Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fiber art at the Textile Museum in DC

I was in Washington, DC last weekend and had the chance to visit what I think of as one of the shrines of my people:  the Textile Museum, now housed at George Washington University. The museum relocated a few years back from a lovely but cramped location in Northwest Washington, and I was excited to finally see the new digs.  I was not disappointed.  And it is an easy walk from the Foggy Bottom Metro stop! Yay!

The new space has three floors of exhibit space and also connects to the historic Woodhull House, which contains a collection related to the history of Washington, DC.  Artwork owned by the university is also on exhibit, but I have to confess only had eyes for two fiber shows that I had read about in various publications.

"Scraps:  Fashion, Textile, and Creative Reuse" spotlights the work of three designers to reduce and re-purpose the staggering amount of textile waste that the clothing industry generates every year.  Wall text in the exhibit states that apparel and textiles is the second-most polluting industry in the world, after oil!  Wow. 

Luisa Cevese founded Riedizioni ("re-editions") in Milan, Italy to produce new products using the selvedges cut from the edges of industrially woven sari silk.  She embeds these fragments in polyurethane to make colorful and eye-catching new products.  I loved the idea and the look of the tote bag pictured below:  so fun!  But when I examined one of the bags up close in the museum gift shop, I wasn't crazy about the heavy plastic feel, nor the $450 price tag. I wonder how ecologically friendly the production of polyurethane is and what the byproducts of that process are.  And how can enough people afford a $450 tote bag to make the process feasible, long-term? 

Luisa Cevese, silk selvedge waste (foreground),
Spread Textile, 8 Hours Bag, and Large Basket Bag

Reiko Sudo, with the Japanese textile design firm NUNO, also works with silk waste. She uses the outer covering of the silk cocoon that previously was discarded,  making it into yarn that can be woven on industrial looms.  She has also re-purposed the residue from the spinning process to make a kind of patchwork cloth-paper.  Her fabrics have a subtle, textured beauty.

Reiko Sudo, silk cocoon waste (foreground) and various products
I really fell in love, though, with the work of Christina Kim, the designer behind the Los Angeles brand dosa.  Her practice is based in reverence for handwork and a goal of zero-waste in the re-use of very fine cotton sari fabric.  She works with Indian craftspeople to piece scraps from sari production (first generation) into new cloth, embellishing it with embroidery and applique, and creating new clothing (second generation).  Scraps from this process are also collected and become small applique  circles on pieced yardage (third generation).  Even the small scraps from this process are collected and made into tiny amulets (fourth generation).  Some scraps are overdyed to unify them visually  before being constructed into garments.

Christina Kim, First-generation garments:
 Choga, Rabari jacket; and Recycled Jamdari Panel 
Here's a detail of the panel above:

Christina Kim, detail, Recycled Jamdari Panel 
I love the layers of translucent fabric and intricate stitching. 

Christina Kim, Second-generation garments: 
Fraulein dress, Eungie Skirt;
Third-generation garment:  Eungie Skirt (over-dyed)
Here's a close-up on one of the skirts:

Christina Kim, detail, Eungie Skirt

Christina Kim, Amulets,
hand-embroidered and containing a folded Hindu prayer
This was my favorite piece of all though:

Christina Kim, Tikdis Shawl
Over 600 small scrap "dots" are hand-appliqued to each shawl.
It is encouraging and exciting to see up close the work of pioneering textile designers to change the way we produce and use fabric.  They may even change our notion of what is beautiful clothing, widening it to include pieces with a frankly scrappy look.  I hope that as these efforts become more common, the processes become scalable so that the products can reach wider and broader markets.

This show is on view at the Textile Museum through January 7, 2018. 

Next time, I'll share my impressions of the larger show on view at the museum, The Box Project:  Uncommon Threads.  It was really wonderful!

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