I shared a fiber filled Summer with fellow weaver and CWG member; my neighbor Sarah Berg. We started the season at the Sauder Village Focus on Fiber Day in Archbold Ohio. She demonstrated her hooked rug project while I inkled away. It was a lovely day with nice people and good food and was well worth our drive.
We followed that trip with the ultimate fiber field trip to prowl the museums of New York City. Here is my report…
I went to the Cloisters to see the famous Unicorn Tapestries. I had read a story about how present day curators had to resort to super computers to properly document these great old weavings. They thought they could take lots of little pictures and piece them back together into perfect pixel puzzles. It turned out that even though they were not moving the pieces to photograph them, the pieces continued to move while being photographed. Threads that had been placed 500 years ago, continue to swell and shrink; shifting enough to require higher mathematical formulas to reconnect and realign the moving threads No matter how close or far I stood, I could see no evidence of change, and so I moved on to enjoy the structure and subject matter. I was alarmed to realize the famous Unicorn Tapestry was only one of a series of seven hangings, each more gruesome than the last, showing the hunt and slaughter of this beautiful mythical creature. After the unicorn’s destruction, he returns to life in the last tapestry, bleeding and forever fenced and chained to a tree. The technique was flawless, the colors bright and distinct, and as a weaver I had to marvel and applaud the work.
As a unicorn fan, witnessing the centuries old tutorial of it’s impending extinction, I took a step closer and quietly whispered, “It’s a thin chain. It’s a low fence. I know you can move. Run!”
I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Peruvian Feather Show. It was a special exhibit brought in to showcase the amazing textile techniques of the Inca (or Inka) people of South America. They covered all manner of things, large and small with bright colorful feathers. Walls were covered with geometric rectangles of yellow and blue macaw; each color thought to have been worked onto strings in separate “factories” and brought together to be woven into the plain weave base. Tiny dolls are covered with tiny feathers, large tunics are covered with large feathers. Some even have colors available only by rubbing a plucked bird with the proper frog, and waiting for the new plumage to grow in altered. Most pieces had the feathers woven in, but some were glued on with an amazing substance that still holds. Even pieces close to decay showed some brilliance. Photography of the pieces was prohibited, but that information reached me after I had loaded my camera with as much contraband as my batteries could bare. The exhibit will have flown by the time this report is read, but I’ll have my memories, and a few illegal pictures to remember my tiny step back in time to witness the brilliance of the weavers who worked with feathers.
The New York Historical Society had brilliance from the other side of the world. Their Summer exhibit was titled “Timbuktu to Tibet”, and they filled a huge hall with the collection of a group called the Hajji Baba Club. For over 100 years, the Baba boys gleaned and gathered rich weavings from societies that had perfected the art. For a short time, they shared their treasures with the rest of us. It starts with the golden iridescence of a coat of double ikat velvet that’s glow pulled me into the room. According to the sign, this cost is coming to reside in a museum near us very soon (CMA). I look foreword to being able to enjoy it again locally. There was no photography, and more than ample guards, so I put away my camera, clasped my hands behind my back and opened myself up to the imprint of thousands of years of culture and creativity. Information on the content, origin and use of each piece; along with photography of the weavers working to continue the traditions made the experience a complete thrill as a learning opportunity. There were coats, and hats and scarves. Small bags for your children and big bags for your camel. Rugs of every size hung from walls and ceilings and tall center displays. Made for prayer or made for pride, each showed proof of the beauty of human creation. Some were seemingly perfect while others had large areas of obvious restoration and repair. One scrap was amazing enough to be worthy it’s place in the offering. With time and toil, some colors had faded and some fibers had failed, but what remained is still enough to take my breath away.