Textile The Journal of Cloth and Culture

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Print ISSN: 1475-9756
Europe's burgeoning trade in the seventeenth century brought exciting new textiles from Asia to the west, at the same time as newly imported flora caused a frenzy among botanists, collectors, gardeners and speculators. Between 1600 and 1800, gardens were reconceived; at the same time, interior domestic spaces were also being redesigned. Imagined landscapes of exotic locales became the inspiration for a redesign of personal settings using the painted, printed textiles from India. The fervor tied to the romance, mystery and alien landscapes of Asia unleashed a decorative torrent in thread, silk and linen, to bedeck the walls and furnish the homes of elite and common citizens. Asianinspired dress also held a particular fascination for men from the middling to elite ranks, who were beguiled by the decorative banyans or dressing gowns made of printed and painted silks and cottons. They chose to wear these loose flowered robes as they socialized with their most intimate friends and family. Over two centuries, calicos became domesticated, a permanent feature of English domestic furnishings and personal adornment, a symbol of genteel repose, of male informality and intimacy, evolving to become a constant component of western material culture and thereby refashioning the domestic world.
This article offers an analysis of natural dyes as a means to explicate inherent paradoxes within the subject. One is that natural dyes are not entirely “natural.” The reverse is actually the case, for natural dyes were often added to chemical colors by nineteenth-century industrial dyers. Another paradox is the blurred distinction between natural and chemical dyes which are actually not separate but aligned technologies. Furthermore, textile historians have long regarded dyeing as a stage in finishing, which is neither appropriate nor accurate. This article presents a revised concept of the cultural and technological characteristics of both categories of dyes, a reassessment that engages persistent myths as it also interrogates aspects of gender and production.
This article examines the surface qualities of textile objects in the 1880 to 1939 period, analyzing representations and descriptions of both highly finished and maintained textile surfaces, and degraded and ill-maintained garments. It is argued that the finishing techniques applied in manufacture were carefully replicated in domestic processes, and that qualities of surface and finish in textiles were important both materially and symbolically in the stratified social systems of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain. Theoretical insights from Julia Kristeva and Mary Douglas are used to understand the meanings of textile objects in use and wear, in their relationship to the bodies that wore them, and in the processes of maintenance to which they were subjected.
Gottfried Semper, the nineteenth-century German architect and art historian, influenced a generation of Central European followers at the turn of the twentieth century with his notion of the textile origins of building. His theories were particularly resonant in Vienna, where the movement to reform the applied arts centered on textiles in a variety of ways. Textiles were at the heart of Austria-Hungary's imperial legacy in the form of richly embroidered court costumes and ecclesiastical vestments as well as in the traditional needlework produced throughout the diverse Habsburg lands. Modern architects and designers were motivated not only to design cloth and clothing, but to express characteristics of the textile in their buildings and interior designs as well. While architects such as Otto Wagner in Vienna and Ödön Lechner in Budapest "dressed" their buildings in decorative textile-like façades, younger modernists, including Josef Hoffmann and Adolf Loos, interpreted Semper's ideas more broadly, understanding their application to the design of interior spaces in innovative ways. This paper posits a new methodological approach to the study of Viennese art and design during this period—one that uses the textile, as it was understood by Semper, as a structure, or theoretical framework, for sifting through the modern movement's many puzzling contradictions, seen for example in the opposing views of Hoffmann and Loos.
In this article I start from a particular passage in the New Testament that will touch on biblical threads and paradigms related to textile. Mark 5:24b-34, Luke 8:42-48, and Matthew 9:19-22 tell the story of the healing of the “woman with an issue of blood,“ the Haemorrhoissa. This story (and its Nachleben in commentaries and iconographies) pulsates with a delicate energy relating to textile, cloth, and the magical impact of touch. I will firstly investigate upon those textile-related dimensions by situating the passage in what I term its narrative, iconic, and anthropological space. This will finally lead to a hypothesis on the origin of the medieval assimilation of the Haemorrhoissa to the Veronica, the woman who carried the imprint of Christ's face.
Though Jane Austen has few references to dress in her novels, muslin, and talk about muslin, play a significant role in Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland's first conversation with Henry Tilney, the man she eventually marries, is about her sprigged muslin dress and its properties. Austen's point is that clothing can be as appropriate a topic of conversation between men and women as art and literature. But we are also shown how other characters talk less sensibly, more obsessively and even dangerously about clothes.
Despite centuries of missionary work and trade along the African coasts, not until European colonization at the end of the nineteenth century did African art reach significant levels of visibility in Europe. French interest in Africa gained momentum when Picasso and others witnessed public performances by African-Americans of ragtime music and the cakewalk dance. This exposure led these artists to better appreciate the African sculpture they saw at Parisian flea markets, or in the many world and colonial expositions held after 1900 (Blake 1999). Contact with African music and art then contributed to abstraction in modern art. What began early in the twentieth century was, by the mid-1920s, a full-blown "negrophilia" fueled by jazz music, the Charleston dance, and the Harlem Renaissance (Archer-Straw 2000). Interest in Africa was reflected in the design of everything from furniture, ceramics, and jewelry, to garment styles and textiles (Wood 2003a).This article examines three ways in which textile artists in Europe and the United States borrowed from African and African-American art sources in order to create "Africana" textiles during the 1920s and 1930s: through imitation, adaptation, and transformation. Imitation occurred when artists borrowed by copying directly from African art. Artists adapted African art patterns to suit their creative and commercial needs, also adapting the energetic sounds of jazz onto textiles perceived to be simultaneously primitive and modern. A third group of artists transformed their source of inspiration, creating images that were the products of Western stereotypes and fantasies long associated with the African landscape, its animals, and its people, rather than images based on African art.
