The Elephant and The Eagle

Where does the eagle fly beside the elephant? They meet in Macau, where Portuguese priests brushed against Chinese traders, and head west, past the Indian port of Goa (where this multi-tusked elephant must avoid ivory carvers), around the Cape of Good Hope, up towards the Azores (where eagle confronts the namesake of this Archipelago, the goshawk), and straight east to Lisbon.

Length of Woven Silk; Dress by Dries Van Noten Spring 2014; Stitch Work by Chiyu Uemae
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Plate by Liz Quackenbush; Collar by Foxine; Clutch by Julie Lange; Earrings by Eniko; Bracelet by Charlotte; Pillow Case by Cody and Cooper Designs; Earrings by Catherine Ross; Jewelry Roll by Jennifer Carter

The unlikely friendship of the double headed eagle and Asian elephant was born from the union of sacred and secular currents moving through trading relations between Portugal and China. Finished cloth, like this silk damask, formed the backbone of trade because it was the most impressive, conspicuous evidence of what the traders were doing in distant lands. The textiles that traveled from Macau to Lisbon developed a visual language that merged Chinese and European imagery. Chinese decorative elements were well-suited to the ornate style of Portuguese religious ceremonies, and the exotic textiles were proudly displayed in public festivals, weddings, and commemorative events. Elephants and chrysanthemums were welcome in the Garden of Eden.

Silk Damask Textile; Protea Candlestick by David Wiseman; Sophie by Antonio Santin
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Pendant by Nance; Journal Cover by Liz; Earrings by Meghan; Cake Canister by Laura Hewitt; Clutch by Amiel Leather; Necklace by Heidi; Pencil Case by Bloomi Paris; Bracelet by Decoromana

These textiles prove more than the triumph of the Portuguese in Asia, the easy flow of money that follows luxury goods. The journey of the elephant and double headed eagle – one animal described in a Buddhist sutra and the other the crest of the Hapsburg empire – proves the triumph of the image. How else can diplomacy rest between the threads of finely woven cloth?

Woven Blossoms

There were flower-carpets and fresh rosebuds,
The wind fanned the lamps of the roses,
The violet braided her locks,
The buds tied a knot in the heart.
– Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627)

Conversation and #6 by Faig Ahmed
Handmade items to buy: Scarf and Pillows by Zaipur; Fiber Sculpture by Karen Meninno; Kantha Quilt by Federal Exports; Necklace by Gilgulim; Kantha Quilt by Indian Home Textiles; Bedsheet by Jaisalmer Handloom; Earrings by Ada Rosman

900 knots per square inch on a silk foundation allows you to paint with thread. Weavers of Indian pashmina carpets could create a wide range of colors with tight knots of different colors, or juxtapose shades of the same color to create the effect of shading. The elaborate lattice and blossom patterns realized gardens of fantastical lushness, dense bouquets of the most luxurious fabric made in northern India.

Scent holder by David Wiseman; Scarf by Swash
Handmade items to buy: Necklace by Catrinel; Scarf by Atelier Florine; Wallet Organizer by Lola Falk Designs; Earrings by Ashdel; Pillow by Ginette Pearson; Necklace by Julia Donaldson; Ring by Audra Zili; Cushion by Foutu Tissu

Cross cultural pollination was woven into the fibers of these blossoms. They date back to the mid 17th century, right around the time when European trading companies were starting to establish their presence in the Asian spice and textile market. If the carpets look like tapestries, that’s because the weavers probably saw some examples from a merchant or Jesuit. In one of the carpets, there’s a little Chinese-style cloud, suggesting that Indian textile art used ideas from East and West – a true crossroads of design.

Pink Flurry

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than a flurry of pink textiles.

• Yoshino Masui’s Apapane is one of her bite-sized imaginary landscapes painted in watercolor. She often depicts small animals wandering through expanses of abstract patterns.

• Natsuko Hattori’s Grandmother is a cluster of balls individually wrapped with fabric in all shades of purple.

