Found 1,923 Resources containing: Fiber artists
Illus. Fig. 18, p. 29 in Kaeppler, Adrienne, 2017, "John Lafarge, A contemporary artist in Samoa, 1890-1891," Pacific Arts, NS 16 (2). On p. 28 of the same publication, it is noted that the blue glass beads decorating this comb were identified by Laurie Burgess in 2016 as "... drawn (as opposed to wound beads), heat-rounded, glass beads that were primarily used for embroidery or beadwork and probably came from Venice ...".
A modest low-slung metal building, set in the woods off a dirt road, is home to the world-famous Thistle Hill Weavers, workplace and studio of textile historian and weaver Rabbit Goody. Approaching the building a muffled thwack-thwack-thwack mechanical sound created by power looms can be heard. When the door is opened, the noise spills out along with the smell of fibers mixed with machine oil.
Goody has been involved in movies for nearly 15 years. Since her start with the movie adaptation of The Scarlet Letter (1995), starring Demi Moore, Thistle Hill Weavers has worked on dozens of films. The studio has created historically accurate fabric for a number of iconic costumes, from Tom Hanks’ Depression-era overcoat in Road to Perdition to Daniel Day Lewis’ oil man outfit in There Will Be Blood to many of the costumes in HBO‘s John Adams. Goody understands how costume designers place great importance on the most miniscule details and knows how to get them right.
Costume designer Kimberly Adams worked with Thistle Hill on a number of projects including The Chronicles of Narnia and There Will Be Blood. “As a designer, you always want to sell the time period with fabrics and shapes that are true to the period in order to bring the audience into the real world of the story,” says Adams.
“Today’s fabrics often don’t work in other time periods,” Adams explains. “The weights, textures and content are quite different, and these factors really do make a difference in making a costume look true to a time period.”
Considering her Hollywood-based clientele, upstate New York seems an unlikely setting for Goody’s textile mill. She landed in the Cherry Valley area in the 1970s as part of the counter-culture movement, and she never left. (Allen Ginsberg had a farm down the road as did a number of other poets, artists and musicians.) Although she came to the area to farm – even today she notes “weaving is my trade but my lifestyle is agricultural” – she soon established herself as an accomplished hand weaver. Before setting up Thistle Hill, she worked for the New York State Historical Association in the nearby Farmer’s Museum, located in Cooperstown.
Over the years she amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of American textiles and weaving technology, which has made her indispensible to the film industry and historic properties that are looking for historically accurate reproductions of clothing, bed hangings, window treatments and carpet.
Goody got her first movie job when the costume designer from The Scarlet Letter saw the textile work she did for Plimoth Plantation, a museum and educational center in Plymouth, Massachusetts, that recreates 17th-century America. The film needed clothing and interior furnishing fabrics accurate to that same time period from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel.
“The camera eye is better than any human eye so inaccuracies show up glaringly,” explains Goody. “The minute anyone sees an inaccuracy in a movie, that picture is trashed – if you don’t believe one part of it, you’re not going to believe any part of it. A lay person may not know what would be appropriate for 17th-century fabric, but it will register that something is wrong.”
Image by Rachel Dickinson. One of Thistle Hill's weavers works with a power loom that the studio uses to create fabrics for major motion pictures. (original image)
Image by Rachel Dickinson. Rabbit Goody uses patterns to reproduce lace from an 18th century carriage. (original image)
Image by Rachel Dickinson. Rabbit Goody has been involved in movies for nearly 15 years. (original image)
Image by Rachel Dickinson. The finish room at Thistle Hill is overrun with fabrics from past projects. (original image)
Image by Rachel Dickinson. Goody's studio features a silk warper built in 1918. (original image)
When a designer contacts them, Rabbit and Jill Maney, Thistle Hill’s office manager, who also has a PhD in early American history, research everything they can about the movie – time period, characters, basic plot and what color schemes the costume designers will use. Then they send the designer an enormous packet of textile samples. From there it becomes a collaborative process. The designers determine what they like and don’t like (need it rougher, smoother, more texture, less texture) and if they like something, Goody asks what it is about the fabric that appeals to them.
“Costume designers for the most part do not speak ‘cloth,’” says Goody. “They do by the end, though.” Rabbit has found that designers pay a surprising amount of attention to detail. Drape, weight, texture, how a fabric moves, how it reflects color, or how it works with somebody’s coloring, for example, are all important to them.
