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Books for Textile Kids-of-All-Ages in the TLC

 

Expanding the book collection in the Weston Howland Textile Learning Center (TLC) has been a priority as the slate of activities for this hands-on room is developed. To serve the interests of our wide age-range of visitors, we offer a large variety of books, all with a common connection to textiles. I was surprised by how pervasive the underlying topic of textiles could be in such disparate book types such as mystery thrillers, self-help and wisdom-sharing books, craft and repurposing idea books, young adult novels, touchy-feely fabric books for toddlers, and a myriad of clever books for the young-at-heart with sheep as their main characters. Here are some Staff Favorites:

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry – Sampling this NY Times bestselling novel in the TLC will whet your appetite to add it to your own collection. As the book’s blurb says, the narrator “hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations.” This is a mystery thriller called “gripping” by USA Today, as well as “evocative, layered, smart, and astonishing” by others. Also consider the international bestseller Three Bags Full by Carl Hiaasen – a sheep detective story, and Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs, a #1 NY Times bestselling author of the Friday Night Knit Club series.

There are extremely clever books out now guiding us in making astonishingly cute home-made toys. Try looking at some of these:

The Big Book of Knitted Monsters – Mischievous, Lovable Toys by Rebecca Danger

Knitted Wild Animals – 15 Adorable Easy-to-Knit Toys by Sarah Keen (she has two books out with different animals)

Knitted Babes – Five Dolls & their Wardrobes to Knit and Stitch by Claire Garland (make the dolls, then create their wardrobes!)

Knitted Toy Tales – Irresistable Characters for All Ages by Laura Long (she shows you how to knit the characters in fairy tales)

Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh

Stray Sock Sewing by Daniel (make toys out of stray socks – very cute)

Happy Gloves – Charming Softy Friends Made From Colorful Gloves by Miyako Kanamori (I LOVE this book – absolutely adorable toys can be made with those stray gloves you didn’t know what to do with)

And of course, all those kids’ books that feature near and dear textile subjects like sheep, llamas, fashion, and more:

Is Your Mama a Llama by Deborah Guarino (Over a million copies sold, featured on Oprah’s Book Club for Kids)

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw & Margot Apple (these sheep are also found in later sequels like On a Ship and Take a Hike)

The Truly Terrible Horrible Sweater that Grandma Knit by Vincent Nguyen

Love from Woolly by Nina Michaels & Nicola Smee (a touch and feel book)

Tickle the Duck by Ethan Long (this one comes with a pair of gloves to do the tickling with)

Flannel Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan

Fancy Nancy – Bonjour Butterfly by Jane O’Connor (love her clothes)

Unique Monique by Maria Rousaki (she should get to know Fancy Nancy)

What! Cried Granny by Kate Lum (this granny is simply amazing!)

So, when you stop into the TLC for a little rest and relaxation after viewing the Museum, grab a book and get cozy. We bet you will find something to interest you.

Sue Bunker
Director of Education

Early Photography in the Osborne Library

 

Early photography consisted of a variety of processes, the most familiar being the daguerreotype, the ambrotype and the tintype. They were products of 19th-century experiments to capture images on paper, glass, or metal. The Osborne Library has been acquiring textile-related images since its inception and we are most excited when we can add a daguerreotype, an ambrotype and even the more common tintype to the collection. These three processes created a direct positive image that makes them one-of-a-kind.

Daguerreotypes were popular from the early 1840s until the 1860s. Making a daguerreotype was a complicated process. Suffice it to say, they are a positive image on a thin copper plate coated with silver and polished. Daguerreotypes had a relatively long exposure time. The plate was protected from damage by glass and a brass mat, as well as by a decorative hinged case or frame. Daguerreotypes were made in many different sizes and are easy to identify as they appear either as a negative or a positive depending on the angle at which they are held. Two examples from the collection are depicted below. One shows a young woman standing behind a power loom and is considered the earliest view of its kind—making it one of our prized possessions. By examining the woman’s dress and hair style, it has been dated from about 1848 through 1852. The other, from about 1850, shows the Sutton’s (Woolen) Mill in North Andover, Massachusetts.

 

The ambrotype was yet another direct positive image and was produced mainly from about 1855 to 1865 but can be found through the 1870s. It was much cheaper to produce than a daguerreotype. It consisted of a positive silver image with a collodion binder on dark glass or glass backed with velvet or black varnish. Unlike the daguerreotype it appears as a positive image no matter what the angle at which it is held. An ambrotype, like the daguerreotype, often had a decorative brass mat and was enclosed in a hinged case for protection. Below are two examples from our collection. The first pictures an elderly gentleman seated before a carding machine and is dated about 1860. A carding machine cleaned and straightened fibers in preparation for yarn manufacture. The second image, which shows the full case, is of a young woman holding a shuttle and is dated between 1862 and 1870. The case was made much earlier, in 1857, in Northampton, Mass.

