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Theatrical Mask

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Illus. and described p. 190 in Robert Pontsioen, "The Alexander Graham Bell Collection of Japanese Masks at the Smithsonian," Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 17, no. 2 (Autumn 2018), (accessed ‎November‎ ‎6‎, ‎2018). Identified there: Artist unknown, Mask, Japan, ca. 1898. Wood, gofun, glass, paper, animal hair, fiber twine, paint. 8.4 x 7 x 3.5 in.This mask has slightly crossed eyes and a comical expression. The hair appears to be from an animal, possibly from the Japanese tanuki (raccoon); it has been applied to a strip (likely of paper) that was then glued to the mask. The eyelashes are painted. The nostrils and mouth pass through the mask. As with several of the other masks in this collection, there is a small label on the reverse with "#118" written on it (the meaning of this is unknown). There is damage to the lower part of the right ear and the chin, revealing the gofun (a kind of gesso made with the calcium carbonate found in oyster shells), and underlying wood composite. A string has been attached through a hole that was drilled into each ear after the mask was made, presumably to hang the mask on a wall.


NMNH - Anthropology Dept.

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 ...".

Hitomi I

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
A white four-sided selvage textile loosely woven with striped pattern on the bottom half. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.Sheila Hicks is one of the most important living artists today, who has chosen fiber as her primary medium. The museum is fortunate enough to have over sixty works spanning more than fifty years of her career, including textiles for commercial production as well as the intimate woven miniatures or Minimes she creates on her...

Six colors of thread from Mae's Millinery Shop

National Museum of African American History and Culture
Six different colors of thread in different fibers. A wooden spool with black cotton thread (.1) with blue and red stamped ink manufacturer's information that reads on one end, "THE GARDINER HALL JR. CO. / MANUFACTURERS / SIX CORD / WILLINGTON / CONN. U.S.A." and on the other end, "HALL'S BEST / SPOOL 50 COTTON / SIX CORD / 500 YARDS / TRADE MARK." A yellow plastic spool with bright blue mercerized cotton thread (.2) has no labels. A black plastic spool with bright green cotton thread (.3) has no labels, and a sewing needle is stuck through the spooled thread. A wooden spool with light teal mercerized cotton thread (.4) with green stamped ink manufacturer's information that reads on one end, "BELDING CORTICELLI RICHARDSON / MERCERIZED COTTON / SIZE A" and on the other end, "MERCERIZED COTTON / FAST TO BOILING / 70 YDS. / SHADE 1413." A skein of salmon pink mercerized cotton six-ply thread (.5) with two black paper bands, one at each end, with gold stamped text that reads on one band, "American Thread Co. / STAR SIX STRAND / EMBROIDERY COTTON / 8 YARDS," and on the other band, "PULL SKEIN / DO NOT REMOVE BANDS / PULL THE LOOSE END / 1025 5c / FAST COLOR WILL BOIL." A metal sewing machine bobbin with bright orange mercerized cotton thread (.6).


National Museum of African Art
Wood headrest with a rectangular seat slightly curved upward on both ends, with flap-like appendages on the sides. The supporting column is composed of four cylindrical posts wrapped at the mid point by eighteen shorter cylinders. The base is a flat double circle that forms a figure eight. Triple strings of blue and green glass beads encircle both the neck and base of the headrest.

Homemade Clothes for Hollywood - Made Movies

Smithsonian Magazine

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!’”

Are These Baked Mushroom Sandals the Future of Fashion?

Smithsonian Magazine

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.

Face mask

National Museum of African Art
Wood face mask with a wide forehead, narrow slit eyes accentuated with a series of arched striations incised above as eyebrows and replicated in metal below the eyes, a long and narrow nose, a small projecting mouth and a round narrowing chin. The bottom end of the framework carries a series of linear holes for costume attachements. The headdress is an elaborate composition predominately of red cloth supported by an internal wicker and woven raffia framework. The upper part is embellished with strands of cowrie shells that frame the forehead and radiate out along the top and sides; a string of dark blue and yellow beads runs directly below the first line of cowrie. The back of the headdress is adorned with a glass beads composition, arranged in zigzag patterns and largely composed of small, white and light blue beads.


National Museum of African Art
Wood door with two distinct panels composed of a carved outline of a human figure surrounded by zigzag lines on top, with the bottom half of carved lozenges. The door is very weathered.

Female figures

National Museum of African Art
Three wood standing female figures wearing a single beaded garment with three beaded birds resting on the proper right shoulder of each figure.

Always Becoming

National Museum of the American Indian

Reliquary guardian figure

National Museum of African Art
Standing male wood figure with elongated torso and hands above his penis. The figure has an oil patina and a restored chin.