Accurate fiber content is not as important to movies as it is for a historic house or museum looking for a historic reproduction. But Thistle Hill always uses natural fibers when creating movie textiles, so that the fabric can be dyed and aged by the costumers.
“Sometimes we hardly recognize our fabrics because they’ve been so aged,” says Maney. “For [the 2007 film] No Country for Old Men we made plaid cowboy shirts from the 1970s – doesn’t sound like a project for us – but the designer found a shirt she liked but couldn’t find enough of them so we provided yardage. Then the shirts had be aged in all different ways – sun-faded, torn, tattered, and soiled – and that’s the kind of detail that makes the movie believable.”
Six weavers work at Thistle Hill although Goody is the only one who does the design work. Everyone performs multiple tasks, from running power looms to spinning thread to making trim. Rabbit’s power looms are all at least 100 years old – there are a couple of nonworking looms sitting out behind the mill that are cannibalized for parts when the old looms break down.
The bulk of the mill is one big room with weavers either setting up or running huge looms. The noise is so deafening the weavers wear ear protectors. Everywhere you look big metal machines are creating gorgeous lengths of fabric, including striped Venetian carpet and white cotton dimity and soft, cream-colored cloth from Peruvian alpaca thread. One weaver sits at a bench before a loom pulling 3,300 threads through heddles – they keep the warp threads separate from each other. She then threads them through the sley, which resembles the teeth of a giant comb. The entire painstaking process takes her three days to complete.
Leftover yardage from past projects sits in an adjacent fitting room. Thistle Hill mixes in movie work with weaving for museums and historic houses so Goody can point to fabric used for George Washington’s bed at his historic headquarters in Newburgh, New York, as well as Brad Pitt’s trousers from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Clothing for John Adams and the other founding fathers kept Goody and her weavers busy for half a year. “Thistle Hill wove such beautiful fabrics,” remembers Michael Sharpe, first assistant costume designer for the miniseries. “They recreated fabrics that would have been ‘homespun’ by settlers in the New World. Thistle Hill fabrics allowed us to set the tone of ‘America’s’ fibers versus that of the fine English and French silks and woolens.”
Sharpe liked the fabric so much that as Maney sent him boxes of period-appropriate textiles from the finishing room, he kept wanting more. “I was frequently asked by our costume makers in the United States, London, Canada and Hungary where we’d found such incredible fabrics,” says Sharpe. “I happily replied – ‘We made them!’”
Over the past three years, the fashion industry has started paying attention to biodegradable and renewable fabrics. Last year, Salvatore Ferragamo used a citrus byproduct material that feels like silk for a collection of shirts, dresses and pants; Philippines-based AnanasAnam created a faux-leather out of pineapple leaves dubbed Piñatex; and Dutch textile designer Aniela Hoitink created a mycelium dress that was as stylish as any satin cocktail dress.
Yes, mycelium—the interlocking root system that spawns forests of mushrooms in your yard after it rains. And this fungi fashion seems to be a trend: Microsoft’s Artist-in-Residence Erin Smith grew her own wedding dress out of tree mulch and mycelium; lighting designer Danielle Trofe uses mycelium to create biodegradable light fixtures; and Life Materials sells sheets of its mycelium leather for anyone interested in a do-it-yourself creation.
Jillian Silverman, a University of Delaware fashion and apparel graduate student focused on environmental sustainability, recently crafted a prototype shoe that combines mushrooms, agriculture waste and fabric scraps. “A lot of fashion fabrics are not compostable or it takes a really long time for them to break down,” says Silverman. In her shoe, “everything is natural, everything is biodegradable, nontoxic. It's a perfect solution to reducing the impacts of textile waste, reducing toxic inputs and using all renewable inputs.”
Because mushroom mycelium has previously been used to create compostable packaging and building materials, Silverman thought there was a good chance it could be grown into fashion products to replace other unsustainable materials in the fashion industry. Her university is also conveniently close to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, is “the mushroom capital of the world,” says Silverman. “So this offers opportunities for local sourcing and the expertise of the nearby mushroom farms and growers.”
Mycelium naturally binds together materials—in the shoe’s case, chicken feathers and other textile—as it grows. After testing, Silverman decided to use reishi, oyster, king oyster, and yellow oyster varieties for their superior aesthetic and strength. She then designed a shoe sole mold in which to grow the mycelium into the specific shape needed. Mycelium can grow to fill any mold in about a week. Once it filled the mold, Silverman baked it to “halt the growth and prevent mushrooms from fruiting on the surface.”
