Textiles: Mapping our identity at Mann

This spring, our students will be exploring the process of textiles in a variety of cultures. In exploring the process of textiles myself in the Surface Design class at the Corcoran, I have learned that color, texture, pattern, shape and image all surface from personal taste, tradition and process.

Students using textiles as a medium to discover the identity of ourselves and others will take place this spring in all grade levels, but will start in K-2. If you have Textiles to loan, share your story or participate in the process, please let me know! Students will experience adding dye, resist and printing techniques.

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4 Comments on “Textiles: Mapping our identity at Mann”

  1. Des Reif (parent of Sarah, Anna, Paul) says:

    Dear Ms. Byrne:

    From my work in Fiji, I will bring in a Fijian Masi (tapa), a bark cloth made from the paper mulberry tree. It has been hanging in our home. The cloth — not woven and not quite paper — has a traditional Fijian design and carries great cultural importance in Fiji and other Pacific Islands. Masi is made collectively, by groups of women that have learned the production secrets over generations. It is painted with geometric designs, stories told in symbols. In the past, Masi cloth was used for clothing but now has been replaced by textiles.

    From the Internet:
    Tapa can be painted, decorated by rubbing, stamping, stencilling, smoking (Fiji – “masi Kuvui”) or dyeing. The patterns of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian tapa usually form a grid of squares, each of which contains geometrical patterns with repeated motifs such as fish and plants, for example four stylised leaves forming a diagonal cross. Traditional dyes are usually black and rust-brown, although other colours are also known.

    Masi is still often worn on formal occasions such as weddings. Another use is as blanket at night, or for room dividers. It is also highly prized for its decorative value and is often found used to hang on the walls as a decoration. In Tonga a family is considered poor, no matter how much money they have, if they do not have any tapa in stock at home to donate at life crises like marriages, funerals and so forth. If the tapa was donated to them by a chief or even the royal family, it is more valuable. It has been used in Ceremonial masks and to wrap sacred objects, e.g. “God staffs” in the Cook Islands.

  2. Hi Ms. Byrne:

    Here is some info abou the Ethiopian textiles I brought in before Spring Break. We got them on our recent trip to Ethiopia last summer.

    From the Internet:
    Ethiopian textiles is a centuries-old art form. Early Ethiopians traded in silk, ivory, jewels and spices with Egypt, Arabia and India. Ethiopian farmers were also involved in the early domestication of plants- and one of the most important is cotton.

    Ancient workers would harvest the cotton pods and send them over to the spinners to make into fine threads; which would then be woven in pit-looms to make the soft, sumptuous cotton Ethiopia is known for. The pit-looms themselves are indicators of the ancient trading network between the early civilizations. Pit-looms, so called because they are looms propped on a pit dug into the ground, and can be found all across the Middle East all the way to India.

    The colors are worked into the pattern by using cotton thread dyed with natural pigments. Artisan culture of weaving, dyeing and embroidery have been passed down many generations. To this day as in the ancient times, native Ethiopians can still be seen wearing these traditional shawls.

    Among the many textiles products from Ethiopia, there are two of them that are very well known and widely used, Netela and Gabi.

    Netela is a scarf like cloth made of cotton very thin and delicate, with the texture of a gauze, worn by all women in Ethiopia. The Netela has only two layers and is quite big, measuring about 63 x 102 inches. It’s white with a colorful border “tibeb” between 1 to 2 inches at each end with different variations.

    The “tibeb”- a brightly colored decorative border around the hem, is one of the distinctive features of traditional Ethiopian dresses. The designs found in the ”tibeb” have now been incorporated into larger patterns that are used in hand woven pillowcases, runners, place mats, and table cloths.

    Gabi is another type of textile, which instead of just two layers like the Netela, the Gabi has four layers. Gabi is warmer and heavier, much like a light blanket.

    These textiles are woven by hand in handmade looms. Weaving is a traditional male job regarded very highly. These weavers sell the Netelas and Gabi in the local market and also in the big city of Addis Ababa.

    • paigepb says:

      Thank you so much for the history of the Ethiopian textiles! I’m so excited to share the traditions and use of natural pigments. The students have so much enjoyed so far incorporating the designs from our collection into their personal pieces. There will be more to share and I’m just about to post our photos from our first two classes. They love stitching!! Thank you so much. Your contributions have made this plan of “Mapping our Identity” come to life!


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