Academic journal article Human Ecology

Uncommon Threads: Remembering Scholar, Fiber Artist, and Curator Charlotte Jirousek

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Uncommon Threads: Remembering Scholar, Fiber Artist, and Curator Charlotte Jirousek

Article excerpt

Like many of my peers, I moved through Cornell's apparel design program in awe of Charlotte Jirousek. Her intelligence was obvious and her knowledge infectious, but we were inspired by her: the life she lived, her weaving, textile printing, and dyeing skills, and the dedication she brought to the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection.

She was on the cutting edge of computer technologies in the 1990s, when she digitized the collection catalog records and developed an open-access online textbook that is still widely used today. She brought a unique perspective to fashion studies, and required us to think critically, cross-culturally, and creatively, lessons that have remained with us after her passing in 2014.

Charlotte joined the Peace Corps in 1964, and was among the first group of volunteers sent to rural areas. She was assigned to work in the Turkish village of Comlekci, where she learned about weaving, dyeing, and Islamic textiles and dress. Charlotte, shown above with Turkish villagers, remained there until 1969 to work with the Comlekci weaving cooperative, known for their production of Milas carpets. It was decades later, in the 1980s, that Charlotte pursued graduate studies and received her master's and PhD. She maintained lifelong ties with Turkish weaving communities, and continued ethnographic research around the world, making her last fieldwork trip in 2013.

Charlotte's unique career path--as a Peace Corps volunteer, a social worker and member of a fiber arts guild in Minnesota, and eventually an associate professor and curator at Cornell--demonstrates her passion for integrating creative arts and public service. While many of Charlotte's students now work in the fashion industry, others have embraced careers we perhaps never expected: as museum curators, textile conservators, educators, anthropologists, fiber artists, and costume designers. …

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