Now, THIS is a book! Author Beverly Gordon takes a holistic approach to the story of cloth that delves deep into the spiritual, social and cultural meaning and significance of textiles. She has a PhD in textile history, and is on faculty at University of Wisconsin/Madison, but her intellectual rigour is matched by her lifelong passion for cloth, gained through hands on experience.
She credits Elizabeth Barbour's Women's Work: The First 10,000 Years and Annette Weiener and Jane Schneider's Cloth and Human Experience as laying the ground work for her own book. I often refer to those earlier volumes, and I expect the Textiles: The Whole Story will soon gain the same well-thumbed status.
Chapter titles are evocative: "The Very Fabric of Existence: Textiles in human consciousness"; "Living on the Earth: Textiles and human survival"; "Textiles and the Spirit: The sacred, spiritual and healing significance of cloth." Gordon's writing is juicy and rich - not painfully academic. I imagine she is a wonderful teacher. How many would compare Maslow's hierarchy of needs to the system of chakras, in terms of fabric, and have it make sense?
Like all Thames and Hudson books, this one is beautifully designed and printed, with a wealth of colour photographs. Examples are run the gamut from very early historial pieces to contemporary works, and most are new to me - (much as I appreciate the Pasryk carpet or the Bayeaux Tapestry, I don't really need to see another picture of them.) There are copious notes, and a huge bibliography, which are like catnip to my research nerd self.
I just received Textiles:The Whole Story as an early Christmas present, and I look forward to spending this rainy weekend snuggled in bed with it and a cup of tea. Heaven!
It's expensive ($69 Canadian) but so, so worth it.