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What Is Textiles?

Whenever we talk about what makes our species unique and different from all others on the planet, two abilities are raised as evidence - language and the power of invention. There are perhaps a handful of inventions so central to our being and our ordinary lives that we have almost forgotten how remarkable they are. Cloth is one of these; like basic mathematics we find its nature so obvious and its presence so universal that we often overlook the genius of its invention. In considering what textiles is, we must remember that the origin of the earliest and humblest cloth is lost to us; it pre-dates our recorded history, it precedes the age of metals and the invention of the wheel. As our civilizations have grown, so has fabric developed with us, an integral part of every cultural nuance, a resource in every struggle, a comfort in the most personal and domestic spheres of our lives. Each of us has a relationship with fabric from cradle to grave.4 Cloth has also become the basis of a vast textile industry. Like electricity, a much newer arrival, textiles is an industry which is part of the very rhythm and pulse of humanity. We can barely conceive of how different it makes our lives.

There is a famous model of human motivation, called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1970); like all ideas it has its critics, but it is a useful way to measure and compare the importance of the things we do and the things we have. Among the seven categories of human need that Maslow identifies, textiles could be deemed to have a role in each one. Few other ‘arts’, except perhaps for architecture and clothing, have a place in fulfilling every human need, from basic survival to spiritual development. Textiles provide fundamentals such as warmth and protection; they help us to identify with one another and can signal social status and role. For those who work in textiles, it is possible to develop pride in one's craft and to explore a world of endless material opportunities, to create something of stunning beauty. Finally, for textiles professionals their work can become their vocation, their identity inseparable from their practice.

In this book the intention is to map out a subject and practice so great that none seem to have attempted it, in its entirety, before. Textiles leaves a huge trace in its wake and busies itself only with the current and the future; few lift their head up to survey the endless vista that it constitutes. Within textiles is art and science, craft, technology and design, industry, history, culture and politics. For humanity

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The Textile Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Part I - Overviews *
  • 1 - What is Textiles? 3
  • 2 - The Culture Place of Textiles 7
  • 3 - Perceptions of Fabric 21
  • Part II - The Creative *
  • 4 - The Textile Designer 37
  • 5 - The Designer Maker 49
  • 6 - The Craftperson 63
  • 7 - The Textile Artist 77
  • Part III - The Social and Industrial Context *
  • 8 - Globel Textiles Tradition 91
  • 9 - Ecology 107
  • 10 - Industry 121
  • 11 - The Role of Trends and Forecasting 133
  • Part IV - Related Disciplines and Studies *
  • 12 - The Buyer 145
  • 13 - Journalism 157
  • 14 - Science 167
  • 15 - Research 179
  • Bibliography 191
  • Index 201
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