Clynes and Kline's (1995 [1960]) conception of the cyborg sees a technologically augmented human designed for the adverse conditions of space travel. Despite alterations through artificial and self-organizing biochemical, physiological, and electronic modifications, the paramount piece of technology enabling human non-terrestrial flirtations was the "exogenous device" of the spacesuit. In this instance, the incorporation of high-tech textiles and manufacturing techniques accommodates the design process to the point where the distinction between fabric, garment, and astronaut merge. This article uses the spacesuit as an illustrative example in arguing that a particular utility value of fashion is its role as "aerial"; transmitting and receiving messages that feed into, and draw from, social and cultural archives. This article explores the concept of to-and-fro transmission/ reception, arguing that fashion, as aerial, contributes to a highly complex meaning system, in which negotiation becomes a passive, unconscious activity.
Sharon Kelly focused her art practice on charcoal drawings, later adding several video pieces. Her use of cloth ranges from providing a ground for an image to becoming an image, to a trope of a particular state of mind. Pertinent to my inquiry are Wittgenstein's thoughts on use as the hinge for creativity, the use connects us to a complicated network of similarities, overlapping and crisscrossing (Wittgenstein 1953: 66). My proposition is that cloth and garments enter into a variety of relationships with and within the drawings. An active and visually sophisticated response of an artist to textiles brings forth the capacity of a cloth or a garment to convey any or several of the following: identity, expression, gender, age, mood, intent, attractiveness, social status, and even honesty. Applied outside the range of its normal use, the textile does no actual work at all, yet it is not an idle wheel or ornament. The cloth or a garment in Sharon Kelly's art is not subordinated to the art: there is no hierarchy. Rather, the aesthetic function isolates the object from the everyday use and fastens our attention powerfully to it. The fabric transforms itself into a gatekeeper of feeling.
Around the world responses to AIDS and HIV are expressed in material form through idioms mediated by particular social and historical contingencies. In this article I examine at the case of AIDS memorial quilts produced by contemporary Native Americans. The invisible connections between people, their histories, and cultures that are materialized in this particular form of textiles make them culturally significant vehicles for healing practices for many Native Americans, who maintain that the acknowledgment of customary meanings ensures ritual efficacy and curing success. As a particular response to AIDS, grief, death, and healing these objects reveal the social relevance of expressing materially culturally encoded messages that are simultaneously rooted in universally shared idioms and the uniqueness of local experiences.
Hawaii's aloha shirt features brightly colored textiles; this article presents the design evolution of these textiles used in the aloha shirt for each decade from its origin in the 1930s to 2000. Based on a study of over 1,000 shirts and textiles, this study shows that Hawaiian prints and the aloha shirt developed as a result of contributions from several, ethnic groups in multiethnic Hawai'i where there is no ethnic majority. Throughout the decades of the twentieth century, the Hawaiian prints featured in the aloha shirt provided visual testimony to the importance of ethnicity in Hawai'i. This article posits that in a multiethnic society, ethnic dress can function symbolically as a cultural marker representing inclusivity rather than exclusivity. In Hawai'i, the aloha shirt has become a symbol of a pan-ethnic identity and visualy separates insiders from outsiders. To those who live in Hawai'i, it is a visible symbol of their multiethnic heritage.
The punched-card-driven loom introduced by Joseph-Marie Jacquard in the early years of the nineteenth century was the culmination of a number of efforts to mechanize the tedious work of manipulating the separate threads in a draw loom. The data constituting the desired pattern were introduced to the loom via a set of cards with punched holes. Noting the use of punched cards with the computers of the 1960s and also the fact that the intrinsic binary nature of weaving (a given thread is either "up" or "down") is shared by the binary circuitry of computers, weavers have been heard to claim that the Jacquard loom is the ancestor of the modern computer. This idea is the result of a profound misconception about the nature of computers. A Jacquard loom is no more like a computer than is a player piano, which also used punched holes as an input device. For a computer, the role of punched cards was only to provide a mechanism for enabling it to receive the data it needs to accomplish the significant and revolutionary aspects of its functioning, namely to carry out the sequential steps of any processing of its data whatever, so long as these are spelled out with utter precision and subject only to limitations of space and time. The use of binary logic in computer circuitry is a great simplifying tool, deriving from the work of mathematicians such as Leibniz and Boole, but is by no means an essential aspect of the nature of computers.
The history of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, beginning with its establishment by European missionaries and continued by Nigerian clergy, reflects changing ecclesiastical concerns, which have been discussed in the considerable literature on the history of Christianity in Nigeria. This paper takes a different approach to Anglican Church history in the town of Ondo, in southwestern Nigeria, by focusing on four different commemorative anniversary cloths commissioned by two Anglican churches in Ondo and by the Anglican Diocese, Ondo, from 1925 to 2002. These cloths reflect the different concerns of church leaders during the times when they were made as well as the manufacturing techniques used in their production. This analysis of the four anniversary cloths differs from other studies of commemorative textiles as it details the extensive negotiations that went into the decisions made by particular church leaders, both in the design and commissioning of these cloths from textile manufacturers first in the UK and then in Nigeria. These Anglican Church cloths suggest the ways that cloth was used by church leaders and members both to depict the historical travails of the Anglican Church in Ondo and to express their different and, at times, conflicting opinions and experiences. They were also used to attract new members, who were impressed by the prestige imparted to the wearers of these innovative cloths. This focus on commemorative textiles as historical record thus provides a means of understanding church history from an African perspective.
