Threads of Influence — The Poetics of Textiles — The Lasting Legacy of Tim McLaughlin

by - Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Tim passed away suddenly November 1, 2023. All of us at Maiwa have been left overwhelmed by the loss. We lived amongst Tim’s creative life. He mentored us. He inspired us. He helped us grow.

For more than 20 years, Tim McLaughlin worked to help tell the stories of artisans — in video documentaries, publications, photos, exhibitions, workshops and media. This work has been collaborative and far reaching. In many ways  it can also be seen as an extension of Tim’s background in the arts and sciences and his personal projects.

Tim drew from his research, writing, and considerable experience with Maiwa to argue for textiles as carriers of meaning that are more important today than ever before.

Like all great arts, textiles recreate our vision of the world. We hold them up as exemplars of skill, ingenuity, creativity, and ambition. Textiles are poetic metaphors woven from ideas just as much as they are physical items woven from fibres.

In this ongoing series - Threads of Influence - we at Maiwa, from time to time, will be sharing the finished and unfinished works of Tim McLaughlin. Tim left behind a lifetime of memories for us to discover and celebrate. 

We lost a gentle giant of a man. His wit and play on words was exceptional. His quiet intellect was an inspiration.

The First in this Series is a Podcast
“The Poetics of Textiles”

On October 16, 2018 Tim McLaughlin delivered his lecture "The Poetics of Textiles" to the Maiwa audience. It was a wide ranging lecture touching on Carlyle's Philosophy of Clothes, John Ruskin, William Morris, Craft and Craftspeople, India, and our relationship with handmade things. Tim brought in Pablo Neruda's Ode to Things and drew a line from poetry all the way to Iris Van Herpen's fantastically staged contemporary clothing.

Tim McLaughlin's lecture was introduced by Charllotte Kwon:

“It is a pleasure for me to be the one introducing Tim McLaughlin’s lecture this evening

Many of you here know Tim McLaughlin and know all that he does to make Maiwa shine. But I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to Tim McLaughlin - the artist, the writer, the chemist, the book designer, the ink maker, the photographer, the traveler, the film maker ...

Tim holds an MA in Philosophy of Science from the University of Western Ontario. For over 25 years he was active in experimental radio and hypertext fiction - for which he is included in the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. In 2014 Tim took second prize in the PX3 Paris Photo Competition for his photos - Portraits Found and Taken. In 2015 and 2017 Tim was appointed Shadbolt Community Scholar, graduate Liberal Studies, Simon Fraser University. Tim has written for Hali Magazine, The Victoria & Albert Museum magazine and Surface Design magazine among many others. Tim’s work is regularly exhibited in gallery spaces in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast. He co-wrote (with me) - the book - Textiles of the Banjara published by Thames and Hudson - but in addition - you may not realize - he designed the entire book.

Tim is a designer extraordinaire - and in fact before coming to Maiwa, Tim was a sought after graphic designer. After we contracted him to do the graphics for our huge exhibition in 2002 at the Vancouver Museum called Through the Eye of a Needle: Stories from an Indian Desert we found ways to keep him gainfully employed at Maiwa ever since. Tim is one of the most creative people I have ever met. He truly lives “the creative life” - He has a daily writing, drawing, painting, calligraphy practice and it is delightful to live amongst its midst. I get to be the recipient of many, many exquisite letters that come from imaginary countries - countries that he has mapped; designed the commemorative stamps for imaginary leaders and statutory holidays. He created his own Saffron Gin and then designed an entire campaign for a launch of it in India. I believed this for some weeks until I realized all his copy, drawings, meetings etc were fabricated.

He is often up in the wee hours making extracts from plants for inks and pigments, photographing in perfect tender morning light, cooking journals in the oven, painting portraits with iron gall ink, writing letters, writing New Yorker reviews for imaginary books.  You know - normal 6 am activities.

This evening Tim will take us on a journey of his musings - The Poetics of Textiles - so aptly named for a journey only Tim could take us on.”

You May Also Like


We moderate comments to keep posts on-topic, avoid spam, and inappropriate language. Comments should appear within 24 hours.