Charting Material Memories:
a visual and material ethnography of the transformations of woollen blankets in contemporary art, craft, and Indigenous regalia in Canada, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the United States
This research project was undertaken as both an historic and contemporary visual and material ethnography of the material nature and transformations of woollen (trade) blankets that were produced in the United Kingdom since the seventeenth century. Fiona's work addressed both historical and contemporary uses of woollen blankets and this study is a direct examination of the pluralistic histories that things and objects have when re‐worked and recycled by contemporary artists and customary markers in North American and Aotearoa New Zealand. By taking one thing—the industrially produced woollen blanket—as an object of investigation, this dissertation brought together a study of aesthetics, materiality, and locality in relation to the woollen blanket to consider it as a possible “technology of enchantment” (Gell 1998) in both its original and transformed states, as well as in museum collections. The dynamism of multi‐vocal and, yet, intensely local uses and transformations of woollen blankets reveal that movement and consumption are together a single transformative act. What results from these acts of transformation are both tangible and intangible values that are discussed through case studies of use in order to draw out the imagined futurity of woollen blankets in their ‘renewed’ forms against their historical and colonial legacies. This research focused on the intentional transformations of materials that inform larger critical arguments around how both Indigenous and non‐Indigenous individuals and communities fashion cultural knowledge and identity through soft materials that are themselves manifestations of the hard‐edged, imperial, colonial, and industrial projects.
This project is currently in the process of becoming a book project.