 

Tintypes first appeared in the 1850s and continued to be made into the early 20th century. They were made of iron, not tin, and are sometimes called ferrotypes. Again, they are positive images but on a metal support that was lacquered black or brown. They were cheaper to produce than an ambrotype or daguerreotype so they are more easily found by collectors. Some were enclosed in cases or paper mats. If in a case, they often look like an ambrotype and the only way to tell the difference, aside from taking it apart, is to place a magnet against the glass. Here are three examples below. The first, without a mat or case, is of a young woman holding a bobbin and shuttle and was made about 1865. The second is also of a young woman holding a shuttle with her scissors hanging from a ribbon. It is surrounded by a pressed paper frame and is dated about 1870-1875. The third is cased with a decorative mat and shows two young men around 1862 placing stockings on molds.

  

Sources: Reilly, James M. Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints. [Rochester, NY]: Eastman Kodak Co., 1986. Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn, et al. Administration of Photographic Collections. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 1984.

Clare Sheridan
Librarian

Challenges, Change, Gratitude, and More Challenges

 

December 2005 was a turning point in my life. Up until the end of 2005 I had spent most of my textile career (more than 30 years) with one great family firm (Forté Cashmere Company). During that time, I was lucky enough to have the chance to travel to more than 20 countries, learn a heck of a lot about textiles, and become a world renowned expert in cashmere. The cashmere business, like many others, found its end when it essentially moved lock, stock, and barrel to China. In the case of cashmere, moving to China made a lot of sense since they grow (through their cashmere goat population) about 65% of the raw cashmere in the world. It was a turning point for me. There I was, never having the need to look for a job in over 30 years. Despite the fact that I was 51 years old, I thought finding a new job would be easy since I was so “skilled” in international trade, and why wouldn’t some firm want someone like me who was obviously so loyal? It wasn’t easy! I consulted in textiles for roughly two years, and while I liked the challenge and diversity of consulting, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I wanted to know where I was going every day and how I could contribute to the effort.

In late December 2005 I was sitting in the office of Karl Spilhaus, who I had known for about 25 years. Karl is the president of the Cashmere & Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI) (Forté was one of the founding members in 1984), an organization which I more affectionately refer to as the “cashmere police,” since one of their main jobs is to combat cashmere mislabeling. We were scheduled to do a television interview for a New York station doing a spot about cashmere mislabeling. As it turned out, the TV station mixed up the dates and did not show up, but during the wait the conversation turned to the American Textile History Museum. Karl was (and still is) a long time Trustee of the Museum and he told me about the challenges the Museum was facing at that time. He asked me if I would be interested in taking on the ATHM challenge and, anxious for a job that I could go to every day and put forth my best effort, I said yes.

The Trustees were mostly interested in my business skills. The fact that I had lots of textile knowledge was a great plus, too, but they certainly weren’t hiring me for my museum expertise. Between 2001 and 2005, interest in the Museum began to lessen following a number of successful years after the move to Lowell in 1997. Partly as a result of the lessened interest, the Museum had eroded a significant portion of its endowment, and the Trustees became very concerned about the future of the Museum. They had taken a number of draconian but necessary steps to stabilize the Museum, and, in that same December of 2005, had set a date of June 30, 2006 to come to some important decisions about the future of the Museum. A number of the alternatives were not very appealing. We (we called ourselves the “germs,” short for those responsible for germinating new ideas) formulated a plan to revitalize the Museum and move forward in the great city where the Industrial Revolution exploded: Lowell, MA. The main feature of the plan was to totally rebuild the 25,000 square foot exhibit by bringing it up to date, making it more encompassing of the whole textile industry, and making it highly interactive and fun for all ages, especially families. The Trustees voted to proceed with the plan at the May 2006 Annual Meeting and implementation began immediately. We embarked on a critical $3.9 million (really $4.9 million as it included a $1 million match) fundraising campaign and fulfilled that campaign in May 2008. We began construction in July 2008 and reopened to the public in June 2009.

All of that speaks to the great challenges we faced, and to succeed in overcoming those challenges, plenty of change had to occur. Change is often not a comfortable thing. Most of us feel better if a solid status quo exists, but if we truly dug down deep, we knew the mentality of this Museum had to change. I consider myself an optimistic realist. My optimism helps me motivate myself and others to believe we can achieve a great but very challenging outcome if we all work in harmony and believe in our common goal. The realist in me helps keep me grounded in reality (as has my business career) and hopefully won’t let me move in fanciful directions. The team that achieved our great success in June 2009 did so because we all believed we could achieve our goals and—pardon my French—we worried our derrieres off to do so. Challenges and change!

