I spent a few hours this afternoon at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA-I was looking for inspiration and new ideas-well no surprise, I found plenty! It is such a gift to be able to spend some time alone, lost in my thoughts, taking in tons of new information and loving all of the beautiful textiles on display.
Upon first entering the museum, you are greeted by this enormous machine from the early 1870's (top right) The making of fabrics was a very laborious and somewhat tedious process back in the early days-that is until the invention of cotton which allowed for more "mass produced" textiles. Until then the vast majority of common everyday fabrics were of a linen (flax) construction
The process of carding allowed for the "untangling " of fibers clumps. This process was necessary before taking the next step in production, in which the now straightened fibers are then spun into yarns or threads. The fulling machine is literally made up of these large wooden hammers, powered by a water wheel, which "beat" the cloth fibers together to strengthen and soften the material.
There is an area on the 2nd floor of the museum where a large room is turned into a turn of the century textile mill-complete with all of the various looms, threading machines, bobbins, shuttles etc. The room gave you a real sense of what is must have been like to work in one of these large mills. There was a demonstration film of one of the machines-click clank click clank...so very loud, just this one machine. Large mills often had upwards of 500 machine on the same floor, no wonder it was common for workers to suffer partial or complete hearing loss after years working with the machines.
Currently the museum is featuring the textile designs of various modern masters including Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Picasso-just to name a few. Who knew?!-I had always thought of these artists as painters, not necessarily textile designers.
There were many designers featured in the exhibit-many of whom I had not hear of but am looking forward to learning more about their work and portfolios. Some names whose work I enjoyed include Saul Seinberg, Victor Vasarely, Fernand Leger, and Joan Miro. If you are in the Lowell, MA area I would highly recommend a visit.