• This 19th century wedding Kimono is embroidered with a dense pattern of cherry and peony blossoms.

• Carla Fox’s Bali Sunset Necklace is a tropical cocktail of fabrics, buttons, beads, and pearls in pink and peach shades.

• Stella Vardacki’s Bracelet is hand-embroidered with pink, red, and green cotton threads.

• Leanne Woods’ Brooch surrounds a deep purple and golden leaf with a purple feather and beaded stamens.

• Mizzie Morawez’s Top covers stretchy pink fabric with opulent bouquets of embroidered floral appliqués.

• Erica Daley’s Fallen Leaves are layered in shades of burgundy and purple with veins embroidered from wool and mohair yarn.

• Sarah Hopping’s Wall Hanging combines remnants of vintage lace, linen, and embroidered cotton dyed in dark reds and purples.

• Deborah’s Textile Painting layers cotton fabric, old lace, silk organza, and metallic paints.

• Kristin Brenneman Eno’s Steel Wound stitches together fabric segments inspired by the shape of the Thunderbolt, an abandoned wooden roller coaster in Coney Island.

Bird of Paradise

I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.
– Rumi

• Louise Saxton’s Queen Billie is a tapestry of discarded needlework fragments, gathered and layered on sheer tulle. The pinning process is similar to painting with a brush, a modern counterpart to Audubon’s catalogue of birds.

• Claire Brewster’s Birds are cut out of old maps and atlases.

• The petals and feathers of Michael Dickter’s Birds and Flowers bleed in colorful rivers against an off-white background full of smudges, marks, and scratches.

• Vanessa Quijano’s Coracias Caudatus captures the tiny bird’s lilac and blue feathers in Namibia.

• Bombus’ Flying Birds are cut from vintage maps, and you can even choose the destination if you like.

• Cynthia’s Vivid Niltava is a woodblock print inspired by the flora and fauna of Taiwan.

• Catherina’s Red Bird has translucent layers of watercolor for feathers.

• Kristin Sarette’s Prior to Investigation is a lithograph with tusche wash that renders the feathers bristling with texture.

• Bridget Farmer’s Paradote is an etching of a little bird native to Australia.

• Silvio’s Macaw Arara is a large digital print of the bird’s head deconstructed into geometric fragments.

• Kyoko Imazu’s Chestnut-Cheeked Starling is two plate etching and aquatint that merges ultramarine blue and warm red for a rich coat of feathers.

Second Paradise

India may be called a second Paradise for whosoever quits this garden, suffers from remorse.
– Kalim (1581-1651)

• Decorative arts and architecture from Mughal India – like this floral motif and imperial horse – was a visual dialogue between Islamic Iran, Hindu India, and Europe. The complex patterns of arabesques and floral motifs found their way into temples, private rooms, and calligraphy scrolls.

• The Vivienne Westwood Spring 2014 Menswear Collection paired intricate Indian-inspired prints with plain linen.

• This Red Kantha Quilt and Orange Kantha Quilt by Federal Exports are made from three layers of recycled sarees by artisans in Rajasthan.

• Jodi’s Bracelet alternates pieces of coral with silver Bali beads.

• Karin van Rijn’s Cuff is made of a coral and turquoise jacquard ribbon encrusted with crystals.

• Zaipur’s Pillows are made from vintage cotton saris in vibrant orange and turquoise patterns.

• Brooke Melko’s Earrings suspend pink riverstone beads and honey-colored Czech glass from ornate brass discs.

• Oceanus’ Earrings are deep coral droplets attached to gold ear wires.

• Jaisalmer Handloom’s Kantha Quilt is made by a small collective of artists in the Thar Desert.

Textile Canyon

Before Picasso stuck newspaper on his canvases, random objects were not welcome in the bubble of art. Textiles and paintings lived far apart. Now, fabrics mingle with paint, slowly chipping away at the distinction between art and craft.

