Textiles: an international history
Time: 11:00 - 13:00
Location: Keeley Street
This course has now finished
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What is the course about?
On this course you will study the remarkable history of one of the most overlooked yet most important aspects of material culture: the production and consumption of textiles. We wear them, sit on them, sleep on them and walk on them. But besides their most basic functions, textiles have had a huge range of social and cultural functions throughout their history in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe, not least being their ability to fashion identity and to express creativity, power and prestige.
Textile production began thousands of years ago, and we will examine surviving evidence of early techniques. We will explore the history of textiles in the Byzantine empire, and the European medieval world, when tapestries were the most highly prized art objects. We discover in the Renaissance world clothing signalled wealth so well that in some societies laws were introduced to enforce the wearing of modest attire.
We will examine the production of textiles in Africa, including Kuba, Kente and the flags of the Fante, as well as the complex cultural issues of Dutch wax prints. We will also examine textiles from the Islamic world, and the manufacture of Spitalfields Silks in London. We will also study the importance of textiles in trade and in political and cultural interchange, including the role of the Silk Road and the production of cotton fabrics, which was one of the chief drivers of the slave trade.
The Industrial Revolution was driven largely by a desire to mechanize textile production, which in turn drove advances in design in the 19th century, in which textiles played a key role. You will discover how William Morris and other members of the British Arts and Crafts Movement readdressed how textiles were designed and made. Influenced by these ideas, 20th century artists crossed into the applied arts and key painters and sculptors produced designs, including Dufy, Picasso and Henry Moore, adding further prestige to the resulting textiles.
Break week: 27/10.
What will we cover?
• You will learn about the different raw materials used for textile production and how these are made into fabrics
• You will learn about the development of textile manufacture from the earliest times to the present day, and become familiar with some of the technical terminology linked to it
• You will study the different ways in which textiles have been decorated over the centuries by means of figured weaving, printing techniques, painting, embroidery, sewing and dyeing
• You will look at examples of textiles from the Byzantine era, the European medieval era, the Ottoman empire, the Renaissance period, Safavid Iran (Persia), Tudor times, India, the United States, and many more locations
• You will examine how textiles can express identity in terms of fashion, wealth, national dress, religious dress, uniforms and flags
• You will discover the role and work of key designers in the development of modern textile design in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as William Morris, Arthur Silver, Josef Frank, Sonia Delaunay, Varvara Stepanova, Enid Marx, Lucienne Day and Althea McNish
• You will discover how textiles have been used by artists in their work, such as Christo, Anni Albers, Faith Ringgold, Tracey Emin, Yinka Shonibare and Grayson Perry
• You will discover new techniques that are being used to make and decorate textiles in the 21st century.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
By the end of this course you should be able to:
· Name at least four different raw materials used for textile production and describe how they are made into textiles
· Explain at least five different ways of applying pattern and decoration to cloth
· Identify examples of textiles from at least three African traditions
· Recognise textiles from the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Iran and the European courts of the medieval world
· Explain the significance of the Industrial Revolution in mechanising textile production and the role of the English Crafts Movement in being addressing issues generation by mass production
· Identify the work of at least three key 20th century textile designers and explain their importance.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is suitable for all levels and requires no previous experience or study of the subject.
You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, as well as demonstrations and instructions and health and safety information.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
You will be taught by lecture with slide images and you will be invited to participate in group discussion.
You will be provided with comprehensive illustrated handouts each week by your tutor to support your learning on the course; these handouts will be available on City Lit’s Google Classroom rather than being printed out for you. Each week there will be suggestions of optional follow-up reading and videos that you can watch online to supplement the class, but no formal homework is set.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
While reading lists are provided, do not feel obliged to purchase any books. Everything is covered in the handouts. You might wish to purchase a notebook for taking notes or so you can carry out brief exercises in class.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Art of the Northern Renaissance (representation of costumes and textiles in detail in paintings)
The Art and Culture of 18th Century London (includes costume, fashions and Spitalfields silks).
Liz Keevill Eyres worked as a textile designer in the fashion industry for four years and then as a magazine journalist specializing in interior design for 13 years. Her first degree was at Camberwell School of Art which she did at the same time as completing a degree in History and Art History with the Open University. Liz studied and has taught at Kingston University, where she lead modules and lectured in history of art, design history and architecture for ten years and ran study visits both at home and abroad. Liz has researched into English Modernist textile design of the 1950s and the professional practice of the provincial Edwardian architect, in particular Norwich-based architect George Skipper.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.