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Turkish Red at the Textile Museum

The Textile Museum in Tilburg is always quietly working away at interesting projects that push the limits of textile design.  A new exhibition continues their top-notch reputation for being both practical and original.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 28-02-2013

Turkish Red is curated by Caroline Boot and includes BCXSY, Lenneke Langenhuijsen, Merel Boers / Studio Miss Blackbirdy, Minale Maeda and Studio Formafantasma.

All the designers were invited to come and study the museum’s archives as an inspiration for how to use the machines in the TextileLab in new and interesting ways.

BCXSY used a digital embroidery machine and water-soluble fabric to create tableware that boasts all the intricacy and aesthetic beauty the pair are so well regarded for.

“We spent a lot of time studying the archives of the museum,” says Cohen, “and we were drawn to the luxury and decadence of a lot of the older hand-embroidered work.”

BCXSY also looked over to paintings by the Dutch Masters and were intrigued by the fantasy.  “These days we take for granted that we can access products from across the world even at the local Albert Heijn,” says Cohen, “but back then this was impossible.  No way could the people in the paintings have everything at hand that is portrayed – these works are not realistic, but instead portray a type of idealism.”

Using white linen and a water-soluble material BCXSY worked out a way to create lace by embroidering fabric that later melts away.  “It is not that easy,” says Cohen.  “It can easily fall apart so we needed to stitch it right so it would hold together.”

They also had to come to terms with the limits and possibilities of digital embroidery. “Computerized embroidery is very different to hand –embroidery,” Cohen says.  “It's more of an 'embroidery effect' because even the most common hand stitch like the cross-stitch, is practically impossible to do on a machine.”

Of course digital embroidery does not requite the same skill and is also much very fast than traditional hand embroidery.  “That makes it ideal to experiment with,” explains Cohen.  “Hand embroidery using the complex patterns we were using on the water soluble material would be impossible.”

The computer also limits the dimensions.  “Only a surface of about 50x35cm is possible,” says Cohen, “but every technique has its restrictions and that is always the challenge.”

Lenneke Langenhuijsen wanted to create cotton blankets that showed more of the characteristics of pre-processed cotton.  Inspired by old cotton techniques in Mali, she went to outside companies to have a thick yarn (.5cm) spun and naturally dyed then used a weaving machine. Never before had such thick yarn been used in one of these machines.  “We needed to push it here and there, which was not easy, but in the end it was possible,” Langenhuijsen says.

When the finished blankets were brushed, they became hairier and fluffier resembling feshly harvested cotton.

“I think the point of the project was to not be lead by the textile machines, but to go back and think about the materials and what makes them so interesting,” explains Langenhuijsen.  “From there we could look at how to use the machines. Usually it is the other way around which probably does not get the most out of the materials.”

This approach also means that interventions at every step of the production process are possible.  Designers can manipulate the industrial process for any desired effect.

Turkish Red runs at the Textile Museum until the 26th May.

Images: main at top and top small two BCXSY, bottom four from Lenneke Langenhuijsen.

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