Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles
Issue

6.3 / Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles

February 26 2015

Introduction

When asked to put together an issue on textiles, I immediately thought of how I use Neil Cummings’s out-of-print text, Reading Things. It addresses the representation of objects outside of commodity cultures, and calls attention to the slippery and intangible aspects of employing words and images to understand our relationships to things. The book’s written, photographic, and illustrated essays offer an array of means to consider use. The book sits on my bedside table, where I can easily access it. On some occasions, the book is a book like any other, and leafing through pages, I move in a linear procession from start to finish. The more exciting moments, however, are on the days when the book’s bright blue spine catches my attention, and I have time to open it to any page, letting my random selection connect with what I am working on in my writing or curating. Questions inevitably emerge or are reformulated, and on these days I am most aware and appreciative of this book as a catalyst for thinking. It is my hope that this issue on textiles will offer readers a similar path of discovery: to shift the idea of use from an anticipated functionality to use in one’s thinking, creating, and writing. The contributions to this issue consider production and process, reveal cultural breadth, conceptual range, and possibilities of making, using, and thinking through textiles.

In one of my earliest memories, I watch my mother’s nimble fingers as she pleats and drapes her sari around her body. I wait for her to move, so I can hear the soft swish of the midnight-blue silk sari in motion. As she walks, the silver embroidery glimmers like stars. Years later, I wonder at how, after watching her repeatedly negotiate six yards of fabric, I am unable to properly tie a sari onto my own body.

Looking at my mother’s sari in my hands, I wonder about the history of its makers and its making—and what now, as I stare at the folded textile, should I do with it since I cannot wear it as the textile was intended to be used? Although simply a textile on the one hand, this sari carries far more weight and meaning when viewed through the lenses of the contributors to this issue. The questions each contributor explores—visually, textually, and aurally—expand the range of measures by which fabrication, process, and use may be considered, pushing the dimensional potential of textiles. It is my hope that readers will experience the issue as a means of discovery in the way Neil Cummings’s book opens up thoughts and possibilities for me: through linear progression, chance selections, and meaningful connections. —Namita Gupta Wiggers

Features

Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles

Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles

By Namita Gupta Wiggers

The contributions to this issue consider production and process, reveal cultural breadth, conceptual range, and possibilities of making, using, and thinking through textiles.

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Repre-sensational Objects

Repre-sensational Objects

By Vanessa Kauffman Zimmerly

These head coverings may be vestigial garments—gauzy, ethereal, mysterious—but they are also still cocoons and nests, continually incubating new ideas and significances.

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Three Figures, Three Patterns, Three Paradigms

Three Figures, Three Patterns, Three Paradigms

By T’ai Smith

These figures were central to new modes of practice that turned textiles from materials into codes, from distributed practices into repeatable methods of production—central, that is, within the historical evolution of industrial capitalism.

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Macramé in Haiti: A Travelogue

Macramé in Haiti: A Travelogue

By Emily Katz

It was the first class of four. The students arrived at 9:30 a.m. We gathered in a long room with turquoise-painted walls, a large table, and windows without panes.

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