughts and concerns have come to the forefront of my "little grey cells."

I am concerned about how little original research we are pursuing in the field of embroidery. I see what often passes as "research" which amounts to reading of a select collection of literature on the subject and subsequent publication of a compilation of opinions and/or findings of those authors. Another sort of "research" seems to consist of a fairly complete reading and regurgitation of the extant literature available.

However research concerning embroidery is research concerning actual embroidery, the actual things, the examples themselves - not just the literature about them. And to be valid, this research requires the researcher to examine a sufficient number of articles to be able to form a believable opinion and articulate that opinion in conjunction with a significant body of available literature. Far too many of us reach to "research" embroidery when we have no access to the objects involved. Photographs have improved, descriptions may be lyrical but nothing can equal personal observation. Just try lecturing on the brushstrokes of an impressionist painter when you have only seen photographs of their work. Far better to study a sort of embroidery available for your personal examination in adequate collections.

Every discipline uses a research methodology. I've been tottering along using models from my academic background in physical science and social science. Not good enough my friends. So although I've examined a good deal of embroidery, read a good deal of literature and listened to a good many opinions it is time to take a step in a much needed direction. So I'm beginning to explore the world of research methodology as applied to material culture. I'll let you know how the adventure unfolds.

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I think this is a brilliant idea - I look forward to future posts ...

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