Jacquard be nimble

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The Philadelphia University show about the stories that textiles tell is chock full of interesting items, but not much by way of art or beauty–other than a Chinese Dragon robe and some Yoruba indigo adire eleko cloths (shown right), tie died with cornstarch.

The big surprises to me, other than an old Swedish storytelling scroll and a tanka, both of which took the subject of the show quite literally, were the intricate silk jacquards (a jacquard Christmas Card shown left) — jacquard labels, jacquard advertisements, and jacquard portraits and mementos (a bookmark shown just below, and then a jaquard memorial portrait).

The message of the show seemed rather confused, with the entry way devoted to the scrolls and jacquard narrative pictures; the first large room mostly devoted to how clothes reveal identity (think uniforms, clerical garb, local embroidery patterns); the next room mostly devoted to Philadelphia textile manufacturing historical artifacts like tools, samples, jacquard labels, and textile plans; and the last room a hodgepodge of old dresses, a handmade American flag, some handmade quilts and more jacquard items.

I learned some stuff, such as that most Scottish tartans were designed in the Victorian era. And I loved the paper fan with the image of “The Last Supper,” an advertisement for a funeral parlor. But why was a paper fan included in this show?

The show was kind of like one of those little museums for which the local townsfolk clear out their attics. But sometimes there are treasures amongst the old sewing machines and hatchets.

The quality certainly exceeded that, but I had trouble getting past the thrift-shop odor.

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