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I meant to write this post a long time ago, after attending to a lecture last October at FIT by Sass Brown, on “Eco-Fashion”. In the lecture, were presented several examples of designers around the world doing sustainable fashion. Some of the examples shown were working with African countries, and their work was simultaneous supporting the local textile industry – by training people, producing locally, developing the organic production of materials, promote local economic opportunities etc; but also being inspired by the African fashion and textiles.

SUNO, Spring/Summer 2011 Collection

When I moved to New York, the first project that I helped with on my fellowship at the Met was the installation of “The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End”. I wasn’t very familiar with African textiles at the time, but after this first immersion, my love for them kept growing stronger. Africa has an enormous textile and fashion tradition and I thought I would share some of it today!

Amongst the best known African textiles are the Kente cloths (or stripwoven cloths), made by Ewe and Ashanti people in Ghana. These super elaborated were prestige garments, a symbol of status and wealth and, therefor, only worn on special occasions. These very long cloths (some would have more than 9 feet of length and width) were worn draped like togas around the body, creating voluminous garments. Kente cloths were constructed by several woven narrow strips woven continuously and cut at fixed lengths , sewn together, selvage to selvage. Both weaving and sewing are normally carried by men. Initially the only material used was indigo dyed cotton, but after the 17th century, with the arrival of Europeans, silk unraveled from trade cloths was introduced. Nowadays, synthetic fibers like rayon are sometimes used too.

Detail of Kente Prestige Cloth, Ghana, Ewe peoples, cotton and silk, 19th century

The British Museum, London, Provenance: Collected in West Africa between 1880 and 1900  by Charles Beving Sr.

And we couldn’t leave Ghana without mentioning the amazing hand-printed Adinkra cloths worn in special ceremonies. Adinkra cloths made for funerals and mourning are normally overdyed red or black, while the ones used for festive occasions retain their white background or are dyed with bright colors. The stamps for adinkra are carved from the outsides of calabash gourd and include geometric forms and also stars and half moon shapes.

Boys wearing adinkra robes, 1973, Accra

(via http://angelasancartier.net)

Stamp carver Joseph Nsiah of Ntonso, Ghana, holding an adinkra stamp, 1988.
Photo and caption information by Dan Mato,
Professor Emeritus of Art History, The University of Calgary

From Cameroons comes this beautiful prestige gown, made of indigo dyed cotton, embroidered with with chain stitches in white cotton. The blue and white geometric design was probably adapted from the famous resist-stitched indigo dyeing technique of the Bamileke people from grasslands Cameroon called ndop.

 

Prestige Gown, Cameroon, Grassfield region, cotton and wool,  19-20th century

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Dr. and Mrs. Sidney Clyman Gift and Rogers Fund, 1987

Ndop Tunic, Bamileke people, Cameroon; cotton, trade cloth, goat hair; first half of 20th century

(via Andres Moraga Textile Arts)

Also, from Central Africa comes other of my favorite African textiles – the uber-long skirts made by the Kuba people, Republic of Congo. These skirts are made of woven raphia panels, sewn together. They’re often decorated with applique with geometric forms  and/or embroidered. One of the most amazing features is that the applique has both a decorative and utilitarian purpose. Raphia cloth can be very stiff and hard to wear, so to make it more comfortable it is normally washed and pounded several times. Raphia cloth isn’t also very durable so several holes and tears will appear during this process, and the applique is used to cover them. Other particularity is the fact that the hems aren’t turned under, but face the surface of the fabric, giving it extra volume. Kuba skirts are worn by men and women, and normally several are worn at the same time.

Applique Kuba Skirt, raphia fibers dyed with natural dyes

(via http://www.textilesofafrica.com)

Women wearing skirts, Kuba, Congo

(via http://www.heritageofafrica.com)

There are so many amazing textiles and techniques from Africa missing in this post though! So, if you’d like to continue exploring the world of African textiles I strongly recommend reading the catalog of “The Essential Art of African Textiles: Design Without End”, with essays by curator Alissa LaGamma and textile conservator Christine Giuntini; and the amazing “African Textiles, Color and creativity across a continent” by John Gillow.

