Let’s say I had enough money to buy one of those abandoned malls, and even more money to fix it up the way I wanted. What would I do with it? Why, turn it into TextileTopia, of course, and share it with all of you.
Just an ordinary mall like this would do.
But one like this would be better.
Imagine if you will…
Hi! I’m so glad you could make it here! Let me take you on a personal tour. I know you’ve been needing a little break and I think this place will be just what you need.
As you probably saw when you helicoptered in, this mall has one long axis going from east to west, with one north/south axis intersecting the main axis, and another at the east end. It’s oriented this way to make the most of the natural light throughout our daily activities.
And you probably noticed that the usual hot flat parking lots have been torn up and replaced with beautiful gardens, which gently blend into the woods and rolling hills of our surroundings. And when you landed, I hope you had time to stroll through the roof gardens.
Our gardens look a lot like these at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
And we have conservatories for rainy days, like this one also at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Up here on the second floor of the mall, all the shops have been turned into private rooms. Each room has been named for one of my textile heroes, for example Laura I. Baldt, Candace Wheeler, or Mary Schenk Woolman. Of course each room has a work area, sitting area, private kitchenette and bathroom, and a bedroom with a balcony that looks out over the gardens. Most of the room are decorated very simply, so visitors can concentrate on their projects, but if you need a certain type of decor to boost your productivity, I’m sure we can accommodate you.
I know you’re anxious to get oriented. Let’s start by going down the central escalator to the main floor.
In case you got a little turned around when you landed, we are headed west. As the escalator takes us down, on your left you can see that the store fronts have been converted to wonderful galleries with rotating displays. There is one for fashion history — right now we have a display of clothing from the 1840s
, but this is where you might also see outfits made from African wax prints
, or a collection of Oscar de la Renta designs
, or Native American clothing from many tribes.
Another gallery is for furnishings. This is where we display handwoven coverlets
, fantastic embroidered Turkish towels
, and of course, quilts
! Museums are always happy to lend us their treasures, and we also have some mass-produced articles, and lots of beloved utilitarian objects — they all have a home here.
Upholstery fabric from the Moody Mansion, Galveston, TX.
Stitching detail on a saddle from the Bryan Museum, Galveston, TX.
The storefront windows of those galleries display items on a rotating basis; and in the back there are stacks and stacks of properly stored textiles, and tables where you can take them out of their boxes and study them in depth. And here in TextileTopia, we never have to worry about UV damage or disintegrating fibers!
We have one photo case set aside to display mystery photos — we hope that visitors can enlighten us about those.
To your right, we have studios for design, computer art
, dyeing and surface design, spinning, weaving, sewing, quilting, and just general crafting
. Not only do these studios have tons of space and all the equipment you could ever want, but in them, the scissors never go astray, dye doesn’t spill, irons stay the perfect temperature, and bobbins never run out!
Being on the north side of the structure, the studios get good natural light. Also, they open up to patios and terraces and all of the fabulous gardens, which of course include areas of fiber and dye plants that you are free to gather supplies from. Sometimes we create ephemeral natural art
, and we have even had a Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation
! It was so interesting to find out how they execute such a big project.
When I took over this space, some people questioned my choice of using a shopping mall. “Why not build a traditional museum?” they asked. But I’m not a big fan of the rabbit warren of galleries in most museums. This is not an IKEA! I like being able to quickly see where I want to go next. And here in this giant space in the middle, we have the perfect place for occasional fashion shows, both from the past and the future
I can tell you are getting a little overwhelmed with all that is going on here, so let’s ignore the rest of the building for now, and go straight to the west end, to the Textiles, Tea, and Toddies club. This is the place where everyone seems to gather about sunset, and it is one of my favorite areas. It was originally a big anchor store, but we envisioned it as a place for everyone to meet up and informally discuss their favorite topics. We completely redid it with lots of fireplaces and seating areas, interspersed with French doors out to the gardens.
Before you choose one of the groups to join, let me point out the little snack bars. Whatever your eating plan, we have healthy and delicious food available here, and you are probably going to want to order and get some sustenance, because once you make your way into one of the groups, you are going to forget to eat!
You might want to listen to Carol talk about how she discovered weaving, or look at Jeannette’s pictures of the flour sack clothing her mother made, or look at the beaded gown Miles displays in his business, or help Madame X figure out the provenance of her quilts. And if there is something you would like to share, or ask for help with, this is the place to do so.
On rainy or snowy nights, the Triple T club, as we like to call it, is a delightful place to be. There’s nothing like watching stormy weather while you yourself are snug and cozy, settled in with your favorite beverage, a colorful lap quilt, and a big book of textile delights, like this one or this one
But tonight is warm and clear, and in a little while, everyone will end up wandering outside to watch the sunset. Then after dark, you can wander among the lighted garden displays, engineered to spark creative ideas!
Whimsical lights to spark your creativity.
Count these sheep and you will have sweet dreams!
Whenever you are ready, you can retire to your room, and I will see you in the morning to resume our tour!
The idea of TextileTopia came about a few years ago, when I was listening to a guided meditation recording called High Performance Mind: Mastering Brainwaves for Insight, Healing, and Creativity. Its creator, Anna Wise, asks, “What kind of space would help you optimize your creativity?” The basics popped into my mind, and whenever I am at the dentist or on an airplane, I add to it. 🙂
And as Claudia of Humoring the Goddess wrote in her post, I AM My Character, just because you can’t go to Paris, doesn’t mean you can’t go to Paris. Sadly, there may not really be a TextileTopia in this world, but the concept can still enrich my thinking and planning.
Next time: more of the TextileTopia tour.