Thursday, 1 January 2015

Slow Cloth

permission to publish this chart given by Elaine Lipson

Just before Christmas I read an interesting article by Elaine Lipson about the concept of Slow Cloth. Her influential paper :The Slow Cloth Manifesto: an alternative to the politics of production is about treasuring quality and creativity in a world that seems to value mass production rather than craft.

Elaine explains how Slow Cloth has four aspects:

  • exploring how we work,
  • what we work with, 
  • why we do it
  • and where we do it in relation to other and ourselves.  

Slow cloth involves the concept of time - the time it takes to master skills, to practice and learn new skills and to work towards excellence. She makes the valid point that too many craft workshops are more concerned with selling new pieces of equipment rather than being geared for learners to develop a new skill in depth.  There is too often an emphasis on quick skills rather than making something of quality.

It is also about the continuation of cultural skills.  Skills such as weaving, are not familiar to many people and the connection to history and the meaning of these skills is sometimes not appreciated.
Our relationship to textiles has been altered by mass production and the availability of cheap clothes.

In a newspaper last year a reporter described the scene on a high street during the sales.  A woman dropped a bag of newly bought clothes but could not be bothered to pick it up as she was carrying so many other full shopping bags. The reporter found that it was full of t-shirts from a well known cut price department store.  Clothes are now considered disposable in ways that would have been unthinkable to our parents and grandparents.

The Personal Meaning of Textiles

The idea of Slow Cloth takes us back to the personal meaning of textiles.  The joy of creating something unique however small and however long it takes to make.

There is a wonderful quote in a book about Early Anglo-Saxon clothing, it is from an American re-enactor who had spent over 200 hours recreating her Anglo-Saxon cyrtel through spinning, dyeing, weaving and hand stitching,

- ' in the end it is a product of my hands, my heart and my mind and that is what really connects me to the spinners and weavers from a long time ago' (Walton Rogers, 2007, p 250).

The book finishes with the comment that we establish a direct connection between the past and the present by the pursuit of lost craft knowledge and the recreation of these forgotten skills.' (p. 251)

Slow cloth is not about a particular textile technique or a project - it is about taking time and finding the joy in learning and making.

What a good New Years resolution for 2015 - to use my heart, hands and mind to create something unique.

Happy New Year 

Susan J Foulkes 

[1] Walton Rogers, Penelope (2007) Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450 – 700, York: Council for British Archaeology.


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