In textasis
: matrixial narratives of textile design

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Since its inception in the late 1970s, the academic field of design research has lacked significant input from textile design. Textile design inhabits a liminal space that spans art, design, craft; the decorative and functional; from handiwork to industrial manufacture. This PhD by thesis, although recognizing this particularity, asserts textile design as a design discipline and seeks to address key questions that define a design discipline (Archer 1979). Specific factors have prevented the participation of textile design in the development of design theory: the universalism of the Modernist age decried many of the innate characteristics of textiles despite the fact that the versatility of textiles has made it one of the most appropriate mediums for its message. This suppression points to the femininely gendered nature of textiles and how this affected the participation of textile designers in the development of design research. Addressing this historical and cultural context necessitated the utilization of feminist qualitative research methods in a methodology that references matrixial theory (Ettinger 2006) and relationality. Encounters, conversations, stories, drawings, metaphor, meshing and restorying are all key research methods used in this study. In its autoethnographic approach, my position as a textile designer and as the researcher is frequently foregrounded, and is also blended with the experiences of other textile designers. The study unfolds and expands in a non-linear way, structure and outcome co-evolving through my contingent thinking and activity. Theory and texts are montaged from anthropology, philosophy, literature, cognitive psychology and psychoanalysis to define key characteristics of textile design and its associated thinking, both tacit and explicit. These characteristics are then placed into the context of the design research agenda, with particular reference to design thinking and problem-solving. This both strengthens the position of textiles as a design discipline and highlights its anomalies. Through analysing the articulation of textile design practice and thinking, this study proposes an alternative perspective on design thinking and problem-solving in design which contrasts with the notions of divergence followed by convergence which are predominant in design research literature. It suggests that textile design thinking is fundamentally dimensionally expansive yet set in tense relation to external forces of folding and rhizomatic breakage (Deleuze 1993/1999, Deleuze & Guattari 1987/2008). This paradigm of design thinking rests upon the significance of long-established textile metaphors for the embodied and interconnected activities of cognition and action, and is indicative of particular views of post-postmodernist thought. Based on this, as well as on other key characteristics of textile design process and thinking that have been defined, pedagogic implications are discussed and specific areas of current design research discourse which would benefit from greater involvement from textile designers and theorists are explored.
Date of AwardNov 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal College of Art


  • textiles
  • design
  • design thinking
  • design process
  • autoethnography
  • design theory

Cite this