Textile work can be interpreted as physical evidence of human thought and actions. Generally artifacts are examined and interpreted as a material expression of culture. This article offers another way of looking at textile patterns, focusing on their production processes. Consequently, textile techniques need to be described in order to demonstrate the constitutional skills of textile patterns. The analysis of textile pattern is, according to this thesis, not undertaken within a style or design history or as part of theories on ornament. A techno-morphological description reflects on spatial conditions and production techniques. The formulated definition of the term "pattern" introduces the ideas of rhythm, symmetry, repetition, and dimension. These keywords lead to further reflections on patterns of more general interest. Research in different disciplines, predominantly in the natural sciences, deals with all kind of patterns. Cognitive sciences state that pattern matching and pattern construction are required means of complexity reduction, a key function of human behavior. The prerequisites for pattern recognition, the significance of patterns, and its cultural implications within scientific theory are usually not discussed. Here, pattern analysis is proposed as an analytical tool in the search for subjective influences, e.g. in scientific display. Formulating the epistemological function of patterns may benefit interdisciplinary research and support the interface between cultural and natural sciences.
Drawing on some observations by Anne Paul concerning the iconography of textile borders in cloth from archaeological sites in Paracas-Topará (southern Peru), and her suggestion that these acted as “markers of the sacred,” we examine some ethnographic contexts in highland Bolivia that also concern borders: the final moment of the wayñu dance each year, and the finishing of textile and field borders. In each case, we propose that the object is to control certain spirits believed to dwell within these borders, so that they finish their creative task there. Finally, we examine the relation between the so-called “war of the ayllus” in Bolivia (in 2000), which produced dramatic changes in regional aesthetics, and textile structures postwar, in which images from textile borders came to occupy the central space of woven cloth. We explain these changes through a theory concerning the war dynamics that occur between the borders and centers of modern territories in conflict, and the way that local populations understand these, which might also have archaeological significance in the case of Paracas-Topará.
String has played a formidable, though largely unacknowledged role in twentieth-century art and science. Its rise as a material technology was made possible by the fact that string embraces a material way of thinking, one that is uniquely capable of binding together what is invisible with what is phenomenal to experience. String today thus signals the resurgence of a chemical revolution, which, in parallel to a modernity fashioned by a mechanical revolution, has created a material world that is capable of provoking attachments in ways once attributed to the mind. We are now readily inclined to think in terms of relations of affinity that pertain between materials; yet this material thinking has remained largely confined to the creative centers of art and science where it continues to provoke innovations at a material level. This article argues that social and historical disciplines and institutions that serve the transmission of much of socially efficacious knowledge have remained ignorant of this development of a new technological materiality, by continuing to reduce the material to a mechanical aide for ideas that alone are believed capable of drawing things together.
This article discusses image form in a computerized text-based art used as a means of real-time communication on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC art developed from ASCII art. The analysis draws on a large database of images captured from an IRC group called "rainbow." Evidence is presented for the thesis that creating, playing, and viewing images with certain formal characteristics are a means for the players to strive for, and play with a sense of closure, completion, or perfection. The art also expresses participants' desire for enclosure, for community. To pursue closure is to pursue good gestalts. Nine strategies for the pursuit of good gestalts are identified, including framing and filling the space, cultivating pattern and symmetry in images, especially bilateral symmetry, and avoiding multistable designs. In many respects images resemble traditional embroidery, weaving, rug-hooking, and quilting. However, the ephemerality of this group-based art is novel.
This article examines the warp ikat patterned textiles of Mainland Southeast Asia. Although they have received far less attention than the warp ikat patterned textiles of Insular Southeast Asia they represent an extremely important part of the textile heritage of the region. Warp ikat patterned textiles are produced primarily in three areas of Mainland Southeast Asia: by the Thái of northwestern Vietnam and the adjacent area of Laos, by the Cham and some highland Mon-Khmer-speaking peoples in southern Vietnam and Laos, and by groups of Karen, Lawa, and Northern Tai (Khon Muang) in Burma and northern Thailand. After a brief survey of each of these warp ikat traditions, the article explores probable linkages between the three traditions. Finally, the article relates these data to the broader issue of the origin and spread of warp ikat weaving in Southeast Asia.
String is good for doing things, and also good for being. The state of being is a state of being related to. String, in all its forms, holds the meaning of this fact of relatedness. It is a bodily fact, a symbolic fact and an emotional fact. What is the transition we make between being, feeling, seeing, knowing, and thinking? How can writing trace this transition from body to thought and symbol? How does making make a difference?
Japan has become renowned as a site for the production of artisanal-quality denim and jeans, which appeals to increasingly discerning cognoscenti. The usual mass-produced, non-designer “safe” denim has a ubiquitous presence in Japan as it does elsewhere but there are many Japanese for whom a pair of jeans has many more qualities that should be carefully considered before its consumption than the perhaps usual factors of price, brand, cut, wash and color. These include the types of machines the denim was woven on, the presence of certain (sometimes invisible) rivets, the technique of stitching and so on. “Made in Japan” has become the catchphrase for new denim authenticity sought by “denim maniacs” (denimu mania no hito). This paper gives a brief history of jeans in Japan, introduces the area where they are made and examines two jeans companies as well as consumers of these premium jeans. It looks at how expensive Japanese jeans echo the mingei craft movement in their emphasis on method of production over the aesthetics of the final product. It shows that authenticity in Japan can be relocated both geographically and from the “original” to the “copy.”