 



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Last Monday TAC took a rest and celebrated President’s Day – which for me pretty much ended up being the day that I finally did all my laundry, cleaned my room, and faced the world as a grown-up woman. The bright and shiny moment of the day was the quick stop that my roommate and I did at a pop-up gallery space in 147 Franklin Street, in Greenpoint.

The gallery is hosting the 600/3×9 project, which consists of 3 different exhibitions, by 3 different curators, featuring an x amount of artists, and all this happening in a 600 sq feet space, during only 9 days (each show is up for only 2 days!). The three emerging curators, Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, Ati Egas, Renee Bovenzi were selected amongst a group of 12, by the curators of the IN RiVERS gallery.

Hannah and I catch the end of the first show, Hybrid Lifeforms,  curated by Jiyoun Lee-Lodge, and I fell in love with the work of Aidan Sofia Earle.

Sorting, dyed fabric and thread on paper, 2010

Aidan Sofia Earle studied painting but has “always been drawn to fiber arts” and her work brings together painting, embroidery, fabric applique and found objects. The result are beautiful and detailed compositions, that ask you to take a closer look and spend time discovering. One of my favorites is “At Nostrand”, which had kind of  a finding-a-treasure-box effect in me.

Small Pile, watercolor, thread and fabric on paper, 2009

At Nostrand, found objects, mixed media, 2010

About her work, Aidan Sofia Earle says:

“Man made objects accumulate in many ways. Things are collated and stacked, piled and flushed, bundled and lined-up. We have numerous approaches to organizing our belongings and our waste. Even the forces of nature come into play in the way objects are accumulated. The gyres of trash in the oceans, the accretion of items on shorelines, these discarded items, small and large, have transformed landscapes.

From the streets of my environment I gather and accumulate discarded items. As a magpie chooses its treasure I collect the left behind objects of daily life. Physically stitching the objects together I think of the accumulation as story quilts, each item carrying its perceived history while becoming part of a new whole.”

The Collection, wood, metal, dyed fabric, thread, 2008

Aidan worked as a fashion textile dyer and painter, puppet and prop designer builder, carpenter and artists assistant, experiences that allowed her to have contact with a wide range of materials and techniques, which is reflected in her work. She still hand-dyes the fabric and the thread used in her artwork.

Untitled, collage watercolor, thread, pencil on paper, 2008

Aidan Sofia Earle is currently an MFA candidate at the Brooklyn College.  She has exhibited with Sharon Arts Center, NH, Chase Gallery and Bates College Gallery, ME, Target Gallery, VA and had several residency fellowships, including Vermont Studio Center 2009, CAC Woodside 2010. She lives and works in Brooklyn.

Last week I attended really interesting lecture at the Bard Graduate Center by Tristan Weddigen. The talk was entitled “The Warp and Weft of History: Raphael and Le Brun Reflecting on the Textile Medium” and explored the ways tapestries from early modern Europe expressed and reflected the early modern artists intentions, in the same way that painting and sculpture did.

The starting point of the talk was the fact that tapestries were amongst the most expensive and valued works of art on Europe during Renaissance, but that importance isn’t reflected in art theory, either from that time or today. Several examples of tapestries with cartoons from Raphael and Charles LeBrun were discussed, highlighting how tapestries were start mimicking reality, in such a detailed way as paintings. The first examples of a tapestry depicting water reflections, and perspective, and facial expressions come from the 16th century and it is really mesmerizing to think how that result was achieved by weaving with colorful threads.

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, part of the 10 tapestries series commissioned by     Leo X for the Sistine Chapel, cartoons by Raphael, 1519

However, what really got my attention was learning that it was around this time too that tapestries started depicting textiles, and clothing, and other tapestries in extreme detail. Take a look, for instance, in this tapestry commissioned by Louis XIV and made at Gobelins, following a cartoon of Charles LeBrun. This tapestry depicts Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins workshop in Paris, and you can see represented another tapestry in the background, draped brocade textiles and voluptuous clothing.

