The building of a library. A textile library. A blue textile library.
I just finished cataloguing over 300 Exhibition Catalogs in the library. Different from the more fixed qualities of larger book projects, printed exhibition matter feels current and cutting-edge – a fresh response to a theme or period in time.
As a librarian and archivist I can sense something’s historical richness and research value. These particular materials were originally gathered over a lifetime by textile artist and teacher Carol Westfall, and arrived at BLUE as part of her acquired library in 2017. I was profoundly impressed by the breadth and depth of the collection, in addition to the wealth of creativity and skill so vividly on display. Primarily ranging from the 1970s-2010s, with some dating back to the 1950s, the collection is a sweeping survey of avant-garde fiber art and artists. The catalogs trace the evolution of the fiber art movement, and simultaneously highlight interesting work being done in the overlapping fields of fashion, paper art, basketry, soft sculpture and other handcraft, thereby firmly positioning fiber as a relevant medium in the historical canon of craft.
Quite possibly the first seedling is passion: cloth. Cloth and all of its mysteries, how and where was it made? For what reason? How indispensable was its role in a human’s life?
Next, a verb. Collecting. Gathering, amassing, sometimes hoarding. But not random hoarding. Hoarding with a purpose.
After a time there exists an archive, a treasury, a vault. A secret place glittering with correlated information.
Not to be forgotten is the essential notion of scope. Parameters. Matter which is linked by its relatedness. Scope is a reason for being. Scope is a means to understanding.
BLUE: TATTER Textile Library is a deep blue physical space, home to thousands of volumes of printed materials, catalogued and shelved alongside hundreds of blue, textile-related objects. Stirring the tactile within us, the objects converse with the books, serving to illustrate their pages, manifesting the stories and techniques within.
Immersing oneself in a library is akin to the alchemical process of the dye bath; as undyed hemp might descend irreversibly into the blackest ink of the indigo vat, so may a library transform a person – forever altering the direction of thought, and therefore, the future.
I am part maker, part collector, part legacy torch-bearer. I was raised to value cloth and the innovation and human labor behind it. In my childhood, specific fabrics or garments personified unforgettable moments, where I remembered not what was said, but rather, what I was wrapped in. Not so much the location of the happening as how its cloth interior was arranged. The authors on my shelves are each themselves a library – a life spent gathering, editing, and finally presenting information.
And so I give you this library. This blatantly blue room. A product of my collecting, my connecting, my love of blue, and my memory.
Jordana Munk Martin
is the founder of TATTER and its BLUE Library.
Want to have a conversation about cloth? Contact her at Jordana@tatter.org