This paper examines the process of creativity, primarily in the context of psychoanalysis, oscillating between tactile experience—my love of fabric and the creation of a beast costume—and my thinking about both the experience and the process. It can also be read as a dialectic between my roles as amateur costume maker and professional psychotherapist—although both disciplines are practice based, one in the studio, the other in the consulting room. In recording my experience I have tried to follow the nuances of dream and fantasy, but in a cultural context. Psychoanalytical concepts are introduced that can be located not only in theories of child development, dreaming and daydreaming, but also in the myths, fairy tales, films, and literature to which I refer, as well as my own thoughts about the role of women's sewing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The journey, however, is an erratic one, following the methodology of "free association" that is used in the consulting room. The associations that accompany my beast dreaming, although located in specific contexts, are peculiar to me, but the methodology itself can be applied elsewhere. My aim is to illustrate how apparently incompatible concepts and texts can meet together in the process of creating a product, or at least in recording it. It is this process that engages me rather than the analysis of the end product, although by definition this is both evasive and elusive and risks breaking the butterfly on the wheel of theory.
This article analyzes the contemporary production and trade of resist-dyed and block-printed textiles in Kachchh district, Gujarat. The hereditary craft is dominated by the Khatris, who are renowned for the production of fine tie-dyed textiles; batik, or wax-resist textiles; and resist-printed and mordant-dyed textiles that feature the use of natural dyes. Traditionally, these textiles were used for caste dress by the farming and herding castes of Kachchh and played an important role in establishing the distinctive sartorial identity of each community. This is still the basis of local trade but increasingly items originally produced for apparel, transported to a different social context—either in the major cities of India, or overseas—have been transformed into soft furnishings and fashion accessories.Contemporary patterns of trade reflect a plethora of influences: the social upheaval that followed Independence in 1947; state interventions; tourism; and, inevitably, industrialization and the impact of new technologies. These diverse influences and the response of individual Khatris will be explored in the course of this article.
The practice of deliberately concealing garments within the structure of buildings is described. These finds provide a means of exploring how space was conceived and experienced in the past, and how these deliberately hidden garments mediated, and continue to mediate, the relationship between people and the spaces they occupied, and may continue to occupy. The Deliberately Concealed Garments Project was set up in 1998 to locate, document and analyze garments found hidden within buildings. Concealments have preserved many textiles in the UK, mainland Europe, Australia and North America. The significance of these caches rests not only in the finds themselves, as rare items of dress, but also because of what they reveal about perceptions of built space. The concealments are believed to serve a protective function, not against the weather or immodesty, but against incoming malevolent forces. As apotropaic (evil-averting) agents they protect from within rather than as outer coverings or internal divisions. The paper discusses how garments concealed within buildings transform space through the work of metaphor.
T his article examines the effect of the fabric denim in objectifying kinship in the city of Kunming, China. It is argued that denim has been particularly efficacious due to its ability to insert itself into traditional Chinese kinship notions of nurturance. Parents were seen to gift denim to their children with the object of instigating a change in the lives of the younger generation, coupled with the knowledge that a change in material circumstances would be necessary to achieve such transformation. At the same time, the younger generation's denim also provoked a “kinship gulf” between children and their parents, which parents appeared keen to close by purchasing and wearing denim of their own (although not without a degree of ambivalence, reflected by the presence of inactive jeans in parents' wardrobes). In this remarkable situation denim was seen, firstly, as the tool for creating generational disjuncture through traditional means and subsequently as the prospective solution to overcome this disjuncture. It is argued here that denim moves us to consider the study of kinship as the study of “closeness,” a term that affords the consideration of objects in the milieu of intimate social relationships.
The Tangible Media Group has done a series of investigations into new multi-modal computer interfaces that utilize gesture and the sense of touch to improve interpersonal communication, education, and access to digital information. "Interactive surfaces" are one of our most promising lines of research and this article will look in depth at the design, implementation, and possible applications of interactive surfaces through an example project, Super Cilia Skin, an Interactive Membrane. Super Cilia Skin (SCS) is a computationally enhanced membrane that couples tactile/ kinesthetic input with tactile and visual output. Our prototype manipulates the orientation of an array of yarn-like actuators (cilia) to display dynamic images or physical gestures. Like cloth, SCS is designed to be applied to arbitrary objects to engage sight and touch. Unlike traditional textiles, SCS can sense touch and dynamically move its surface. This article will discuss the potential for scale shifts with actuated textiles in which the material can blur boundaries between foreground/environment and field/object. Our design studies will present applications in which actuated textiles can use their material properties to improve interpersonal communication, enhance creative expression, and assist education in young learners by engaging tactile/kinesthetic intelligences.
Patched, louse-ridden, tattered—clean, beautiful, gem." As children we recited this rhyme in Norwegian: "Lappete, lusete, fillete—ren, pen, edelsten," as we picked petal after petal from a daisy. All the words can be understood as descriptions of the child's future clothes. Clean is the turning point in the rhyme. Clean is thus seen as the first step on the way towards the gem, and it conveys here the same meaning as in the saying "whole and clean is the greatest finery." Both emphasize clean clothes as crucial to the judgment of a person's appearance.In the world of fashion it has been alleged that "anything goes." This is probably true if we restrict "anything" to small variations in the look, decor, color, and style " of clothes. However, our way of dressing also depends on more absolute norms.This article explores the norms that deal with the relationship between clean and dirty clothes. Despite the fact that there is abundant research on cleanliness and laundering on the one hand, and clothes and clothes habits on the other, there are few points of intersection between the two fields. The article is an attempt at seeing these two themes in conjunction. It investigates how clothes, by being kept clean, make bodies socially acceptable. The article looks at how the demand for cleanliness varies in relation to age, gender, and class, and compares these demands to what we know about decency.
