Textilis

Back in my Manhattan days, one of my circles of friends consisted of a soap star, my dearest friend who knew everyone in the '70's before growing tired of that, and an artist who got one of those high paying jobs that required even higher expenses. She left for NM, and I hear that she has really taken to the life there. This is why I am rather curious about New Mexico. And when I saw one of the unusual forms of housing almost typical of that state - namely, an 'earthship' - on the television (I read this reasonably informative article afterwards), I again recalled the end of Moon and Sixpence, where Captain Brunot describes how he, too, is an artist, though his medium, instead of being paint, was life itself:
"Evidemment, it is not exciting on my island, and we are very far from the world—imagine, it takes me four days to come to Tahiti—but we are happy there. It is given to few men to attempt a work and to achieve it. Our life is simple and innocent. We are untouched by ambition, and what pride we have is due only to our contemplation of the work of our hands. Malice cannot touch us, nor envy attack. Ah, mon cher monsieur, they talk of the blessedness of labour, and it is a meaningless phrase, but to me it has the most intense significance. I am a happy man."
Textilis or textile, of techne, is connected with work - art, structures, carpenters, and axes, though its root means simply to 'make'. I like to think of the weaving in textile to come from the network inherent at its root. Interestingly, one of the promises in Moon and Sixpence is that travelling to a different culture can give on a certain peace of mind - so work, then, is enabled by the warp and weave of geography.


As a small thing, I would often find myself being taken down the lengths of factories where weaving was still being done at huge wooden looms, and I remember that special shuttling clack, kop kun ka, kop kun ma ka. I remember, too, the old spools being cast away despite objection and finding refuge in our home. I remember the thousands of little cocoons from the silk farm, something my imagination, or memory, associates with little worm carcasses; those little cocoons always made me so sad. The silk an immensely luxurious prize, that cost a life, even if small.
One of the books that strangely came all this time and distance with me is Francois Boucher's 10,000 Years of Fashion. I have become deeply disappointed in that book for omitting South America, with all of the communication sometimes literally tied in to textile - as in the quipu, the Spaniards thought to contain numerical information. However, Boucher does write about "the vocabulary of clothing" - like armorial bearings. Even when I was a child, clothes connoted more than they do today, in this age of false luxury fueled by slave labour.
Once upon a time, clothes carried very specific messages. The geometric patterns in pre-hispanic textiles, and pottery, of Chile are the same as the Chilean geoglyphs. What message they bore, one can only wonder, but it is rather interesting to meditate upon the idea that the geoglyphs bordered the llama trails. The symbols literally woven in to the landscape. And what a landscape it was: the location of the Chinchorro mummies in the Atacama desert, the driest place in the world.
A native of that place once said of modern mining: "My grandfather was a miner. Don't tell me we need these modern sources of mining." Science is a great thing: surely it affords other ways. The same man said that the Chilean geoglyphs were being erased by cars. It seems that one cannot educate mankind fast enough to save what he already has.
And thus we come to the textile of abode. The networks we weave into or over the earth's surface. To look at the modern world is to take it for granted, as the only possible way. To look at the past or to different cultures is to be astounded at the paths that have been erased.



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