“There is only a slightly earthy smell during the growing process,” says Silverman. “There is no live fungi in the finished product.”Silverman (R) and Wing Tang (L), an undergraduate student helping her with the shoe project. (provided by the University of Delaware)
Huantian Cao, Silverman’s graduate advisor, says the challenge was creating the perfect growth mixture for the mycelium to thrive. To do this, Silverman tested several fabrics and decided upon an insulation material comprised of recycled cotton and jute, a rough fiber similar to twine or rope. This material, which would otherwise be destined for a landfill, created a strong material as it intertwined and bonded with the fibers during its growth stage.
Other components in the final mycelium substrate included psyllium husk (a natural plant fiber), cornstarch (which acted as food sources for the mycelium) and chicken feathers (which added strength to the final product).
“Both the textile material and feathers are soft, but strong,” says Cao, a professor of fashion and apparel studies and co-director of the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Apparel Initiative. “Including these materials in mycelium composite makes the composite comfortable to wear and also strong to step on.”
According to Silverman, the end result is a compostable, biodegradable mushroom-based sole that could replace rubber and other manmade components. But if it’s a compostable material, what happens if you wear the shoe in the rain?
John Taylor, professor of plant and microbial biology at the University of California at Berkeley, believes that unless the shoe sole is treated to prevent water intrusion, it’s far from ready to wear.
“There is likely a trade-off in durability versus compostability,” says Taylor, who isn’t involved in Silverman’s project. “Mycelium would absorb water if untreated, leading to degradation of shoe soles but promoting compostability. If the mycelium is treated to prevent absorption of water, the shoe sole function would be improved, but the compostability would decline.”
Silverman says that compostable products cannot compost without the correct conditions and organisms, so the soles shouldn't just biodegrade during use. “Mycelium is naturally water-resistant so we believe if we let it grow to fully cover the substrate materials that the shoes would be able to tolerate at least some moisture,” says Silverman, though she does admit that “we do have some concerns about the flexibility of the material.”
While Silverman’s product may need some fine-tuning before it is market-ready, a California-based materials innovation startup called Bolt Threads is already accepting pre-orders for its mushroom “leather” bag in June. The company is known for creating its Microsilk fabric by copying spider silk gene technology. Through a new partnership with Ecovative Design, a company that created mycelium-based packaging and industrial-based materials, Bolt Threads Co-Founder Dan Widmaier is excited about the possibilities of renewable, sustainable fabrics, especially one that has the ability to replace leather and possibly lessen leather’s carbon footprint.
“If you think about leather, you've got a product there that is from the waste stream of the meat industry,” says Widmaier. “Then you look at a future with 7 billion inhabitants on Planet Earth, growing to 10 billion … there’s just not enough skins and hides to make leather.” That’s what makes mycelium a sustainable solution, says Widmaier, who points out the contrast between producing mycelium and raising an animal for meat/leather.
“Mycelium is growing on a celluloise feedstock – in our case, corn stover (the leaves, stalks and cobs leftover in a field after a harvest),” he says. “That’s a pretty low impact compared to raising a whole animal for three years when you look at the sustainability profile of water use, land use, carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle.”
Stella McCartney, a designer known for her commitment to sustainable fashion, recently used Bolt Thread’s mycelium “leather” (branded as Mylo) for a handbag trimmed in metal chain at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Fashioned from Nature exhibit, which opened April 21.
While Widmaier’s company is a few steps ahead of Silverman, both are in agreement that mushrooms have a place in fashion. And both see a future where material innovation evolves and grows as more consumers realize that fashion can be on-trend both stylishly and sustainably—a future where fungi fabric is as common as silk or cotton. “Biowaste materials in general are gaining a lot of attention and a lot of traction in the sustainable fashion industry as well as other industries,” says Silverman.
Let’s hope so, because our current levels of consumer waste are frankly unsustainable. Every year, the average person throws away roughly 70lbs of clothing and other wearable waste like backpacks, broken watches and hats, according to the Council for Textile Recycling. The EPA estimates that textile waste make up 5 percent of all landfill space, with those dirty leather and rubber soles coexisting for upwards of 50 years surrounded by other consumer waste.
Lowering our waste levels will require all sectors of society to catch up. “For an industry where we make something like 80 billion units of apparel every year, we need new ways to make materials that are more long-term compatible with the planet and the environment,” says Widmaier.