The problem of terminology and relationship is something I first came across when researching cloth and skins in the societies of prehistoric Europe. I wanted to understand the relationship between animal skins, linen and wool textiles, netting and twined cloth, yet I found there was no adequate way of describing these as a group of related materials. I was faced with quite separate books and journals on “cloth“ or “textiles“ from those on “skins“ or “leather.“ The content of these publications were usually defined by raw materials, technology or style. Such a separation made it difficult to understand the relationship between these materials at any given time or place. From this problem, I recognized the value of classifying these related materials by their physical similarity and pattern of use. To do this I have used the term cloth-type material to refer to all flexible, thin sheets of material that can be wrapped, folded, and shaped, but excluding materials related through structure, technology or raw material that do not share these qualities. This classification is significant to consider how cloth-type materials have the potential to be used in similar ways, yet through cultural values and choices have distinct roles and values.
In the spectrum of losses that structures life from birth to death, the presence of cloth is a central signifier that differentiates nature from culture. Cloth thereby remains forever liminal in its cultural significance. This liminality is held, like a smell, in the meaning of the word "stuff," a translation of the French étoffe or cloth. Stuff has become, colloquially, a term used to designate generic "thingness," or unspecified materiality, in a way that gives eloquent expression to our culture's ambivalent relationship to textiles and to the tactile. We experience cloth as neither object nor subject, but as the threshold between, as a liminality where meaning decomposes into materiality, and threatens nonsense. It is this quality of non-sense that makes textiles especially interesting.
Advances in information technology now provide a variety of digital tools for the mathematical investigation of the visual complexity of textile patterns and decorative designs. In this article, we report on innovative applications of this technology to the geometric analysis of Kuba cloth and Zillij mosaics. From our perspective, these objects present distinctly different analytical challenges, and typify problematic aspects of the classification and generation problems of artistic design. Mathematical considerations led us to use neural networks, shape grammars, and related technologies to approach these problems. Our ultimate goal is to use our methods, samples, and peripherals to build an interactive database for the study of historical patterns and the generation of contemporary designs. Details of our research plan can be found in Kolak Dudek et al. 2003: 129-35).
This international collaborative digital design project, initially by two and then three collaborators (from three geographic locations), illustrates a joint commitment to work together to develop an exhibition that combines overlapping interests in art, design, ancient Chinese artifacts, fabric design and technology. The project began with initial travel to a university in Beijing that encouraged collaborations between educators. Once the project commenced, issues came up that required modifications from the original vision but mutual perseverance overcame communication challenges, technology hardware problems, and production problems. The culmination of the project resulted in new findings, an expansion of knowledge and skills, and an enriching experience for digital collaborators from the United States, China, and Taiwan. This project had the ingredients that led to a cultural, scholarly, and aesthetic interchange of ideas and visions. The resultant opening exhibition(s) of over ninety pieces (and Web exhibition <http://www. cadtextiledesign. com/>) is titled Inspirational Chinese Designs: East and West Interpretations and consists of fabric posters, wall hangings/scarves, and fabric yardage.
This article attempts to identify and discuss the difficulties encountered by curators whose task it is to collect, store, document, display, and interpret contemporary art and design, and focuses mainly on the contemporary textile collection in the Department of Furniture, Textile and Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
In this four-year, seventy-interview ethnographic study of US amateur quilters, I examine the guilty pleasures surrounding quilting practices, including the deviant acts of hiding both identity and fabric from family members and friends. While fabric is the medium of quilting, quilters purchase more than necessary for projects, slowly building up and hoarding a fabric stash. They then strategize hiding places for their fabric. Women's anxieties surrounding acquiring, hoarding, and hiding their fabric stashes highlight their diminished ability, relative to their spouses and their children, to pursue leisure activities without a stigma. Collecting and hiding the fabric stash become symbolic of women's attempts to carve out time ad space for themselves amid the multiple demands placed on them by such greedy institutions such as family and the workplace.
This paper explores several areas of existing theory and research to consider a communication-based reading of textiles. The theoretical framework for this paper is based in semiotics as defined by Barthes, Saussure et al., and seeks to exploit methodologies based in semiotics and communication theory to analyze the construction of meaning through textiles, acknowledging textiles as “cultural signifiers,” and suggesting communication as a paradigm in which textiles can be critically located and discussed. To understand the communication potential of textiles in terms of shared interpretations of object and context, the paper also incorporates research examples from product semantics and material culture studies. The term “textile semantics” in this paper is therefore used to describe the examination of the communicative qualities in textiles which inform the generation and exchange of meaning between the textile practitioner and the viewer. The communication functions of historical textiles such as toile de jouy and tapestry are discussed, and the influence of textile content on the reading of contemporary textile examples is also considered.
Electronic textiles, also referred to as smart fabrics, are quite fashionable right now. Their close relationship with the field of computer wearables gives us many diverging research directions and possible definitions. On one end of the spectrum, there are pragmatic applications such as military research into interactive camouflage or textiles that can heal wounded soldiers. On the other end of the spectrum, work is being done by artists and designers in the area of reactive clothes: "second skins" that can adapt to the environment and to the individual. Fashion, health, and telecommunication industries are also pursuing the vision of clothing that can express aspects of people's personalities, needs, and desires or augment social dynamics through the use and display of aggregate social information. In my current production-based research, I develop enabling technology for electronic textiles based upon my theoretical evaluation of the historical and cultural modalities of textiles as they relate to future computational forms. My work involves the use of conductive yarns and fibers for power delivery, communication, and networking, as well as new materials for display that use electronic ink, nitinol, and thermochromic pigments. The textiles are created using traditional textile manufacturing techniques: spinning conductive yarns, weaving, knitting, embroidering, sewing, and printing with inks.
