Project 1: Selecting and Identifying

This project will be based on Worthing Textile Archive, a fantastic archive housed within Worthing Museum and Art Gallery which contains over 30,000 items.

Unfortunately there is no online catalogue and so I will have to see what catches my eye when I visit. Luckily I have been there before researching bathing suits for next year’s 200th Anniversary of Worthing Promenade so the lovely staff are going to give me some pointers.

Before I dig into this project next week I am pausing to consider what textiles mean to me.

In your own words, write a definition of ‘textiles’ in its broadest sense. 

Broadly, I would say that textiles are man-made materials which can be woven or non-woven to form a fabric. Textiles can be made from natural or synthetic materials.

What materials do you consider to be ‘textile’ materials?

I consider ‘textile’ materials to have some pliability or flexibility to enable shaping though this could be during the manufacture stage (for instance architectural textiles are often relatively rigid once in situ for roofs etc). Common textile materials would be woven materials such as silk, cotton, linen, polyester, viscose. Wool can be spun into yarn and knitted, crocheted, knotted etc to form a textile. I suppose that paper would constitute a textile in this sense. There are an increasing number of polymers that are used to create textiles.

When is a material not a textile? Can you identify any examples?

I would not consider rigid materials such as stone to be textiles.

In what ways could textiles have stories or narratives attached to them?

There are numerous ways in which textiles could have stories or narratives attached to them:

  • Production – every textile will have its own narrative which describes its production. Whether this involves the harvesting of a crop, processing into fibres or pulp etc, manufacturing into the useable textile. There will also be the associated stories of the those involved in its production
  • Use – the textile will then be used for a purpose whether decorative, structural or utilitarian. There is the narrative for its choice and its subsequent use and destruction. Many textiles are also reused and repurposed adding layers to their narrative.
  • Many textiles such as the Bayeaux Tapestry tell stories in an historical sense. Many cultures place significance into the designs or embellishment of their textiles, for instance African wax prints often tell the viewer something about the wearer

I am sure that as this course progresses I will return to these notes and re assess my thoughts. I am looking forward to my preconceived ideas being challenged!


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