A permanent workshop

Museum: TextielMuseum  website
Years: 2005-ongoing


The TextielMuseum wants to keep textile craftsmanshipalive, develop it and pass it on to next generations, by collecting, maintaining, presenting, researching, documenting and creating art, design and fashion made from textiles.

Creating textiles has always been at the heart of the TextielMuseum. Since 2005 the museum has a special place dedicated to creating new textiles: the TextielLab (textile lab).Designers, artists and studentsfrom all over the globe work on innovative products. Textile art is created for international commissions, prototypes are developed, research and development are executed. Visitors can follow the creative process up close.

The process of creating textiles is an intangible one. At the TextielLab textiles are made at digital controlled machines and at machine which are controlled by hand. Both the hand machines and the digital machine require craft. Craft is learned by repeating the steps in the creative process, by gaining experience. Your hands learn to know the material, physically. A craftsman is continuously improving his work and skills by making changes to materials and technology.

This aspect of learning by doing is important in using the digital controlled weaving and knitting machines as well. Only when there is understanding of the many aspects of making, material and technology, the product developers can add new elements to textiles together with artists and designers. They translate the digital picture into something physical. Just like learning to weave a weaving loom, they learn how to make textile with the computer-controlled machines through experience.

In our TextielLab we facilitate designers, artist, fashions designers and students with the knowledge and expertise of our product developers and technicians.In this way we pass on our knowledge of making textiles to them.

The next steps to become a more inclusive makers museumare being made. At this moment designers and artist participate in the making process. Our visitors are giving open access to the activities by our product developers, technicians and the artists and designers working with us. To involve our visitors we’ll develop new concepts, such as a Create Your Own Design Product facility and a junior lab for families. We consider everybody, from professional to student to our visitors as makers adapting the making process to their different levels of skills.


Description of the project / practice / program

The industrial heritage buildings in which the museum is located, and a heritage collection were the ingredients for a classical museum approach. Demonstration of textile techniques by volunteers and employees who used to work in the textile industry was always part of the museum practice. In the year 2000 the museum became a working museum. The first computer controlled jacquard loom was acquired, to produce new textiles and to show the possibilities of the modern textile industry. 

In 2005 the TextielLab was opened at the TextielMuseum. Textile techniques, from craft techniques such as tufting and passement till modern computer-controlled weaving and knitting machines were made available for experimentation and development of new textile techniques to designers and artists. The TextielLab is an ideal place to work for professionals. Professionals, students and visitors are facilitated by insights of recent developments of the making industry principles to participate through personal development, by experiment, learning and research in a museum which is in the middle of society acting on a global-local interaction. 

The TextielMuseum wants to preserve existing textile knowledge, but also develop new knowledge through innovation, research and development. We not only manage a museum collection and show the textile trade, but we also ensure that the collection is examined, and the craft remains alive and renews itself. The TextielLab makes it possible to keep textile knowledge alive. Beside creating an ideal place to work, the institute also offers an ideal place to learn for talented young students to develop their skills in the best way possible. The visitors are also given open access to the activities of the institute.  

The reinterpretation of heritageis a core activity in our TextielLab. Reinterpretation is the act of reformulating something in a new or different way. It is through reinterpretation by artists and designers who are inspired by the heritage collection that heritage based legacy lives on for future generations. For us innovation is a way of rethinking the way we have done things so far, by adding new technology, modern yarns and the vision of artists new cultural heritage is born. 

We contribute to the creation of new knowledge by providing collection and research assignmentsto artists and designers. For example, designers for the exhibition and associated collection assignments 'Turkish Red' have done research into parts of our collection and they have developed new textiles in the Lab.  For the recent exhibition Cultural threads, the museum commissioned artist with different cultural backgrounds to make new works of (textile) art in the TextielLab. Artists and designers use a collection assignment to investigate technical possibilities, the museum collection or social themes.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

Both designersand artiststhat work in the TextielLab and our employeesand volunteersare ICH-practitioners.  
Designers and artists benefit from the interaction with our product developers & technical staff inthe TextielLab. Our creative and technical teams regularly visit trade fairs and are knowledgeable. Up-to-date knowledge about making textiles is thus available to our employees and the designers and artists who are working in the TextielLab.

Moreover, in the TextielLab the work by these designers and artists will be seen by staff (including curators), journalists and visitors. Contact with other designers, artists and talented students results in interesting interaction which benefits the design process.  

By inviting designers and artist for collection and research assignments, we invite them to learn about a medium for art and design they haven’t explored before. Thus, we keep textile knowledge alive. Our museum collection, exhibitions and the library are a source of inspiration to the designers and artist.

We consider our employees as ICH-practitioners. Part of our work force, including part of our group of volunteers, used to work in the Tilburg textile industry. Their knowledge is now available for designers and artists and to new (young) employees.  

As there are less textile companies nowadays in the Netherlands, it will be hard to find new employees and volunteers who worked in the industry. How to teach new staff about textile techniques is a question we’ll have to answer in the following years. This applies to new developments, but also to old textile techniques. We aim to preserve the know-how and transfer the expertise to the next generation.  

Therefore, the TextielLab finds it very important to reserve time for knowledge transfer. Jan Esman, former curator and head Textile techniques at the TextielMuseum, knows all ins and outs of techniques and machinery. In the last two years, he has been teaching Karen Zeedijk to work with the several techniques and machines. Karen Zeedijk is tufting expert at the TextielLab. 

Passementerie is one of the techniques that is being taught. It is the collective name for a range of decorative textile trimmings such as bands, tassels, fringes and cords, made using various techniques. At the department, different machines, dating from the end of the 19th century, are in use, that work both manually and mechanically. In order to be able to keep using the machinery and applying the old techniques to contemporary designs, this program is of great importance for the TextielLab.

CV of the author

Since 2005 Jantiene van Elk is librarian at the TextielMuseum. She’s responsible for more than 20.000 books, an extensive collection of manuscripts and sample books, journals and magazines and a documentation collection on textile technique, industrial culture and textile art and design. She’s responsible for the TextielMuseum’s knowledge policy. Intangible cultural heritage is an important part of this policy. She regularly publishes weblogs on the library collection, especially on the history and use of sample books. Jantiene van Elk studied Social History at the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam and Library Science at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. 


  • Be brave and dare to innovate. Buying the first jacquard weaving machine was a bold move and not undebated. It made the TextielMuseum | TextielLab what it is today; 
  • Keep your story, your mission as a museum in mind.
  • It takes time to innovate. The concept of the TextielLab is developed over a long period and we’re again renewing and improving the concept right now. 



25 February 2019 from 14:16 to 14:16



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