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Considered Cloth

Textiles: why I am compelled to weave, stitch, spin, dye

A brief personal textile history

At the age of 10, my mother and I moved to Union, South Carolina. It was the early 1980's and the image below brings a distant memory back to life. Buffalo Mill was one of the primary employers of the parents for many of my friends from school. I vividly remember driving past this mill on a regular basis, not knowing what transpired behind the brick walls, or the history of King Cotton in South Carolina, or the racial injustices that were a part of industrialized production of cloth, or labor in the South. I was 10 years old, and a Yankee as my school mates constantly jeered.

Buffalo Cotton Textile Mill, Mill Building, SC Route 215, Buffalo, Union County, SC

I lived on a row of mill houses that were originally built for workers as a part of a mill village. The particular house I lived in originally did not have indoor plumping or a kitchen. These rooms were added on later. The house was meant to fit two families, the pre-cursor to a duplex, but closer to indentured servant quarters. I was too young to pay too much attention to all of this at the time, and gleefully wandered the street, looking for other kids to play some sort of game, or sneak over to the other side of the street to shop at the candy store.

A present day mill house near Laurens Mill, Laurens, South Carolina.

Many people who find themselves weaving cloth today may do so from an interest in historical production or from a sense of nostalgia. Maybe they have an important family member (most likely a grandmother, aunt, etc.) that inspired their journey as textile processes such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, etc. are extremely accessible. While I, too, had a very influential grandmother who sewed clothes for me, I never felt compelled to explore textiles as a creative practice. My goal was to escape any association with textile making as I associated weaving with the hard labor of industrialized production. Long hours, unstable and unreliable income as workers were either working around the clock or not at all did not sound like a future I wanted to embrace. Yet, fast forward to my second semester at the School of the Art Institute, and I found the course listing Intro to Woven Structures a comforting sight. I tenaciously held strong, unwilling to take no for an answer from the instructor, Anne Wilson, who said that no more than 20 students could possibly take the class. For some unknown reason, I knew that the room full of looms were calling out to me and I was at home.

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I remember the day we drove around taking pics of mills and mill houses. It was a fun day.

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