Friday, October 26, 2012



“By the pricking of my thumbs-something wicked this way comes”
                Act IV Scene I  Macbeth

Halloween was always my favorite of all holidays.  I grew up in a small town and for two nights we could go trick-or-treating.  Nearly every porch light was on, indicating CANDY !  We would plan our itinerary around the houses with the best treat history (one man gave out nickels, so he was nearly always first.  5 cents won’t but a candy bar now, but back in the day…) My favorite treat was, and still is, tooth rotting candy corn.  Did you know that Oct 30th is national candy corn day?

But the real excitement was the choice of costumes.  Of course then, many costumes were home-made.  Also was the fact that it could be quite cold and a costume had to fit over a bulky jacket, eliminating tutus and other fairy outfits.  The history of wearing costumes is an old one.  Costumes both conceal one’s identity (necessary for holding up convenience stores) and reveal the personality and interests of the wearer.  It is fun to  engage children in a conversation regarding their upcoming choice of costumes.  As I have stated before I volunteer at our library’s children’s room and for several weeks now the main topic was not what are you going to wear but what you are going to be, indicating that, at least to children, a costume transforms them into princesses or super heroes.

Cotton, France, c 1880

Cotton, USA, c1930's

Cotton. England, c1875

Cotton, USA, 1950's

But children aren’t the only costume wearers.  According to Real Simple Magazine (Oct. 2012) “$310 million is the estimated amount Americans spent last year on pet costumes”.  There must be money out there somewhere.   The Wall Street Journal ( Wednesday, Oct.24, 2012) reported the best selling pet costumes by region: Northwest and Northeast, Bee; Midwest, Frog; Southeast, Lion; Southwest, Lady bug; and Mid South, Pumpkin.

So go out to your big box store, buy treats and turn on your porch light.  Maybe you should invite some neighbors in after the kids are in bed (costumes required) and finish off the left over candy and carve a pumpkin or two.

Photograph, Karen Tischer

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Starry, Starry Night

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, June, 1889
  Starry, Starry Night  "Paint your palette blue and grey" ,  Don McLean, "Vincent"

Living in New Mexico reveals the beauty of nature in a much different way that I had ever experienced living elsewhere.  One very special experience is called The Night Sky.  Looking up to the dark, night sky reveals an unbelievable cascade of stars, so many, that it appears as if thousands (no, hundreds of thousands) grains of white sand have been thrown up into the sky.  This is possible due to the altitude, lack of pollution and legislation passed by New Mexico in 1978 called the Night Sky Protection Act.  The purpose of this act “is to regulate outdoor night lighting fixtures to preserve and enhance the state’s dark sky…”  Without the distraction of glaring spotlights and neon signs (even the type of lighting for street lights is regulated) the night sky becomes a small glimpse of the universe, of the cosmos. While beautiful, for me, it is also frightening.  I simply cannot wrap my mind around the concept of infinity, of the concept of never-ending space.

I have a friend who not only is fascinated with these concepts, she embraces them into one of the most incredible forms of textile art. 

Debbe Goldberg’s petit point tapestries

 Like a Hurricane
 Happines Runs

 Here Comes the Sun

According her artist’s statement, Debbe states “My tapestries and the universe have become one and the same for me. Petit point is my art and space is my muse.  Each work is preceded by immersion in the most current images returned to earth by orbiting telescopes.  After being drawn to a particular subject I find as much information on the topic as possible before I attempt to capture its grandeur…(My process) begins with my research and ends when I have interpreted the image and its science.”

To read Debbe’s biography and view her gallery of tapestries please visit her website

Friday, October 12, 2012

Autumn Gardens and the Textile Museum

Autumn gardens are lovely riots of color, unlike the quiet spring gardens of pastel flowers.  Acres of pumpkins and fields of asters and sunflowers.

Today, I wish to write about another garden: “The Sultan’s Garden”, an exhibition at The Textile Museum of Washington, D.C., through March 10, 2013.

Opening reception for The Sultan’s Garden at the Textile Museum

Art of the Ottoman Empire exemplifies the wealth and influence of an empire that spanned three continents and seven centuries.  Beginning in the mid 16th C Ottoman art changed from the “saz” style characterized by calligraphic and elaborate imagery and Chinese influences to a highly stylized floral bouquet of tulips, roses, carnations and other flowers. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificient and his vizier, Rustem Pasa along with an apprentice, Kara Memi, who rose to run the royal studio of design, supported this change, which would become vastly popular and extended far beyond the royal courts.  This artistic style would reach throughout the Ottoman Empire, through Spain and Northern Africa as well as Europe and Asia.  The Arabic influence in Spain would then be transported to Spain’s possessions in the new world and these magnificent images of flowers still live in the textiles of this tradition: velvets, silks and carpets.
The exhibition catalog by Walter B. Denny and Sumru Belger Krody is available in the Textile Museum Shop.


These books are good sources of Ottoman textiles

Flowers of Silk and Gold, Sumru Belger Krody, The Textile Museum, Washington, DC, 2000
Ottoman Embroidery, Marianne Ellis & Jennifer Wearden, V&A Publications, Harry N. Abrams, 2001

The Textile Museum is located at 2320 S Street in a lovely Georgian-style house in a quiet DC neighborhood.  Founded in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, a textile expert and collector, the Museum is actually housed in Myers’ family home.  While this is all lovely, the reality is that the museum is small and lacks sufficient space for storage, conservation and research.  This month there will be ground-breaking for a new 35,000 sq ft facility on the campus of George Washington University on the corner of G and 21st Street.  Also GWU will construct an additional 20,000 sq ft building for conservation and research on its campus in Loudon Co., VA.  Until the completion scheduled for 2014, the collection will remain in it present location.

For more information about the museum and membership benefits contact

Thursday, October 4, 2012

National Museum of Natural History Support Center

National Museum of Natural History Support Center

Last week I wrote about attending the Textile Society of America’s 13th biennial symposium in Washington, D.C.  One of the extra activities available to attendees was a site seminar and I chose to visit the National Museum of Natural History Support Center in Suitland, Maryland.  I’m sure every visitor to our capital visits the Smithsonian Institute Museums on the mall.  One could certainly spend weeks at these splendid sites.  Thousands of items of every description are on display at each of the museums, but when one thinks about it, you realize that there must be much, much more stored behind the scenes for study, conservation and preservation.

At the study center we had the opportunity to visit with the anthropology department and view only the smallest number of their extensive collection (over 1,000,000 +).

I will let my photos speak for the experience.

From the conference hotel in D.C. we board our bus for Suitland, Maryland

 Study room at the center

As you can see we could closely examine and photograph, but, of course, no touching!

In the 1850's, federal law required Presidents to give the museum any diplomatic gifts they receive from foreign countries.  This magnificent silk brocade was a gift from the Queen of Madagascar to President Grover Cleveland

Kashmir shawls and the accompanying documentation presented to President Van Buren

Rolls of textiles in storage

Commodore Perry received many textiles on his diplomatic visits to Japan, including dolls and these lovely fans.

I took many photos of the collection which I will share as illustrations of other topics in future blogs.

I wish to thank the staff of the center for their hospitality and the sharing of their knowledge. 
 It is possible for researchers to visit the study center for individual study and groups can be accommodated with advanced notice.