Louis XIV visiting the Gobelins Factory, cartoon by Charles LeBrun, 1673

Imagine the work involved on the creation of these tapestries and it’s not hard to understand why their were so valuable. Also, the fact that a tapestry workshop and the work-in-progress was represented in a tapestry (and the fact the Louis XIV commissioned this work and is represented in it) only reinforces how important tapestries were in the society.  Another good example are the early mentioned Sistine Chapel tapestries, commissioned by Leo X (with cartoons by Raphael), which costed at least 16,000 ducats, and that amount was around five times what Michelangelo was paid for the work in the ceiling. (More on the process of creating a tapestry from the cartoon in this video about the Raphael’s Sistine Tapestries)

What happened since then though? At what moment did we stop acknowledging the creativity, the mastership and all the work involved on the creation of fiber art? What made fiber art lose its status as art, and be sent to the complicated-to-define craft concept?

This lecture made me feel overwhelmed with knowledge (I didn’t even attempt to make a summary of it, knowing that I probably missed great part of the art theory discussion about tapestries and their role in the society and art at that time), but also made me feel that I need to study more, much more.

 

Both Ikat Weaving and Natural Dyeing classes have kicked off.But don’t be sad if you missed these opportunities to get started on the art of dyeing. There is more! We still have spaces open on our Fiber Reactive Dyes Class in March.

Don’t get turned off by the name.. we’re not tricking you into a Chemistry 101 Class. Fiber reactive dyes (aka Procion dyes) are actually one of the simplest dyes available. They were developed in 50s, specially for cellulosic fibers (such as cotton, linen, hemp and rayon) but can be used also with wool, silk and nylon, just with a different twist on the procedure.

Whats makes these dyes so special? First they don’t need a fixative, mordant or to be set. The dye, as the name says, reacts directly with the fiber, forming a permanent bond, that is both wash and lightfast. The dyeing process can occur with lower temperatures (yes, no hot baths!) and it uses a minimal quantity of water, making them one of the most eco-friendly dyes available. They’re great for tie-dye, printing, batik, painting of fabric and the colors are bright, bright, bright.

Still not convinced?! Check the next amazing examples..

Hand dyed fabric with Procion dyes, by Vicky Welsh

Tie dyed top with Procion Dyes, by Shabd

Hand dyed with Procion dyes and snow dye technique, by DyeSmithy

Hand dyed cotton perle, by Sassa Lyne

At the Fiber Reactive Dye Class we’ll cover the principles of dyeing with Procion dyes and several techniques, such as tie-dye (but much more than your high school tie-dye), low immersion, painting, snow dye, resists, etc.. Or, in less words, you’ll acquire all the skills to become a real-deal dyer.

 

It’s been nasty out lately – snow, snow showers, slushy snow, freezing rain.. Well, you know!!  And even if this is my 3rd Winter in NYC, my wardrobe is still not prepared for this weather (talk about Winter denial..).

And it was with wet weather on my mind that I came across the exhibition ” Beauty Born of Use: Natural Rainwear from China and Japan”, now on view at the Textile Museum of Canada. The exhibition features examples of rainwear made in mid 20th century in China and Japan. The garments were made using plant materials that were available locally and renewable, like bamboo, tree barks, reeds, etc, without compromising in a bit the fantastic design.

Rain cape, rice straw, bast fiber, cotton, China, mid 20th century

According to the Textile Museum’s most recent educational tool, Social Fabric (please make a minute to check it, it’s so worth it!), this cape was made using rice straw that was folded and stitched together, assuming the appearance and functionality of a thatched roof. People in remote areas of China still wear these capes to this day.