• Tracy Potts’ 600,000,000 Million Moments of your Life that have Simply Disappeared is the amount of time you just spent weaving through the maze of abstract crocheted patterns. Her work hints at animals, like this winged horse, but remains an enigma wrapped in rich textures. She mixes crochet, sewing, knitting, and paint into self-contained fantasies.

• Renée Lerner’s Silver on Yellow echoes Tatlin’s corner counter reliefs with its tension between wire mesh and smooth metal scraps.

• Mandy Patullo’s Get the Look is a monotype with ink and collage reminiscent of watching a rust-red sun set into the water.

• Audra Zili’s Necklace suspends a cluster of spirals made of green, gold, and silver ribbons dotted with graphite beads.

• Alise’s Necklace is a crocheted arrow in grey, white, and yellow stripes.

• Isao’s Textile Sculpture is a cascade of water droplets made of blue silk and mesh, all supported by a vintage salad bowl made of iron.

• Britta’s Brooch combines pieces of silk, cotton, and linen in pink, red, and turquoise.

• Marta Mouka’s Rock Formation is created by applying thin strips of silk to the canvas. The layers give rich pattern and depth to the dream-like landscape.

• Mandy Besek’s Tapestry is made of yarn encircling a spotted feather.

• Mio Mio’s Brooch frames an embroidered triangle in a creamy pillow accented with yellow and blue beads.

Floating Pigments

What do marbled paper, textured fabric, and petrified rock have in common?

• This Petrified Crystal is a cross section of a log located in Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park. During the Late Triassic period (when dinosaurs began to evolve), trees that were submerged in the river channels were buried by volcanic ash. Traces of silica from the ash mixed with groundwater to gradually create the rainbow colored quartz crystals that replaced the wood.

• Marit Fujiwara’s Wound Collection walks a fine line between grotesque flesh and dazzling rock formations, all with the skillful manipulation of fabric and stitching.

• Josefina Concha’s Cuerpo Zurcido III does what Van Gogh’s brushstrokes did to painting – intensifies color and form with texture. The richness of her sewing evokes the clay landscapes of the Southwest colored by bloody sunsets.

• Danielle Byrd’s Scarf is made of silk habotai marbled with creamy pink, blue and yellow.

• Rosanna Corrò’s Journal frames panels of gold-tinted tissue paper with black bookbinding cloth. Her Bag is made of varnished cardboard covered with coral pink marbled paper.

• Natalie Stopka’s Scarf is hand marbled in a pattern that resembles spiraling water tinged with pink and gray.

• This Marbled Cotton by Vansant Designs is a surreal landscape of peacock plumes floating between fiery red and black.

• Mark Campbell’s Bowl has a rust-red and light pink marbled pattern created with slips while the clay was still wet.

• João and Raquel’s Notebooks are bound by heavy recycled paper marbled with archival ink in muted, organic patterns.

• Betul Senguler’s Turkish Ebru Paper is a set of 6 marbled sheets in spectacular patterns that give Pollock a run for his money.

Indigo Blues

No, we’re not talking about blue jeans. Natural indigo dye is extracted from the the Indigofera plant, and it was a luxury product in Ancient Rome, Europe in the Middle Ages, West Africa, and Edo Japan. For the ancient Greeks, indikon meant both “dye” and “Indian,” because India was the oldest supplier of indigo to Europe until Vasco de Gama opened up trade with Asia in the 15th century.

• This Adire Eleko textile comes from the Yoruba, Nigeria. The designs, signifying various plants and animals, are drawn on to the cloth with a cassava flour paste. As the cloth is dip-dyed in an indigo bath, the paste absorbs the markings to create a rich grid of blue on blue.

• Eben Goff’s Batholith Etchings are abstract compositions of overlapping blue fragments.

• This Platter and Bowl by Elephant Ceramics are handmade ceramics imprinted with the uneven surface of linen and canvas, creating an unusual contrast between textures.

• Robyn Muller’s Indigo I is an abstract painting that layers loose strips of blue and white.

• Mira Loyberg’s Bowl is glazed with a vibrant combination of indigo and other blue glazes.

