This is a long, talky post, but here we go. Remember that song by The Animals? "I'm just a soul whose intentions are good . . ." The online discussion about Slow Cloth has taken on a remarkable life of its own. A lot of the comments refer back to this blog, and I'm experiencing the full power of the Internet to take an idea and expand it -- and also to alter it. I think it's wonderful that this idea intrigues people. But how on earth did anyone get the idea that the spirit of Slow Cloth is hand-stitching vs. machine-stitching?
- In my own particular version of Slow Cloth, it has absolutely nothing to do with hand vs. machine stitching, how long it takes to complete a project, or any other kind of my-way-is-better-than-yours hierarchy of creativity. It's about celebrating, respecting, protecting and supporting culturally expressive textile traditions in communities all over the world, and allowing those traditions to inform the work of today, whether as artists, artisans, designers, clothing or textile manufacturers, collectors, travelers or hobbyists.
- It's also, for me, about environmentally appropriate and sustainable principles and right use of resources, including human resources.
- It's about art, beauty, design, vision, creativity and authenticity.
- As to the question about whether it's a movement or whether there is some formal structure to this, why the heck not? Anything is possible. I'm a writer and editor as well as an artist, and I have all kinds of ideas about a magazine. For those of you who can go this far back with me, the original version of Threads magazine by Taunton Press comes to mind as a model. I have the premiere issue from 1983 and it has articles about improvisational embroidery, spinning, tapestry, natural dyes, shisha mirrors, knitting -- it explored every possible idea about fiber and was a cornucopia of inspirational riches. Selvedge, as mentioned, is another fabulous magazine in the Slow Cloth spirit, though less technique-focused than original-recipe Threads.
- And yes, I can certainly envision a membership organization that has all kinds of possibilities, and I may very well start one!
So for those of you who interpreted the phrase "slow cloth" as going back to hand-piecing by the fire or darning socks or embroidering samplers, that's certainly not what I have in mind for this blog, at least, or whatever I develop to go with it. More links that I think exemplify the spirit of Slow Cloth:
- read this story about the textile designs of the masterful Jack Lenor Larsen.
- Look at the vision of companies like ABC Home and Odegard Rugs.
- Read the new blog at Peruvian Connection -- they're working to support traditional textile artists in Peru.
- There are so many amazing art quilters and surface designers as well as indigenous quilters like the women of Gee's Bend.
- Horizons, the company that organizes tantalizing tours everywhere from Mexico to Viet Nam to explore art, textiles and crafts.
- Harmony Art's organic cotton fabrics.
- Tierra Wools' cooperative model a
- Sonya Clark's Beaded Prayers Project.
- All the other bloggers and artists and companies I've already mentioned.
There is an awesomely creative worldwide textile community to be celebrated. We can all learn from each other and make beautiful things and keep all these masterful methods of design and expression and cultural individuation alive and well in the 21st century. "Slow" has come to suggest an alternative to a system that prioritizes efficiency, cheapness, sameness and speed at the expense of quality and authenticity. Maybe there's a better phrase or label for this concept than Slow Cloth, or maybe not.
And who am I to do this? Just a human who's passionate about textiles and the ways we make and use them. I've been sewing and knitting for more than four decades, as well as making quilts, beadwork, embroidery, you name it. I have a degree in painting, printmaking and fine arts. I've edited books on knitting and embroidery and written about textile artists. I have made my living for quite some time as a writer, editor and expert in the organic foods world, and some of the dynamics I've learned in and of that movement inform what I'm saying here. I've worked in an art museum, assisted a commercial silk painter, dyed and embellished costumes for a regional theater company, made things -- art, crafts, and utilitarian objects -- all my life.
I can't imagine my life without this creative facility, and yet fewer and fewer people are introduced to this kind of creation; instead they are educated from a very early age to be passive consumers. Our world is richer for the textile arts, and my idea of Slow Cloth and my Red Thread Studio blog here is a way of participating in that richness. (By the way, there is apparently a wonderful gallery called Red Thread Studio in Virginia; we are not affiliated, but you can find them here.)
Comments are welcome and wanted; have at it. And just to prove that I'm not above a little machine-stitched craft whimsy myself, here's a scissors caddy I made for a friend from a McCalls pattern -- the kind of lofty art that many of us find ourselves working on at Christmastime:
Have a LOVELY, PEACEFUL AND SAFE holiday.