Rain cape; palm bark fiber, bast fiber, cotton; China, mid 20th century

Rain hat, plant material, grass, Japan, mid 20th century

Since early times, the people in these countries have been using the materials locally available to construct waterproof garments. For instance, in China, this kind of garments go back earlier than Ming dynasty, and where woven using straw, grass and pipal tree leaves. In Japan, people also always used what was readily available to make garments, like rice and wheat straw, reed, bark, vines, and seaweed. However, all these skills and traditions for making weather resistant garments are being forgotten, and like everywhere being replaced by the ubiquitous plastic.

I think rain and snow wouldn’t be so bad if I was protected by one of this! If you’re going to Toronto before May 1, make sure you make a stop to go see and admire these garments. And please tell me more about it!


Hello all, sorry about my absence over here at the Textile Arts Center blog.  But now I am back and will be continuing my “Thread Reviews” every other Wednesday.  Yay!

Generally I use this forum to review and give my take on thread related show, artist, book, etc. hence the name Thread Reviews. However, today will be a little unusual.  Recently one of my blog followers contacted me and asked me an interesting question and since these posts are generally my opinion on something, I thought it was the perfect place to respond. Though is does not deal directly with fibers.

Damien Hirst

She asks:

I’ve been reading a book about the economics of contemporary art. The $12 million stuffed shark, to be exact. It’s been an eye opening read to the world of art.
I’ve discovered…that I love handmade art… And I see nothing wrong with artists striving to be featured on cool blogs, with a cyber following of normal people. But who also are involved with showing their work, and selling their work, but not with the main goal of making a million dollars. But it seems like our culture has created this expectation that kids who want to be artists have to be Mona Lisa famous to be successful. And that’s so annoying to me!

I’m curious what established artists, like yourself, feel about million dollar art auctions, art fairs, branded museums and branded artists.

I thought the question was really interesting and actually think I have a good basis of knowledge to answer so here goes. I feel like there are  2 questions here.

1. what do I think of the million dollar art market and artist?

2. What do I think about the expectation put on artist’s to be Mona Lisa famous in order to be successful.

Since those are BIG questions I can only give an opinion and will break it up with 1. this week and the 2. next time.

Jeff Koons

In general I am not personally into splashy, glamorous, million dollar art of the nature of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.  But I am also not against it.  When I was a younger and more naive artist the thought of having a slew of assistants making my art and the artists hand being hardly present seemed totally ludicrous and often this is the very art that sells for millions and millions of dollars. But as my knowledge about the life of an artist, the experience of blue chip artists, and the understanding of contemporary art practices my opinion has softened.

I have had the luxury of working at  PaceWildenstein one of the highest level galleries in the country and personally interact with a handful of high selling artists in one way or the other.  This experience has allowed me to see first hand the pressure put on these high selling artists to make more, do more, produce more, and show more. The reality is if they are selling the gallery wants them to sell, sell, sell. As a result more assistants get hired, more integrity can get compromised, the work perhaps becomes more generic, or branded, but in exchange also more recognizable, the million dollar art machine churns.  And then the artist is often trapped within their own machine of art making.

Quickly they find themselves responsible for their livelihood, their assistant’s livelihood, their dealers main income, and often even more.

Damien Hirst

Now for some artist’s such as like Damien Hirst this works well for them. His work is not and has never been about him, as a person, or his hand as an artist. His work is very conceptually based therefore it simply does not matter if he makes it or someone else does.  Hirst is also always questioning the very art world that he exists in so to me it is quite ironic that as he pokes fun and questions the art world they just keep feeding him more and more. Literally and figuratively.

Kiki Smith

Now for other artists that make more sensitive work that comes from a highly personal place I think this trap of being a million dollar artist can be a much more difficult journey.  When your work is all about you and your hand you begin to lose quality when being pressured to produce more and let go of the making more and this can lead to a lack of consistency in the artists work.  A very bad side affect to the million dollar art market.

However, if our society is going to make it so that football players are going to get paid millions of dollars to play their sport than artist’s FOR SURE should get paid millions of dollars to create art and comment on our culture and society.  Especially since these very artists are employing and supporting many of us more normal folks through assistantship’s and gallery jobs. We need someone to make money in art or none of us do.

