CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Computers: Friend or Foe to the Textile Artist?

For me, the computer is a powerful tool that allows me more time to do my artwork. I don’t do social media but I do rely on email blasts and my web site to get the word out about my next class or exhibit. I answer lots of email requests from former students and others, and am happy to extend the teaching experience that way. I have a new web site that I can update myself most of the time and a great web guy if I need help. But basically I am happiest when these chores are done and I can get to work on a basket or dyeing project.

I don’t use a computer assisted loom and certainly don’t use computers when I sit down to coil or plait a basket. These are ancient techniques that demand the human hand in direct contact with the materials.  I do however use my computer all the time when I prepare teaching materials, communicate with students, write articles, manage bookkeeping records and prepare tax data.

Off-Set by Barbara Shapiro 2011


One of the best things my computer does for me it to maintain an Excel spreadsheet of all the work I have created with title, date, size, price, materials, techniques, exhibit history, and sales information.  I find that I refer to this document very often when I need to describe a work for a catalogue or article.  I organized the document by category, i.e.: Indigo Landscapes, Coiled baskets, etc. with the newest works on top. To be honest, my son created this document for me and taught me how to use it.

I read a lot of textile books, but I also do a lot of research on line about the history of textiles. It’s amazing what you can find by digging a bit. For example when I was putting together my explanation of the iron sulfate indigo vat, I found that there were several different and confusing names for each of the ingredients. On line research cleared this up for me. I also like to be able to tell students where they can access materials and chemicals on line. I received questions from all over the USA and Canada, so it’s not enough to be able to point out the garden shop in San Mateo where I get my iron sulfate.

Dream Vessel by Barbara Shapiro 2010

One great site I want to share with you is the Textile Society of America’s Symposium Proceedings, which are now on line at Digital Commons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
This is a wonderful free resource for artists, students, scholars and textile lovers of all sorts. You can search (command f) for papers written by the most important scholars on any textile subject. The available proceedings go all the way back to the 1998 TSA Symposium. Check it out!

Friend or foe? The computer can be the enemy if you let it take over your life, but as a tool for getting through organizational chores and getting back to the hands-on creative pursuits we love, it’s just great.

To visit Barbara’s website:

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