I gained a new perspective on fabric patterns from the Handwork Around the World class with Gerda Kramer. I am not a textile artist, yet I was intrigued with the explanation Gerda gave on how geography and the spirit world determined the fabric patterns of cultures around the world.
In looking at fabrics, there is an interweaving of yarns that must happen for the cloth to be created, and the patterns to emerge. If you have woven on a loom before, or did some card weaving, or other weaving craft, that was bonehead info for you - sorry! Anyway, so there is a warp (the up and down fibers) and the weft (the left and right fibers).
Correlating the vertical fibers as forces from the spirit world and the horizontal fibers as forces from the earthen plane, you get this intersection, this weaving of both worlds. Cool, eh? So because the earth is round, those spirit forces touch the continents with varying degrees of presence and consciousness.
How does that translate to textiles?
Well, for example, the cultures near the North Pole, say the Eskimos or Inuits, with strong spirit forces emanating from above, have clothing that are predominantly light or dark with minimal adornments and woven vertical elements. In fact, the fabric is not woven at all, but are largely animal hides.
The tartans of Scotland, coming from a geographical region that is about equidistant from the equator and the pole, have equal doses of vertical spirit fibers and horizontal earth fibers.
Asian countries, such as Japan, with strong earth forces, yet ties to the spiritual world, has fabrics that depict natural objects such as flowers and landscapes, and at the same time shows a refinement of technique and a striving for a spiritual, meditative quality.
In Africa, lying below the equatorial plane, fabrics have very organic patterns, colored with natural earth dyes, demostrating very strong earth forces and weaker spirit forces at work.
Here in North America, Gerda said the forces are balanced. This balance, before modernization, was evident in the cultures of the Native Americans. In their clothing, reverence for nature was clear, and to me, the spiritual world, for the Native Americans, resided in the the earth, the earth spirit. (Through another blog post, I want to address the question that was raised in class: why were they conquered so easily? I have my own thoughts, and I will share it with you shortly. )