The digital imaging revolution established one of the most recent "new" media fields in art and design and ultimately permeated related sectors with beguiling two-dimensional (2D), three-dimensional (3D), and interactive visual and experiential prospects. After much frenzied development and hype during the mid to late 1990s, it would seem that digital tooling has reached its market peak, and may now have reached a plateau. The speed of this revolution was manifest in our perception of the computer's potential and evolving capability as well as its actual development in both technical and commercial terms. The current climate proffers time for review of this revolution. Before the kids on the next "new" media block appear, such as those that may evolve through the bio- and genetic engineering industries. The presence of the computer in its variable form has changed art and design education, superseding skills, processes, and thinking that are currently proving interesting informants in the development of digital languages that function beyond the boundaries of established software (SW) use. Some of the most challenging "digitally" made, developed, produced, or presented works have come via languages of fundamental material origin, e. g., textiles, metal, painting, sculpture, architecture, broadening the perceived parameters of "digital use." It is arguable that "makers" who work with knowledge of traditional media are perhaps more wary and questioning of the potential of digital media, than users beguiled by gimmickry. In this context the notion of "crafting" emerges as Press and Cusworth (1996: 18) imply: The craft method has found a new relevance. As a means of obtaining knowledge about materials and processes, discovering how to find the quality within any matter, craft finds us diamonds in the landfill . . . The application of such practice to digital media is relatively rare in comparison to use of computer tooling within the commercial sectors. As the education of traditional material skills are currently in demise, 1 this would seem an appropriate time to revaluate such knowledge in the context of digital tooling. In this respect, the author's work provides a focus for this article, as material knowledge has enabled navigation through a myriad of digital SW and hardware products during their much hyped evolution, leading to her current practice using predominantly 3D computer graphic animation tools.
This article considers the signification of and affective response to spots, dots, blotches, and patches in a number of different areas of social and cultural history in Western Europe. It attempts to account for why it is so odd or difficult to clothe or surround oneself with patterns of spots in clothing, fabric and furnishings, approaching this analysis through reflections on the idiom and appearance of the spotted in nature, religion, cosmetics, and design. The article has four sections. The first considers the history of stigmatization through the "yellow badge" that Jews and other groups have been required to wear in Europe from medieval to modern times. The second considers the meanings of patched, pied or motley clothing, especially as worn by fools. The third investigates the practice of "patching," or applying beauty spots to the face, and reactions to it during the seventeenth century. The final section considers the remarkable change of value of the spotted or mottled from the twentieth century onwards; from arousing suspicion, disgust and hostility, spotted designs evoke the richness and diversity of the world conceived, in William James's terms, as a pluralistic mosaic, clinging together by its edges.
Domestic violence, fear of HIV infection, lack of support from partners in bringing up children and an absence of reciprocity in their relationships with men are issues that inform the subject matter used by members of the Mapula Embroidery Project. This paper examines works that show inappropriate male behavior directly as well as those that, while seeming to be joyful in mood and suggestive of a community where men and women enjoy happy communication and mutual respect, are in fact bound up with their makers' lack of amicable and supportive relationships with males in their social milieu.
Craft theorist Sue Rowley noted in Craft and Contemporary Theory: "Craft objects, stories and performance are integrally bound up in our sense of identity, our understanding of the past and our articulation of the unresolved concerns of the present" (1997: 84).In 2001 Australia celebrated the "Centenary of Federation," an anniversary that marked the uniting of the Australian states under a federal government in 1901. In South Australia an official Centenary of Federation project, Weaving the Murray brought together seven Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to weave a narrative based on the social and cultural history of the Murray River, the driest continent's largest watercourse.This paper outlined how the artists used Indigenous stories and textile traditions as strategies for recalling the past history of the river to explore issues of identity, community and loss in the present. It also discusses how the artists negotiated some of the tensions inherent in commemorating, through intercultural art practice, an event that forged national identity through the exclusion of Indigenous Australians.
Robyn eden, photo of a model in Straightjacket. Courtesy of Potter Craft.
Robyn eden, photo of Knitted Owl Condom Dispenser. Courtesy of Potter Craft.
Cover of Not Tonight Darling, I'm Knitting (Hosegood 2007). Courtesy of David and Charles Publishing.
Cover of Knitting with Balls: A Hands-on Guide to Knitting for the Modern Man (Del vecchio 2006). Courtesy of DK Publishing.
