I’m honoring the contributions of my community colleagues over the years by pulling out some of their best comments and quotes.
The intersection of woven dyed hand made textiles and fast evolving technologies (high tech fabric production as well as IT communications) today is a fascinating addition to what appeared to be ‘old ladies work’ and a nearly lost segment of our history.
Aah, to read Postrel’s provocative article, reminding us of how it ‘all began with textiles’ is a celebration for humanity. I’ve always given lovely hand-made textiles as wedding presents – for the past 25 years – since going back to Pheonecian and earlier times they were the most illustrious and luxury gift possible, and maybe now some of the recipients will actually begin to make the connection to the importance of hand made cloth and their own long thread tying them to textiles. I work with my hands every day, with cloth every day, mostly old, and use a combination of old traditional stitching techniques and modern scientifically based methods to clean, repair, stabilize, and extend the life of many textiles – from American quilts and samplers, Chinese embroideries, indigenous appliqué, monumental Flemish tapestries, tiny voile christening dresses, beaded purses and flapper dresses, military uniforms, and contemporary fiber art pieces.
Working on the two fiber art pieces at HHS’s Hubert Humphrey building was a testament to just how important fiber art was in the 1960’s and early 70’s. (I think this is in a revival now.) Those two pieces, now a bit worn and faded, still are commanding pieces of ART, designed for what was a stark, modern interior. They shone like beacons at the back of the once huge grey atrium, like stained glass windows. It was wonderful working with the buildings facility team at HHS. They so appreciated our care for these textiles; we cleaned them, and then repositioned the Breuer tapestry right in the lobby! Yes, there are drawings and photos of the original interior and architect design – GSA keeps these records and we referred to them during our conservation campaign.
So thread by thread I attempt to preserve our collective textile heritage, around the world, and particularly in places like Bhutan, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, where the tradition of textiles is so rich and abundant. I’m on a ‘crusade’ to teach local stakeholders how to care for their own textile heritage and make this visible for young people today. A challenge in hot sticky humid climates. So from Taiwan, where I am at this moment working on a 1926 temple dance troupe banner 5 x 6 metre with 3 dimensional embroidered dragons and creatures of the sea, all copiously encrusted with gold paper foil metallic thread couched embroidery – I start a new chapter training the first group of young heritage professionals in the treatment protocol for one of their country’s magnificent textile pieces.
(Read on about the public art at HHS: “Five prominent American artists contributed works of art to the Hubert H. Humphrey building…”)