(Views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the Author, a narration of her experience.)
I have been fascinated for decades with all of the meanings that fiber and cloth can hold-they are a universal part of human life, and fill an almost endless number of roles in our practical, personal, emotional, social, communicative, economic, aesthetic and spiritual lives. I have worked at finding meaningful ways to both explain textiles' importance, and organize and synthesize the many disparate ideas that are part of this phenomenon. The following is the holistic framework or conceptual model I have developed that can be used to articulate and compare the meanings of textiles of any given culture or historic period. It is designed to be as inclusive as possible - to allow us to think about textiles and the roles they play in human consciousness and through the full range of human activities and concerns. As we examine a given tradition, we consider how the textiles "fit" in each of the stated arenas or realms; we look at which of them are most salient or developed how they work together, etc. The framework provides both an organizing system and a kind of checklist that allows us to approach traditions systematically. It can be used to examine a single tradition, but it is also particularly useful for cross-cultural comparisons.
This article was originally published in the 12th Biennial Symposium, Textile Society of America, 2010