In the last fifteen years, domestic hobbies especially needle and paper crafts have been revived and rediscovered in the English-speaking world. In the forefront of this renewed interest in old-fashioned hobbies is knitting. Contemporary proponents claim that this craft helps them to achieve balance between their busy lives and dedicate some time to themselves. They often take their project to public spaces such as coffee shops, pubs, and park benches. Publishing houses speedily cash in on the revival by providing increasing numbers of pattern books to local bookstore chains. Hence, knitting constitutes an ideal case study for redefining the role of craft in contemporary popular culture. This article argues that knitting participates in an opening up of the three binary oppositions, namely original vs. copy, public vs. private in relation to space, and heterosexual vs. homosexual.Related to the past and conceived nostalgically through connection to our parents' and grandparents' domestic activity, knitting is rapidly being revitalized and repackaged by such groups as Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch as hip and fun. Women of any age but especially younger women in their twenties and thirties see knitting as empowering hobby because it provides an opportunity to undertake something purely unpractical and inefficient. It provides a conceptual link and helps redefine the historical and contemporary significance of domesticity in society.In the attempt to repackage and change the image of the craft several publications establish a connection between knitting and sexuality. These books construct knitting as not only a worthwhile and altruistic pastime but also as a decadent, self-indulgent, and subversive action. For example, Domiknitrix: Whip Your Knitting into Shape offers a bikini pattern as well as other edgy projects such as deep-décolleté tops and seductive hair and headpieces. Traditionally associated with home handicrafts, knitting had emerged into communal, activist practice. Contemporary popular media has also tied knitting to ideas of physical and spiritual love, peace amongst the nations, meditation, and rebelliousness against previous generations.This research looks at the knitted objects and the images that appear in the media to explore how knitting as a phenomenon helps women and men negotiate their everyday lives. Dedicating time to such traditional, time-consuming activities promotes the idea of conscious choice, of being in charge of one's life and time. Participating in these activities provides an outlet for relaxation, slowing down and taking in simple life pleasures. My research builds on this argument and looks further at the knitted objects themselves to examine their roles in the lives of their makers and consumers. Using contemporary material culture scholarship, which underlines the importance of identity formation through agency, I try to determine how the knitted erotic objects differ from items purchased in stores. What is the role of the handmade and self-produced? How do hand-knitted items that become part of interior display help to negotiate the identities and individualities of their makers? Finally, this article looks at how the presence of knitters in different social contexts helps to blur the binary division between public and private space. It also discusses the gendered appeal of knitting books and the total omission of gay men and their interests from the literature.
The boudoir cap had a lifespan of about fifty years, arising as a distinct dress expression in the last decades of the nineteenth century, encompassing an era of radical change in the social roles and expectations of women in New Zealand. During this time evolving styles reflected these variations, and can be understood both as expressions of the culture that created them and also as tools in the negotiation of new realities. The boudoir cap was worn by women in the boudoir, a lady's private space within the home, to which only intimates were admitted. The actual boudoir was a luxury enjoyed by only a minority of Dunedin women, but boudoir caps were worn by many women, so that through the boudoir cap the concept of the boudoir was available to all as symbolic consumption. Originating in the tradition of covering the hair, the caps were strongly associated with the conventions of modesty and control of sexuality. The boudoir cap was instrumental in the construction of the feminine ideal, and reflects changes in this ideal over time. This paper studies the material culture of the boudoir caps in the Otago Museum collection.
Debates over copyright and craft are particularly thorny, jumping as they do from notions of a common shared history of quilting bees and knitting circles that should be open and welcoming to all, passing through the idea that as an apparently gendered pastime crafting is regularly devalued (and that this is something its practitioners should resist) and concluding with more recent arguments that there are lucrative opportunities for professional crafters and designers that need to be protected through the copyrighting, patenting and trademarking of designs and processes. Of late, however, calls for ever more stringent protection and policing have marked the online crafting world, a transformation that I connect (albeit indirectly) to massive changes in the global textile industry and increasing anti-piracy initiatives resulting from the 2005 end of the Multifibre Arrangement (MFA). In this article, I analyze the appearance and spread of this intimidating lexicon of copyright protection in the (online) craft world. I argue that the rising interest in copyright and craft needs to be seen not only in light of growing visibility and marketability for crafting practice online, but also in terms of the positioning of intellectual property as an increasingly important economic strategy for Global North nations. So too, a transition from an ethos of community-based practice to one of individual property rights can be read as a part of ongoing debates over copyrighting (or lack thereof ) for fashion designers, regulations concerning craft and textiles as protected national property in indigenous, developing and transitional economies, the changing global textile industry, and further debates over open source software and anti-copyright activism. My purpose here is to understand how and why a reiteration of (often incorrect or unsupported) norms is creating a strong atmosphere of policing and protection that contrasts with more traditional understandings of crafting.
The Brooklyn Museum textile (BMT), sometimes called "The Paracas Textile," is an exquisite ceremonial cloth produced on the South Coast of Peru and dated to Nasca 2 (c. 100-200AD). The cloth's complex three-dimensional border shows a procession of ninety fabulously costumed and brightly colored figures. Each tiny figure only stands about four inches tall, yet is so carefully worked that even the motifs on their clothing are visible. Some hold vegetables; others brandish weapons; others lead haltered llamas… together, their parade offers a tantalizingly vivid glimpse into an ancient, lively world.In 1991, I prepared a complete set of drawings of the border figures for the Brooklyn Museum. Building on those drawings, this study considers how the border may have depicted a ritual procession across the Nasca plain, and perhaps served as a solar calendar to help ritual specialists time parades along a sacred path. Moreover, the border frames a central cloth whose qualities render it an archetypal Andean fabric: a sheer, reversible, and seamless four-selvage web whose quartered designs are embedded into its two-dimensional fabric plane, and seem to fold out from the central cross of its grainlines. This evocative construct corresponds to long-lived Andean ideas about the shape of cosmic space and time.
For almost two decades Liz Rideal's work as a photographer has involved the use of a photobooth. The seriality and repetition of almost instant imagery has characterized all the work that she has produced during that period. It has also been informed by representations of cloth in historical paintings, and in particular by a series of portraits executed by William Larkin in the early seventeenth century, known as the Suffolk Collection. In these works carpets and curtains act as repeating decorative motifs. These and other paintings inspired Rideal to move away from figurative work and to bring drapery into the foreground until cloth became, effectively, the subject of her photographic "portraits," and drapery by itself comes to stand for art. This article reflects on these developments in her work and examines in particular the way in which a close study of historical portrait painting has informed and shaped it.