John Currin

Rather then holding the million dollar artist up on the cross I would be more likely to hold up a mirror to our culture that supports this.  It would be so much nicer if most art collecting was not all about the investment but about the love of the art. But in this current culture and commercialized world this is simply not the case. I have known of collectors that will buy a piece that they have never seen in person, based on investment value only, and have it shipped directly to a storage facility. Perhaps owning it for years and never seeing it hung or installed. To me this is the atrocity.

Gagosian Gallery

As artists, yes we all want to make a living on our art and in general the more successful we become the more expensive that living becomes and the more people we are responsible for. But I doubt any of us want to sell a piece of art that we care about so see it sit in a crate never to be looked at again just because it gets us paid.  But then again we all gotta eat.

Parlor Antics a Brooklyn based, artist run, exhibition space.

To me the real problem is with the gallery industry. Most gallerist’s are looking for what will sell. This alienates a huge pocket of artists that are working in less traditionally areas such as performance, sound, and installation. Therefore these artists, no matter how talented, have an even bigger struggle sharing their work let alone making a living off of it. But even in the more traditional mediums it is too often not about “I want to show this artist because I love them.” but instead “I can sell this work.”  I think the answer becomes that the artists have to push back against this commodification of the gallery industry.  We have to demand more respect from our gallerist. Not be afraid to out a gallerist for bad behavior, such as NOT PAYING artists for their sold artwork. (I kind of think that would be called stealing in most worlds.) But their has been a dynamic set up where artists are so often so afraid to offend someone – that they end up screwed somehow in the end.

Starn Brothers MTA installation.

I do see a light at the end of the tunnel in that there are more and more artists rejecting the traditional gallery role but self-promoting, showing in different non-traditional venues, and selling their work directly.  This is even being seen in high level artist such as the Starn Brother’s, who represent themselves and recently installed a permanent piece in the NYC subway system. But we are a long way from Brigadoon.

Art BASEL

Now to Art Fairs.  Well to me they SUCK.  Most art was not intended to be seen in a “mall ” situation where there is no consideration to the environment, the relationships to other work, oh how the list goes on.  Most serious artists would never apply to a show that is held in some “pseudo” art space where as much art as possible is shoved into an ugly, poorly lit room. So why are we all scrambling to show at these.  Exhibition spaces are meant to be a place where you can see art in the best way possible, having the space and appropriate environment to allow the art to tell us its story.  Art Fairs strip the art down to a thing to buy.  Again the gallery industry and the collectors are to blame but as artist’s we can make the choice to feed the beast or not.

Mixed Greens Gallery, Chelsea, NY, NY.

I think a huge part of the problem is a lack of education for many collectors.  They now about investing but not about the experience and role of art as much, most people that have the money to invest in art are not artists. Gallerist’s often feed this lack of knowledge as it generates easier sales instead of taking the time to teach their collectors. One Chelsea based exception that jumps out at me is Mixed Greens Gallery, far from a million dollar gallery, but a very respected and successful space. They focus on emerging artists, selling work at prices that a young collector can invest in. Their mission is not only to support the artist but to educate and grow a collector. If more galleries took this model more artists would be making a living as an artist.

Louise Bourgeois

In addition there is a huge problem with the million dollar artist industry as it  is almost exclusively made up of white men making work that is fabricated instead of made by hand. But this is the ongoing issue in the art world in general.  I would love to see more women artists like the rare Kiki Smith and Louise Bourgeois joining the ranks of top-selling artists.  But sadly I will not hold my breath.

So wow that was a ramble. Hopefully somewhat coherent. But just a glimpse into my take on the million dollar art industry. Oh such a layered and complicated beast.

To be continued.

Until next time keep your needle threaded!

Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.

All images belong to respective copyright holders.

… because IT’S FRIDAY!

And although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the brake is near for us at TAC, since weekend equals classes happening, I always feel more relaxed (and lazier) when Friday comes.

