Mary Beth recently sent me a link to Red Thread Studio, where Elaine Lipson blogs about ‘textile art, craft, culture and sustainability’. Lainie, as she is known, is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook, and The International Market for Sustainable and Green Apparel. Her work with the organic food industry and the Slow Food movement has led her to translate some of those ideas to fiber. I love this distillation of her thoughts that I found over on her blog ~
Elaine’s 10 Qualities of Slow Cloth
* Joy Slow Cloth has the possibility of joy in the process. The journey matters as much as the destination.
* Contemplation Slow Cloth can be contemplative, offering a space for meditation or contemplation in the work.
* Skill Slow Cloth involves skill that can develop over time, and with intention, has the possibility of mastery.
* Diversity Slow Cloth acknowledges the rich diversity and multicultural history of textile art.
* Teaching Slow Cloth honors its teachers and lineage even in its most contemporary expressions.
* Materials Slow Cloth is thoughtful in its use of materials and respects their source.
* Quality Slow Cloth artists, designers, crafters and artisans want to make things that last and are well-made.
* Beauty It’s in the eye of the beholder, yes, but it’s in our nature to reach for beauty and create it where we can.
* Community Slow Cloth supports community by sharing knowledge and respecting relationships.
* Expression Slow Cloth is expressive of individuals and/or cultures. The human creative force is reflected and evident in the work.
The joy of slowly sewing a wedding gown.
I recently caught up with her and asked her a few questions about her concept of Slow Cloth.
G: Has your work in the organic food industry had an impact on your thinking in the area of textile crafts?
E: Food and fiber are closely related. Cultivating plants and animals for food and clothing is the touchstone of culture and civilization. In both cases, our human instinct is to take nature’s raw materials and be creative with them to satisfy our senses, our desire for nourishment and beauty. And in both cases, we’ve industrialized and commodified production in ways that are rightfully up for serious review. Just as we learned to be aware of where our food came from and how it was produced, it’s time to take the same approach to fiber.
The idea of going back to the source, preserving and protecting regional and indigenous traditions, supporting contemporary interpretations, and taking time to celebrate the personal and communal rewards of making. That’s what inspired me to develop a set of principles for what I call Slow Cloth, but they work for all kinds of textile art and craft, and certainly for fashion as well.
G: What steps can we take to bring consciousness to the public about textile arts and crafts, similar to the Fair Trade movement for coffee and other agricultural products?
E: We’ve outsourced clothing and textile production so completely that those who make the things we buy are completely anonymous to us, and the environmental issues are invisible. I think a change is underway. The craft renaissance is allowing people to experience what it takes to make something. After you’ve made a pair of pants, you start to ask how Old Navy can sell a pair for $9.99 and make a profit, and then you begin to connect the dots. You might still buy those $9.99 pants, but at least you’re aware that it’s a choice that might not completely line up with your values.
G: There is a lot of interest is creating sustainable, green models for textile and clothing manufacturing. Where do you see the most activity currently?
E: Good certification programs are just the beginning; we also need consumer information and education that help people realize the need for sustainable production and sane consumption. ..It’s hard to look at a beautiful, silky dress or a well-loved cotton shirt and see it as a problem, so we have to identify production issues and still acknowledge that people want beautiful and comfortable garments.
….Sometimes the clothing being marketed as “sustainable” has nothing to qualify it as such. Or sometimes it’s a fabric we perceive as better, but there’s no attention to dyes and finishing or ethical labor practices.
…. In England, this movement is much more frequently referred to as ethical fashion and textiles, rather than sustainable… an ethical model–one that is responsible to all stakeholders from producer to wearer–is really what we need to create.
Slow sewing for a pieced lace applique
Stay tuned for part 2 of my interview with Lainie and The Joy of Sewing next week.
The joy of working in fine cloth