Originally created in 1994, Innovations in Textiles takes place every fourth year, with a mission to elevate awareness and appreciation of textiles and textile-inspired art/design.
This year’s event runs August through November and is the largest yet. Over 45 institutions — museums, galleries, organizations and venues — will be celebrating textiles by holding exhibits, workshops, fashion shows, lectures and more.
We might not associate textiles with innovation. That term belongs to cutting edge technology, artificial intelligence and big data science. The history of textiles is almost as old as human civilization, after all. Fibers have been used in all cultures of the world to meet basic requirements of clothing and for everyday items such as ropes and fishing nets.
But let’s not forget that it was textiles and silk that financed the Italian renaissance in Venice, Florence and Genoa and gave rise to the industrial revolution in England. We might take today’s microfibers and polyester for granted, but the technology we wear is cutting edge. From intimate to essential, comfort to high fashion, factory labor to fortunes, the story of textiles is a story of human innovation and technology.
For another on the central role textiles play in our human story, just take a look at our language. Fiber-based idioms “loom” large in our everyday conversation: Stressed out? You’re “hanging by a thread.” When you’re rushing to catch a flight, do you “weave through traffic” and “catch a shuttle” to the terminal? Ever followed comment “threads” on an Internet forum, watched a Game of Thrones “spinoff” show, or “spun” a great tale? Through the millennia, the fabric of our language evolved to include many fabric references, and rightly so.
In the hands of visual artists, textile-inspired techniques become a vehicle for exploring narrative and symbolism. One of the artists in this year’s Innovations in Textiles, Sun Smith-Fôret, creates amulets using earth minerals. In her Volcano Series, semi-precious stones “erupt” from a linen volcano. The exhibit “Sun Smith-Fôret: New Work in Amuletic Sculpture” opens at Duane Reed Gallery Sept. 6. Follow the event programming at www.innovationsintextilesstl.org.