For that reason, today’s post is nothing but eye candy and eye candy only. This week,  I walked by Nespresso store in Soho and was psyched with their window display.

Sequins + more sequins + bright and wonderland-ish colors + quilting? Got me!

The window displays are part of a collaboration that brought together Indian avant-gard designer Manish Arora and Nespresso. The store’s windows in Soho are covered with sequined and appliqué quilts, and animated little figures (that used coffee capsules in their construction), representing several of New York most emblematic buildings.

It’s been interesting to see so many brands (even not fashion related) having textile-y windows and marketing campaigns lately. Is it fiber art finally getting a well-deserved “sunny place” in the more mainstream world? Let’s hope that it will be more than a seasonal fashion.

Arora also created, inspired by Nespresso 16 different kinds of coffee, a fantastical fashion line, based on a fairy tale (that includes 16 princesses, daughters of Queen Nespresso). The clothes were made of uber-jeweled and sequined fabrics, but also included coffee capsules.

Manish Arora’s Nespresso Princesses

(photos courtesy of luxpresso.com)

Arora’s creations can be seen also in Nespresso stores in Paris, Sydney, Munich, Barcelona, Sao Paolo, Beijing, as well as Morocco, Greece, the Middle East, Japan and  South Africa till January 2011.

 

 

Some days ago, after attending the opening party for the Missing/Missed show, curated by Scott Henstrand my friend and art blogger Lauren Palmor told me about Ghada Amer work. Sara Jone’s work, on view in the exhibition, was the reason that made Lauren think about Amer. And you’ll understand why.

Sara Jones, You Are Now a Strange Here, acrylic and thread on canvas, 2010

(photo courtesty of Sara Jones)

Lauren told me that I really needed to check her work and the video of the talk she gave at ArtTalks, organized by the American Federation of Arts. “You have to see it”, and when Lauren says this she means. And now I want all you to see it too.

Ghada Amer is an american contemporary artist,  born in Egypt,  educated in France and now lives and works in New York City. Her most recognized and characteristic work are her abstract painted and embroidered canvases, often with erotic motifs. However, Ghada Amer is a very versatile multimedia artist and has worked also with sculpture, photography, video, installation and performance.

Ghada Amer (American, born Egypt, 1963). Red Diagonales, 2000. Acrylic, embroidery, and gel medium on canvas. © Ghada Amer, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Private collection

Ghada Amer, The Woman who failed to be Shehrazade, 2008. Acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas.

(photo courtesy of Cheim & Read Gallery)

She has been specially interested in exploring and addressing themes like the “submission of women to the tyranny of domestic life, the celebration of female sexuality and pleasure, the incomprehensibility of love, the foolishness of war and violence, and an overall quest for formal beauty”. (in Brooklyn Museum website) Other themes included the ” Western (mis)perceptions of Middle Eastern culture”, world politics and, recently, she has been working on antiwar pieces. (ArtTalks PR and Brooklyn Museum)

Ghada Amer,  Barbie Loves Ken, Ken Loves Barbie, 1995/2002. Embroidery on cotton. Collection of the artist, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

In 1991, Amer decided to replace the pencil/brush by the embroidery needle, so she could talk about women and women contemporary issues and problems, through a medium that have always been associated with women’s craft.

“I was always attracted to deal with the subject but I never dared, really, to do it (..) Then I had to, in a way, because I was looking for a way to paint with embroidery. I was depicting women doing domestic activities and the embroidery itself was a domestic activity. I needed to find imagery that would really challenge the embroidery as a medium and contradict it.”

(in TheDailyBeast)

On her talk at ArtTalks, Ghada Amer talks more about her choice for embroidery and her work (start at minute 13, to jump to the embroidery section).

Ghada Amer’s  work has been shown in the USA and internationally in several museums and galleries, including the Whitney Biennal, PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Tel-Aviv Art Museum. She is currently represented by the Cheim & Read Gallery in New York.

