How Working with Textiles Helped to Design for Metal

Design and research are at the core of what I make. I like to read, research, and write as much as possible. I also watch documentaries on a subject from different presenters just to get a well-rounded view on my design theme. Recently though I surprised myself by making a collection of textile earrings as it was the first time I had to physically work with another material in order to understand my design process.


At the beginning of this year I had been playing with a lot of themes to come up with a future collection. I thought about comparing 2 artists from different time periods and imagining their dialogue through my jewelry as a way to talk about the themes of time and place. I also thought about recreating paintings from the Italian Renaissance as a way of making the statement that art can be worn and how the human body (the wearer) is essential to the interaction of art. I dabbled with the idea of creating the clothing in metal, little bits of silver 'cloth,' to work with the idea of pushing the boundaries of what clothing and self-expression mean to us.


Most of my ideas start from these super conceptual and abstract places and then I have to strip down the complexities of an idea to communicate something that's easy to understand and follow.


When I looked back at these complex themes, I had to look for those common threads: time, place, and identity. I fell into this simpler theme of comparing cities with textiles, and there are a ton of metaphors that we use when we're talking about a place. To give you a few that I liked the most:

  • the (social) fabric of a city

  • weaving together the history of a city

  • moral fiber

  • cut from the same cloth

There are many more phrases like this that are sprinkled throughout our conversations and it was a theme I found myself really drawn to exploring.


What I learned from my experience of working with textiles was the importance of patterning, or understanding patterns. I began studying a type of fabric called brocade which was an unusual textile to work with because it clearly holds a sense of history through the pattern. What I came to find in my research on brocades (mostly from Italian Renaissance paintings) was that the patterns were specific to a wearer, they held that person's identity, and that identity was usually tied to a place. Furthermore, when you looked at the wearer, the textile pattern they were wearing in a painting for example, would also appear in the architectural details of a city. These details mimicked those patterns throughout the plazas, palaces, towers, shields, armor, frames of a painting, and/or jewelry they wore.


Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:

Do you see some of the similarities I'm talking about? These are a just several of many which is why I was eager to explore this theme.


That's it for today and thanks for reading,

Caitlin



Photos:

Top row are all my own photos from both the Uffizi Gallery and Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy. The bottom row are from Wikipedia: first painting is a cropped from Sandro Botticelli's Primavera [Uffizi]; second painting is Bronzino's Eleonora di Toledo portrait [Uffizi]; third painting is Bronzino's Constanza da Sommaia [Detroit Arts Institute].

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