Q – Look at the materials that are available in the market place – what is meant by the word traditional in a textiles context.
What do you think is meant by the word “traditional”? Write down a list of words that you associate with “traditional”
I started as I usually do with a mind map the way I do with creative ideas so as the thoughts happen I jot them down but I soon realised I was going off on a tangent so I went back to basics, wrote a list of words that I associated with traditional and then from that words I associated with traditional in a textile context. I kept confusing myself with traditional as in design/print or weave context rather than traditional as in base fabric or fibres and also material as in finished cloth rather than its components. Once I had realised this it was easier.
Q – What materials do you consider to be traditional?
The materials that I consider to be traditional are the base fibres that make up the materials (textiles) that are indigenous to each country, generation, way of life and set of beliefs and occur naturally and are on to hand to use. They are the raw materials that have been used for many many centuries. Pigments and dyes will have come from natural sources like the earth, leaves and berries.
In China, the Silk worm, according to Confucius was discovered in 2640B.C. by the Chinese Princess Xi Ling Shi when a silk cocoon fell into her tea by accident and silk thread was revealed. Linen fabrics dating from 5000 B.C. have been discovered in Egypt and Woollen textiles from the early Bronze Age have also been found in Scandinavia and Switzerland. Cotton has been spun and woven in India since 3000 B.C.
Q – Are traditional textiles always made of natural fibres?
In relation to textiles of the past, they were always made from natural fibres as they were constructed using the raw materials that were readily available and using time –honoured methods of construction like weaving or felting. The fibres may come from animal coats, silk worm cocoons and plant seeds (cotton) or stems (bast fabrics) There are, of course textiles made more recently but with a traditional feel or appearance but they will, more than likely, have some man-made fibres making up their composition for durability and cost reasons.
Q – Does the use of traditional material imply traditional process or design?
The word traditional relates to the passing of time and therefore a traditional process or design (e.g. African wax Batik or Japanese Shibori etc) is logical but not the only way to utilise these materials. Thinking creatively and interpreting traditional fibres/materials (raw materials not finished cloth) can lead to some fresh innovative design concepts.
Sources of Reference
• Textiles a History – Fiona McDonald
• Nomadic Felts – Stephanie Bunn
Exhibition visits to get an understanding of traditional fabrics –
River Pitts Museum – http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk
The Pitt Rivers Museum cares for the University of Oxford’s collection of anthropology and world archaeology – looked at old textile products. See photos.
Ashmoleon Museum – http://www.ashmolean.org/exhibitions
Museum of art and Archaeology, Oxford. Visited the Threads of Silk and Gold exhibition.
Kelmscot Manor- http://kelmscottmanor.org.uk
The home of William Morris
Cotswold Woollen weavers – http://www.cotswoldwoollenweavers.co.uk
Fascinating insight into woven wool