Book: Yarn, Thread, String: Making, Manufacturing and Creating by Janine Vangool

This is one of FOUR covers that come printed on the poster-like dust-jacket

Book: Yarn, Thread, String: Making, Manufacturing and Creating
by Janine Vangool
published by Uppercase Publishing, Inc., Alberta, Canada
2021

Janine Vangool publishes Uppercase Magazine and an increasingly long list of books that have specific art, craft, and design themes. Vangool’s books in her ‘Encyclopedia of Inspiration’ series are collections of profiles + portfolios showing recent work on a given theme. These types of surveys of a creative space are a huge effort to solicit, judge, layout, edit, and proofread! This gorgeous, hefty volume provides nearly 500 pages of full-color, beautifully printed, elegantly designed profiles of artists, designers, manufacturers, and suppliers working with fibers and fiber-like materials.

Vangool and her team included an impressive range of profiles, from flax farmers to wool processors, knitters to fine art portrait embroiders and macrame artists; from people who make natural dyes to those who machine knit; from people shredding used plastic bags to responsibly reuse them for a more durable purpose, to people shredding paper to turn into delicate, nearly lacy fabrics.

I appreciate the effort that went into this compilation and survey, and especially the impressive resulting range of work. Many of us only have a chance to see fiber arts if we happen to be in a region where they are being shown, or have a chance to watch fabrics being made at a textile museum. (I went to an experimental public elementary school, which means I’ve carded and spun wool, but that is a rare experience in a city!) This is a great way to showcase excellent work to a broader audience than most of these creators could otherwise reach, and to give more people a chance to see some great materials and works.

Vangool not only does a great job with the book, but also creates an embedded video for each of her publications on the Uppercase website, so you can view a video of the entire publication before you buy. That takes confidence! You can click on this Vimeo link, or on the book title just below the cover above ,to preview this book.

Summary: this is a high quality publication of some fantastic fiber art manufacturers, suppliers, designers, and fine artists. I recommend it highly if you enjoy well-designed books, textile arts, skeins of freshly dyed yarn (artfully arranged), or understanding how threads and fabrics are made.

Art: Textile design by Märta Måås-Fjetterström

I received a gorgeous postcard in the mail today from Norway; it’s a card from a retrospective art show in Sweden of the artist Märta Måås-Fjetterström. She’s famous for her amazing carpets, which have been used in Nobel Prize ceremonies, and are in design collections of museums around the world.

I was delighted to search for her, and see some of her work. Her studio is still active and producing her designs, and so there are MANY search results!

Somehow, the WSJ has one of the best-illustrated article on the operation of her studio in the present time.

I learn so much from my friendly postcard senders!

Book: Anni Albers edited by Ann Coxon, Briony Fer, and Maria Müller-Schareck

Anni Albers
edited by Ann Coxon, Briony Fer, and Maria Müller-Schareck
published by Yale University Press
2018

Anni Albers, a gorgeously printed exhibition catalog and book of essays, shows off the work of phenomenal modernist Anni Albers, and her work in design, weaving, painting, and printmaking.

Those of us who have been fans of the pre-war Bauhaus school in Germany may know her work from compilations of the school’s many famous graduates and teachers; we may also know that women were sent off into the weaving department regardless of their design interests to an extent that raises questions about the motivations of the male staff. Albers really took to it, produced some fantastic, ultra-modernist work, and raised the profile of textile design at a time when it was profoundly under-appreciated.

The hair on the back of your neck may rise up a bit when you read about the punch cards that were used to set the patterns for jacquard looms… The Bauhaus operated in a time where mass production seemed like an opportunity to democratize access to basic goods, like shoes and housewares, and that good design could directly improve day-to-day life. (Yes, of course the Nazis shut them down.)

The details of Alber’s work are beautifully reproduced in remarkably color plates, often showing both the entire work (ranging widely in scale) plus details that allow you to appreciate the craft.

And there is more to her work! As an aspiring pattern designer, I love seeing how she worked out some of her designs on grid paper. As a textile lover, the reproductions thrill me. And as a print-maker – HEY, she does those really well, too!

Details of the remarkably high quality reproductions of Alber’s sketches, textiles, typewriter art, and the lovely binding, which does my book-binder’s heart glad.

She even has some typewriter art, which makes me think of Mira Schendel (different continent, later time), and of how my fellow geeks should really appreciate where the roots of ASCII art came from. (Geek joy!)

So much of her work is understated in that she uses muted colors, or relatively few colors – it never shouts. Which means it might have a hard time getting attention in our current, loud, shiny, sequined art world – but the design is BOLD. And the quality! The detail! The attention to everything! The essays follow her career from Germany to the US; from teaching at colleges and universities; from the loom to the press. It shows evidence of her processes (which were key to the experience for her, as an artist and as a teacher), of the interests in Central/South American textiles and collecting, and of her design approaches. (There is a white-on-white printed plate that I just ADORE…) This woman had RANGE.

This is one of those, HOW COULD SHE NOT BE BETTER KNOWN, TAUGHT IN SCHOOLS, AND SHOUTED ABOUT IN CAFÉS kind of revelatory books. Albers herself was a bit frustrated that she could earn so many paid commissions, design textiles for Knoll (ooooooh!), and yet people would only get excited when she worked on paper – when she created art that could not possibly have any utilitarian application. Fabric had been seen as TOO USEFUL, even though it is a brilliant technology – its association with women goes back to ancient times (see another favorite book of mine: Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Barber), and that seems to have held textile art back. Wrongly. SO WRONGLY.

The book – essays, production, binding, range of work included – is of the highest quality. The exhibition must have been phenomenal!