Digital imaging technology is providing textile practitioners with a medium that is changing and challenging the processes used in the generation and production of printed textile artifacts. The phenomenological research being undertaken at University of Wales Institute Cardiff indicates that when the technology is used as a creative medium rather than a production tool it facilitates an evolving visual language, new hybrid craft practices, and the opportunity for collaboration through the sharing of digital imagination. The findings reveal that since physical experience in the world informs thought and fires imagination, future developments in computer interfaces and humanization technology will provide even greater opportunities for the creative exploitation of the media by printed textile practitioners. A number of innovatory printed textile artists and designers based in the USA and Europe who are using digital imaging in their creative practice have contributed to this research through informal interviews, personal correspondence, and case studies.
This paper considers relationships between textile and architecture. More specifically, it considers ways in which thread, beginning as a line drawn out as matter through the action of spinning, serves as a medium through which sight and space is measured, drawn and "framed'. In this process, thread serves as a sight/site line, mediating visual experience by creating a fine scaffolding of apparent and material structure. The effect is a meta-architecture, a dialog between space and matter, or a form of drawing in which the illusory and the material both alternate and coexist. Thread marks a boundary not only between the material and the visual but also between the visible and the invisible. This drawing with thread, with reference to phenomenology, perspective and perception, is examined through the work of the American artist Fred Sandback. Through the interdisciplinary visual and material practices of thread as both drawn and drawing, hidden sight/site lines become visible as a mapping of space through structure. The paper hints at possibilities for mapping an alternative string theory, a recognition that the ubiquitous piece of string/thread has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in mediating a relationship between body, mind, space and matter.
In the field of materials design research there is an increasing interest in an amalgamation of the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and maths in order to focus upon smart fiber and textile innovation for human and environmental applications. What may seem sci-fi solutions for a raft of different problems have at the core innovative man-made textiles and technologies, and are becoming the zeitgeist of many international research and development sectors with the promise of as yet unknown applications and commercial opportunities. In 2007 Ohmatex's White Paper on Smart Textiles reported that in 2005 smart and interactive fabrics were worth US$340 million with a compound growth rate of 28.3 percent per year which became US$642 million in 2008 and has continued to rise. Today there is a paradigm shift in research activity due to technical developments in miniaturization at nano-scale, coupled with improved sensor networks and the creation of new composites to enable the creation of smart technologies for integration into soft engineering products for the body and the built environment. These innovations are enabled in many cases by traditional textile design thinking and product development such as the creation of synthetic nano fiber polymers, to incorporate ubiquitous computing into textiles which have immediate applications that include health-monitoring, active insulation, personal communication, environmental sensors, and security. The enhancement of integral nano-innovations such as self-cleaning, water repellence, thermal regulation, “breathability,“ and materials that stiffen on impact or change shape are part of the textile future. Smart Dust is in this vanguard area, where the combination of synthetic textile polymer and pervasive and adaptive computing knowledge is emergent and highly technical in relation to applications. Here the objective is to move toward seamless invisible integration of technology, thereby producing products and services which are responsive to the external and human environment and which may ultimately contributing to wellbeing.
This article explores the word “khaki“ in various contexts, focusing on its etymological association with dust. It is not a technical textile history, though elements of process, production, and consumption are discussed as critical to the formation of what khaki means. The article emphasizes the associative power of khaki—in production, in use, and on disposal and dispersal—from the late nineteenth century to the Second World War and in a variety of European and international contexts. Focusing on ideas of the particle and processes of fragmentation, it is a teasing out of what might be described as khaki's poetics.
As part of India's aesthetically rich and politically complex textile tradition, saris are abundantly endowed with "the social life of things" as well as participating in the language of clothes. This article considers its representation in some Indian literary works as a focus for exploring acts of political and personal resistance against hegemonic authority. The sari can serve simultaneously as a sign both of the nation and of Indian womanhood while its rich array of associations has made it a valuable focal point for a number of Indian writers, both when representing major political events and when portraying the complexities of personal relationships and family life.
This paper discusses the sixteen-metre long embroidery, worked by members of the Embroiderers' Guild throughout Australia, to a design by Kay Lawrence, for the Great Hall in Australia's new Parliament House opened in Canberra in 1988. The building itself generates a discourse of land and landscape to express national identity, making assumptions about Australia's past and present and the functioning of parliamentary democracy many of which are open to question. The design brief directed that the embroidery focus on the settlement of the land and Kay Lawrence explores both positive and negative aspects of this theme, challenging ideological assumptions held by many Australians. The paper examines the embroidery's context in Parliament House and the negotiations that took place between designer and embroiderers with regard to the content and execution of the work.
"Freud, Fabric, Fetish" explores the nature of the relation between women and cloth in everyday life, visual culture and psychoanalytic theory. The article proposes that the sensory connection that we all (both male and female) have to cloth cannot be adequately expressed in language. This, it is argued in psychoanalytic terms, is because the unique "language" of fabric straddles the pre-linguistic or Imaginary and the social/linguistic codes that make up the Symbolic order. Fabric is, further, shown to complicate assumptions about sexual difference because it is inevitably caught up in the persistent undecidability of the fetishistic fantasy. This uncertainty in the fabric-as-fetish becomes evident in selected examples from film and the visual arts.
Top-cited authors
Joanna Berzowska
  • Concordia University Montreal
Alla Myzelev
  • State University of New York College at Geneseo
Jessica Hemmings
  • University of Gothenburg
Angela Maddock
  • Swansea College of Art, UWTSD
Julie Botticello
  • University of East London