This is second in a series where I consider my own textiles in light of Mary Schoeser’s book Textiles: the Art of Mankind.
In the section of the book titled Ingredients, along with textiles made from feather-light silks, glossy linens, and gold threads, there are textiles that include peacock feathers, iridescent beetle wings, stainless steel monofilament, plastic bread tags, polypropylene, fiber optic ropes, sound systems, old photo slides, and concrete! (Not all together.) It really opened my eyes to things that could be incorporated into textile creations.
Here are links to three of the examples:
Cradle to Grave by Susie Freedman, Dr. Liz Lee, and David Critchley (2003) includes two textiles with 14,000 pills sewn into each, one representing the average number of pills prescribed to each woman in the UK over her lifetime, and the other those prescribed to each man.
Indigo and the Murex by Carol Anne Grotrian (2008), is a work in five panels, representing the major sources of natural indigo dye.
Hope by Sara Nordling (2010) is a group of airy metal and heavy straw baskets.
My own textile collection does not contain anything so adventurous! I have bought some items with bold and unpredicatble color combinations, but as far as the actual materials, most everything I have is made from one of the “Big Four” natural fibers — cotton, linen, silk, and wool. I only have two that I think push the materials envelope at all, and I believe they are both rayon.
There is this lovely red and gold piece, that I have written about here.
Another piece from my husband’s family is similar in construction, although it is much less drape-able. I don’t have any idea of its date of manufacture.
I believe it is rayon, because the threads feel more stiff and crinkly than I would expect from silk. The ground warp is a very thin blue cotton, and then the thick shiny blue and gold threads are a supplementary warp, floated and tied down to make the different patterns. The weft is a thick-and-thin blue cotton. It is machine-made, but to me it epitomizes a masterful use of materials, in that just a few types of thread create many effects.
When I look at my own work, the only area I really experiment in is finding natural dyes from the plants in my yard. Other than that, I have done a few experiments with recycled materials, but more just because I have seen it done and thought I should try it. I think I am more focused on the comfort of basic and vintage materials than I am interested in being innovative. Like a lot of textile people, I love the look of jars of old buttons and spools of thread, so much so that I have trouble using them! But it is a good lesson to me to consider how best to show the qualities of the materials I use.