In his latest book, “At Home”, Bill Bryson has dedicated a whole, enormously entertaining and informative chapter to the dressing room. Through the recounting of the history of this room, Bryson discusses some of the most decidedly exotic fashion trends of the Victorian era and earlier.

In his lively and engaging way, Bryson suggests that, “it can seem as if the whole impulse of fashion has been to look maximally ridiculous. If one could be maximally uncomfortable as well, the triumph was all the greater.”

Because it is impossible to paraphrase Bryson in a way that is more witty or lovely, I will simply include an excerpt of this chapter starting with the discussion on the surprisingly irrational trend of male wig-wearing starting in the 1660’s that lasted for 150 years.

“Wigs might be made of almost anything- human hair, horsehair, cotton thread, goat hair, silk. One maker advertised a model made of fine wire. They came in many styles- bag, bob, campaign, grizzle, Ramillies, cauliflower, brown tie, riding bob, and more, all denoting some crucial difference in length of braid or bounciness of curl. Wigs were so valuable – a full one could cost 50 pounds – that they were left in wills. The more substantial the wig, the higher up the social echalon one stood- one became literally a bigwig. Wigs were also one of the first things snatched by robbers.

All wigs tended to be scratchy, uncomfortable, and hot, particularly in summer. To make them more bearable, many men shaved their heads, so we should be surprised to see many famous seventeenth- and eighteenth- century figures as their wives saw them first thing in the morning. It was an odd situation. For a century and a half, men got rid of their own hair which was perfectly comfortable, and instead covered their heads with something foreign and uncomfortable. Very often it was actually their own hair made into a wig. People who couldn’t afford wigs tried to make their own hair look like a wig”

This all sounds particularly funny because the victims of the fashion trend are men like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, men who built the social and legal structure of this country. Men of gravity and importance who it seems, made time to fret about the beauty and trendiness of their hair. The susceptibility to follow an irrational trend makes them seem almost too human. It’s rattling to think that the founding fathers’ judgment is not beyond reproach, at least where hairstyle is concerned.

Although this sensitivity to the fashion of the times seems like a weakness, upon deeper consideration it shows a kind of personal commitment to social and cultural cohesion that is necessary to form a united whole, or social unit, like a country. After all, fashion trends often carry in them a political statement, and are by nature faithfully democratic.

We’re starting our Spring Classes series next Tuesday and I couldn’t be more excited. Amongst the wide range of classes that we’re offering, I want to tell you today about the Shibori class.

Shibori, now a universal term, is the Japanese word for manipulating fabric before dyeing (the word is derived from the Japanese root verb shiboru, which means to “wring, squeeze, press”) (…) in Shibori for Textile Artists, by Janice Gunner

(photo courtesy of HonestlyWTF)

The Shibori technique dates back to between 6th and 8th century in Japan (the earliest known example of shibori dyed cloth dates back to the 8th century). Indigo was the main dye used, to pattern hemp, cotton and silk.

(photo courtesy of HonestlyWTF)

There are several folding, binding, twisting, stitching techniques that have been used and all have specific names. Like Kanobo shibori, for the typical  tie-dye, Arashi (Japanese for “storm”) shibori, a pole-wrapping technique, Kumo shibori, pleat and bond resist technique, and Itajime shibori, a shape-resist technique where the cloth is folded like an accordion and sandwiched between two pieces of wood.

Shibori Master Motohiko Katano (1889-1975) (top) and Shibori dyed cloth (bottom)

(photos courtesy of shiboriorg.wordpress.com)

There are still a few spots available for the Shibori class starting on January 8th, so don’t miss this opportunity to come to TAC to learn the secrets of this ancient dye technique. And as inspiration for the products and fabrics that you can create, I leave you with some gorgeous fashion creations..

Suno Shibori Tie Dye Scarf Jacket, Spring/Summer 2010

(via CoolSpotters)

Shibori dyed top, by Brooklyn based Upstate, Spring/Summer 2011

Shibori dyed scarf, by Brooklyn based Upstate, Spring/Summer 2011

(via HonestlyWTF)