Through the ages, as our species grew dexterous in the hand, we began to form cloth. Skins and twisted sinew, plant fibers combed into primitive strings. Needles made from rock and bone. Our ancestors were resourceful, padding and protecting themselves with only the closest resources at hand. Tools and ideas born straight from the earth.
We can imagine, as these beings slowly donned wisdom drawn from landscape and cosmos, that gratitude for Earth’s offerings bound itself to those early threads. Our bond with the environment is written into the early foundation of fabric.
Those germinal forays into cloth were millennia away from the discoveries that have brought us tech-laden fabrics and synthetic fibers. Innovation and consciousness in textile making layer like geological strata: the earliest cloth and the thoughts it is imbued with a foundation, holding up the future. Today, we have moved away from textile know-how as a common practice. So too, has the distance grown in our relationship to the planet. That ancestral wisdom and gratitude lives many layers paved over, inaccessible to many.
The artists, stories and practices included here remind us that to know ourselves, we must look to the landscape. We can repair, add equity, learn to see each other there. We can employ the natural colors found in plants and combine them with communal efforts to bring racial justice. We can seek cleaner supply chains. We can look to indigenous cultures, preserving their wisdom and craft.
These artists root a kind of umbilicus to that earthy, primordial wisdom, absorbing that knowledge and offering it to us through their craft. What can we learn from their practices? One thing is certain: These artists are reverent, and they wish to remind us of our origin and express their hope for our future, as they weave, stitch and create.
We see this Earth issue as a garden, abloom with the visual efforts and voices of many. Ironically, it is technology that offers it to you digitally. It is up to your dexterous fingers to move you through it. But we invite you in. Don your foraging apron, there is much to gather. Learn to see the cloth that you own, not as a static thing, but as part of a cycle (economic or soil) born of the earth, and on its way back. Feel the ideas and terrain beneath your feet as you tread.
—Jordana Munk Martin