I'm thrilled at the comments that people have been leaving on my blog. It's great connecting with people all over the world about the text-textile connection. We fiber people are lucky because we have a language that connects us to other fiber people. How many times have you met another fiber person and felt an instant connection due to this common language?
Today I feel like writing about the reading of textiles. This topic just sort of materialized a few days ago when I began re-reading Sandra Cisneros' Caramelo. I had been interested in re-reading the book because I wanted to revisit the grandmother's working with the fringe of rebozos, which are Mexican multi-purpose shawls. (This definition is an oversimplification.)
As I began reading, I was immediately reminded of the lushness of Cisneros' text, and I noticed a few textile metaphors. For example, when the family is driving to Mexico, the dotted line on the road is compared to stitches produced by a sewing machine.
I'm not that far into the text yet, but one thing that has struck me is the grandmother's comments about the lower quality of current rebozos. This analysis by the grandmother got me thinking about how we, as textile people, actually have this knowledge to read textiles that most people in industrialized societies don't have. For example, a few years ago my boyfriend, Doug, bought a pile rug. A short while later he was lamenting the fact that the rug was flat so soon. I pointed out that it probably was because the pile wasn't dense enough, so the pile just fell over.
Have you found that sometimes you're treated like an exotic creature in society because you work with textiles and/or know how to read them?
A few years ago I took a surface design course with Ana Lisa Hedstrom, who focuses on shibori (in particular, arashi). Ana Lisa, who also has works referencing reading, said that after a while we would be able to read the shibori patterns.
This idea of reading comes into play in my current pieces. One piece I'm currently working on is a triple weave strip weaving with two layers of poly sewing thread, and a third layer of cotton sewing thread. The strips are put into a smocking machine pleater, and then dyed in blue fiber-reactive dye. The cotton is the only fiber in the piece that takes the dye, so the poly layers remain undyed. I'm pasting in an image of the first strip pleated & dyed. (This image is just a bunch of pictures pieced together, so it's a bit funky. I had made this image as a guide as I weave the next few strips.) The blue and white spotted areas were solid white cotton prior to dyeing. In addition to being able to read the shibori patterns, there are several other readings that can be taken. For example, why am I combining Ghanian strip weaving with Japanese Shibori? (I'll talk about my own exoticization of other cultures in a future blog.) Also, the pattern in square 17 on the strip evokes a tartan, which adds another layer of thought, but that's enough thinking for one day. (N.B. I typically wait to dye my strips until after all of them are woven, but in this case I thought I wouldn't be weaving any more since the first one took a long time to weave and I was sick of the process. After a break from the weaving process, I was rejuvenated to try again on the remaining warp.)
Here's a picture of the second strip on the loom, with the undyed white white cotton sections visible.
On a more literal take of the reading theme, another piece that I've been working on is the bible piece. Last year at San Francisco State University I took a surface design course with Linda MacDonald, who is an art quilter dealing with environmental issues. For my midterm I decided to explore a traditional quilting block, called Bridal Path. I cut up passages dealing with the subjugation of women from bibles & decided to stitch them together with red thread. I'm not having success uploading these images (probably because I'm doing this at peak time on a Sunday & maybe I shouldn't be talking about cutting up bibles on Sundays???), so I'll have to post them next time.