• Jill Harrell’s iPad Case is made of of textured indigo leather with a raw edge flap.

• This Scarf by Vagabond’s Daughter is made of light silk gauze dyed with natural plant extracts.

• This Scarf by the L.O.V. Project has a dense polkadot pattern made with a dye process that uses natural ingredients like eucalyptus and mulberry leaves.

• Sheila Sullivan-Corbitt’s Nesting Bowls are hand-thrown stoneware clay covered with a rich indigo glaze.

• Egle Adomelyte’s Blouse is printed with a cyanotype technique that records the silhouettes of leaves on the silk crepe.

• Jeanie Deans’ Pouch is made of organic linen that’s been dip-dyed in indigo for an ombre effect.

Whose Sleeves?

more than the color of the flower, the fragrance
delights my senses -
whose scented sleeve brushed against
the plum blossoms near my house

• This six-panel folding screen from the late sixteenth century was one of many that reflected the idea of Tagasode (Whose Sleeves?). The phrase first appeared in the Kokinshu anthology, completed in 920. The anonymous poem, written above, refers to the Heian custom of scenting sleeves with incense, and pretending that your lover’s perfume on your own robes was nothing more than the result of picking flowers.

• The Kenzo Spring 2013 Collection was inspired by utility gear and the jungles of Thailand.

• The Margiela Spring 2013 Couture Collection included one piece that started with a hoodie collar but cascaded into a 20s style evening dress.

• Seiko Kinoshita’s Grasp combines paper yarn, copper wire, linen, and wood. Watch this video to see how she works with textiles in her studio.

• Tamami’s Bag is covered in mustard-colored obi fabric.

• Cécile’s Brooch is made of raw silk ribbons layered in brown and chartreuse.

• Jane Porter’s Scarf is made from a pale-yellow vintage kimono with a pattern of colorful fans.

• Michele’s Scarf is chocolate-brown kimono silk with a crinkled texture and beaded stitching.

• Kimokame’s Bag is made of vintage obi fabric in peachy gold with a rich pattern of flowers.

• This Hairpin by Atelier Kanawa is a maple leaf made in a style that dates back to the Edo period.

• Cherie’s Pillows are covered in late nineteenth century Japanese brocade.

• Alexander’s Jacket is made of a complex network of panels in golden and rust-red patterns.

Welcome to the Jungle

 Henri Rousseau traveled to exotic locations by visiting botanical gardens in Paris and reading colonialist accounts of their adventures. Here are some lusciously green items to transport you into a tropical daydream.

• Henri Rousseau’s Horse Attacked by a Jaguar depicts a scene that corresponds exactly to an account given in Beeton’s Dictionary of Natural History, published in 1871. The rather violent and melodramatic language portrays the jaguar as a savage beast, but Rousseau transforms the scene into a dream-like composition, full of foliage borrowed from the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

• Sheila Hicks’ Palm Tree is a fiber tapestry that reflects her ability to bridge the gap between craft design and installation art. Take a look at more of her innovative work from a recent retrospective.

• The Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2010 Couture Collection included a bag made of strips of green leather that resembled a casually folded palm leaf.

• This Candle Holder by DMW Pottery Studio has a green and rusty red surface, with stylized leaf cut-outs.

• Sarah Blessing’s Cuff is hand-woven with shimmering gold, green, and bronze beads.

• This Jungle Vines Ring by Minter and Richter Designs frames two bands of green and blue wooden inlay in titanium.

• Nina’s Tea Set has flower-shaped saucers and whimsical illustrations inside each cup.

• This Resin Bracelet by Topaz Turtle is luminescent green with swirling wisps of chocolate brown.

• Kimber McGallagher’s Pillow Cover has a tribal pattern in jungle green and ivory.

• This Ceramic Bottle by L. G. Barnes III resembles a living plant, with leafy green sides and a yellow thorn top.

• Leslie Freeman’s Bowl has a rich emerald surface with a subtle ring pattern.