2
The Culture Place of Textiles

It is interesting to reflect on how textiles has affected civilization and culture, although it is improbable we could adequately measure its influence. The story of textiles begins before the recording of human culture. With regard to the earliest civilizations, we have little idea what the psychological, spiritual or social impact of fabric was. We know that textiles found a place in every society around the world and that textile skills must have been widely communicated. We also know that textiles must have been one of the very earliest of tradable commodities. By its ubiquitous nature textiles has touched the lives of millions of individuals, shaping their experiences, their hearts and their minds. Because textiles has been a part of so many different cultures and lives, it is difficult to suggest that there would be some common and universal experience of it. However it is worth attempting to portray some of the starting points of a cultural analysis; how textiles has been involved in the best and the worst of human endeavours; how it has been central in the development of modern society; how it touches the human psyche. In this chapter a few analyses and examples are brought together to portray the scope and complexity of textiles' cultural influence, but they are not definitive. Each reader will be able to find examples and analyses more pertinent to his or her own culture and interests. The examples touch on a few standard issues of culture – gender, identity, politics and modern life.


Gentility and Gender

One common perception of textiles is that it is a feminine art. There have been enough male weavers throughout history to dispel that belief but in many circles the perception persists and it is revealing that it should. It is also true to say that the majority of textile design courses throughout the world are populated largely by women. In terms of practicality, realistically it seems a little unlikely to presume that all women have some special predisposition, some sense of elegance or sensitivity, that provides them an exclusive relationship with fabric. Far more likely, the somewhat demeaning observation that small hands and little fingers facilitate the execution of fiddly work, as is often the case in electronic component assembly. However the true reasons underlying the special relationship with textiles are really sourceable elsewhere, to the social relationships between men and women, between

-7-

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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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