National Museum of African Art
Cast copper alloy figurative weight of four birds and six arches on a rectangular base; with two birds under end arches and two between the long sides.

Crest mask

National Museum of African Art
Wood head covered with yellow tone antelope skin with two massive curled horns covered in dark antelope skin projecting sideways from the top of the head. The basketry flange is attached to the base of the neck. Ovoid wood pegs are inserted along the hairline. There are dark circles next to the eyes.

Female figure

National Museum of African Art
Wood female torso inserted into a gourd, with hands on breasts, and an axe inserted into the top of the head. There are metal loops around the elbows, and a strand of spikey seeds around the base.


National Museum of African Art
Cast copper alloy figurative weight of two birds with beaks touching, and six arches on rectangular base. The birds are stending on the end arches.

Male figure

National Museum of African Art
Wood standing male figure on rectangular base, with proper left hand curled under the chin, and proper right hand on its chest. Body is dark, while head is lighter, with large, projecting ears and black hair. Genital area is lighter, where figure once had a cache-sexe, as evidenced in archival photograph. Old metal strap repair on base crack.

Face mask

National Museum of African Art
White faced mask with red lips, narrow slit eyes, raised scarification marks arranged in a diamond shape on the forehead and in a square shaped pattern at the temples and central lobed hairstyle with incised lines. The hairline is edged with buttons.

Helmet mask

National Museum of African Art
Wood triple-faced helmet mask with animal skin stretched over the three faces. One face has small rounded protuberances arranged in a crescent shape on the upper forehead, in a vertical line extending down to the bridge of the nose, and radiating out under the eyes and along the cheeks. The elliptical-shaped eyes are carved through (allowing the wearer to see) and ringed with tiny holes pierced through the skin covering. The face is angular with prominent cheekbones and a tapering chin. The mouth is slightly open with teeth indicated; the top incisor is cut to create a notch. The two other faces, smaller in size, more oval in shape and with a raised ridge running down the center of the forehead and the length of the nose, are distinguished by a lighter coloration and large disk-shaped protuberances ornamenting the temples and the bridge of the nose. Eyes are carved and include pupils inlaid with copper alloy. Fiber cord is threaded through holes along one side of the mask, and the edge is recessed on either side so that it can rest on the wearer's shoulders.

Diviner's bag

National Museum of African Art
Square shaped cloth bag with a strap. The front flap is decorated with multi-colored beaded designs and motifs. The background of the front flap is green. All of the faces are raised designs. The two faces in the upper left and right hand corners are composed of yellow beads with red and white beaded eyes. Each has black beaded zigzag designs on their foreheads, three black vertical beaded designs under each eye and white beads for teeth. The face in the middle foreground is dark green with red and white beaded eyes. There is a diamond shaped motif in the middle of the forehead with light blue beads at the center surrounded by white and dark blue beads. The teeth are white. This face is flanked by an orange and yellow floral pattern and two crosses, one on either side of the face. In the middle background is an orange and white beaded triangle motif with six vertical lines that appear also on the strap. The strap also has orange and green checked designs. The bag is surrounded by a silver beaded fringe. The back and inside of the bag is composed of dark blue and light blue striped cloth.

Figurative vessel

National Museum of African Art
Dark colored burnished vessel surmounted by a masked head with elaborate head gear. Vessel has a spout with a stopper at the back, handles and an additional spout at the side. The inscription "Sakadiba 1940" is inscribed on the front.

Serpent mask

National Museum of African Art
Wood mask depicting a serpent, carved of a single piece of wood and surmounted by an enormous, tapering superstructure that towers above the face mask. The entire surface is ornamented with incised geometric patterns–triangles, chevrons, zigzags, parallel and crossed lines–and painted with natural white, red and black pigments. The rounded face is that of a composite creature, with protruding, ringed eyes, a raised jagged crest that bisects the face, and a long, open snout. Two triangular-shaped holes, just above the snout, allow the wearer to see. Small pieces of animal hide–perhaps of domestic cattle or goat–are attached just above the eye openings.

Crest mask

National Museum of African Art
Wood horizontal crest mask of a stylized hippopotamus. It is distinguished by four cylindrical tusks protruding from below the rounded, gaping maw; triangular-shaped eyes carved in high relief; and a projecting headdress composed of a central raised triangle decorated with incised cross-hatchings depicting a stylized reptile, possibly a crocodile or a lizard. Deeply-cut diamond patterns, many rubbed with white pigment, ornament the headdress. The proper right side of the mask has traces of this white pigment, which is deliberately absent on the proper left side.


National Museum of African Art
Cylindrical bark box with wood lid with upward looking human head, and a stool form as the wood base.
1825-1848 of 1,923 Resources