News / Women

In Praise of Fabric and Textile Arts and the Women who Create Them

It seems as though 'Fabric or Textile Arts' are attracting much more attention lately.  I myself have a somewhat new found appreciation for this often under-appreciated art form, so I'm quite happy to see the Textile Arts seemingly  enjoy a resurgence of sorts. 

I wonder if the past disregard for these beautiful pieces is because they were created almost entirely by women and girls and they were used by women in the day to day running of the home.  I really have no idea but I'm certain there is a women's studies thesis out there somewhere that can link this theory.   

Needlepoint, weaving, knitting, embroidery, tapestry....all examples of skills that have historically been passed down through generations of women.  The imagination, creativity, level of skill, and attention to the smallest of detail are evident when you look closely and try to imagine the time it would have taken to create these truly one of a kind works of art.

The era in which women were expected to have and to devote the time and effort in creating these pieces is long past but that doesn't in any way lessen my own appreciation for the lovely pieces they were able to create.  From the simple stitch samplers young school girls worked on to practice and perfect their stitches, to hand tatted lace, elegant embroidered fabrics, and stitched/woven works of wall art, these pieces are becoming scarcer as the years go by. 

The fabric arts for sale from WithAPast range from vintage to antique.  Each is a beautiful example of a bygone time and an important historical nod to the work of women who came before us.  Look closely at a sample of this creative and skilled art form when you have a chance.  You'll likely be as blown away as I am when you pause and try to imagine the time and skill required to create these one of a kind treasures.

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Treasure Hunting, Persistence & Zimbabwe

I feel like a treasure hunter.

For the most part, I buy things that catch my interest and capture my imagination and I assume they will do the same for others.  Sometimes they do.  Not always though.  My end goal is to purchase items I'll be able to sell and it seems I have the most success buying and selling what I like. 

My approach is probably a little unorthodox but I buy what I can afford, what I like, and what looks a bit different.  Usually in that order.  The treasure hunter part comes in when I get my purchase home and do some research into what it is and where it came from. 

The computer geek in me gets an enormous sense of satisfaction from solving the puzzle of what something actually is, where it originated, how old it is and what the value might be.   The history buff in me is thrilled to discover a bit about the history of a specific piece, what it may originally have been used for, and a bit about the time and place it was produced in. 

A few months back, I bought a sculpture from an online estate sale.  There were only a few photos of the piece and they were not the best quality. The description of the piece was very vague, simply stating 'Stone Sculpture - Heavy' and the dimensions were incorrect.  Something about this piece captured my imagination, in spite of the lack of detailed, quality photos. Very few people seemed to be interested, and I had the winning bid.  It was fairly challenging picking it up and getting it home as I was very surprised to discover it was much larger and heavier than described in the listing.  It weighs 137 pounds, to be exact.  It was also much more beautiful than was evident in the listing!

The size and weight made it difficult to research and I was told, after sending photos to a few people for appraisal purposes, that likely its highest value was in my own appreciation of the sculpture.   A kind way to say that it has no real value, I think.  I was intrigued though and wanted to know more about the sculptor and where it came from.  So, I did my own research and after many, many hours of searching, I've discovered the origins of the piece that makes me smile every time I walk past it.

It's a lovely example of Zimbabwe Shona sculpture, so named because they are created by the Shona of Zimbabwe. The Shona people have been hand sculpting stone into works of art for nearly a thousand years.  The name Zimbabwe is derived from the Shona word which means 'house of stone'.   

Even more exciting to me, was learning that the piece I wrestled to get into my house and struggled to research, was created by the one and only, Colleen Madamombe.  Ms. Madamombe, who died in 2009, was one of only a handful of women sculptors in Zimbabwe, and often considered among the very best. Her sculptures are said to highlight the special qualities of Shona women, as well as to communicate the inequities that affect their lives and status. 

The feminist in me is a bit in awe that one of her sculptures is at this moment, in my living room.  How cool is that?  Most certainly a treasure found!

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