I have a special gratitude to two people without whom I don’t believe this would all have happened. I don’t mean to slight anyone’s efforts, as we all worked so hard to reach this new beginning. I also don’t mean to undervalue the critical roles the Trustees and Advisors and donors played because without them, too, none of this would have been possible. Having said all that, the two people that are due such gratitude are Diane Fagan Affleck and Linda Carpenter. More so than ever, it is appropriate to recognize them, as both of them announced their desire to retire in 2010. Their desire to retire has nothing to do with a want to leave ATHM. It’s because they are choosing to take on a more full-time role in their family life. There is nothing in life more important than family! While both of them are “leaving” ATHM, we know that they will never really leave since their hearts and souls and their enormous contributions to ATHM and the history of American textiles will live on forever. Like so many others who came before them, they lived and bled textiles.

Diane Fagan Affleck (second from right) with (from left to right) exhibit architect Doug Mund, Curator Karen Herbaugh, and President and CEO Jim Coleman.

Linda Carpenter with her uncle, Bob Caffray, at the President's Dinner.

Diane was the Director of Change and Linda the Director of Challenges. Diane understood this place needed radical change and it would take pretty significant change on her part if change was really going to take place. She carried out enormous change in helping this Museum realize its potential. This is not to say that Linda didn’t carry out tremendous change, too, as she did. Just as Diane took on any challenge put in front of her.

Linda’s challenge was to find a way to raise that $3.9/4.9 million, or all of the change we envisioned would simply be a dream. She also had the challenges of teaching me how to help succeed in that effort. Never in my business career did my job include raising money. I was always the operations guy who preferred to stay behind the scenes. Staying behind the scenes is not exactly the way to get the message out and raise the funds we needed so I/we couldn’t have succeeded without Linda’s tutelage!

I and the organization will miss them both. Their happy smiling faces (it was more difficult to get Diane to smile as much as I would like), their sage advice, and their reeling me in when I might wade in too deep. Their passion, compassion, and dedication made it so much easier for me. I’m sure I could utilize a lot more words ending in “-ion” to describe their contribution, but I’ve already blogged on a bit longer than normal and I still have a few more things to say!

As Linda and Diane well know, while we accomplished a tremendous amount here in the past five years, all we have really accomplished is to give this great place a new chance to succeed. We still have our “structural deficit,” which stands in the way of our long term success. I learned that term in early 2006, and essentially it means our endowment and earned revenues are not big enough to fund the appropriate portion of our annual operating expenses. Consequently, the outcome is to rely too heavily on fundraising. While we have not overcome that fundamental issue, with the new exhibit, new outreach, opportunity, and ability to reach out to new people, foundations, and corporations, we have a new chance to succeed. Linda and Diane helped get us to this point, and I am grateful that we have this new challenge. It will take the hard work of others to help us achieve that future success, but I’m sure with the spirit of Linda and Diane, we have a real chance to succeed!!

Jim Coleman
President and CEO

Celebrating American Tapestry Biennial 8

 

It’s always exciting whenever we open a new exhibit at the Museum. I’m amazed at the variety of shows that have been offered at ATHM since we reopened in June 2009. We’ve been treated to mesmerizing quilts, quirky aprons, a touching Cambodian tribute, beautiful haute couture, and much more. Currently, American Tapestry Biennial 8 is up in both the Lowell Sun Charities and Stevens Galleries, and I’m just as captivated.

American Tapestry Biennial 8 features 64 tapestries from 54 artists around the world. At a preview reception for the exhibit, a dozen of the featured artists were on hand to discuss the technique behind tapestry weaving and the inspiration behind the chosen pieces on display. Artists traveled from as close as New England to as far away as France to attend the reception, and it was such a pleasure to meet each of them.

 

A series of public programs is being offered in conjunction with the exhibit. The lectures are free and open to the public, no reservations required. We hope that you will join us!

Tapestry Weaving: An Artist at Work
Sunday, February 13, 2pm

Featured artist Janet Austin demonstrates the techniques used to create the venerable art form of tapestry weaving. Enjoy an opportunity to talk with the artist/weaver and see how tapestry weaving is done. See how various techniques are used and try weaving on a tapestry yourself!

Under the Influence; Or is it just Inspiration?
Sunday, March 13, 2pm

Featured artist Susan Martin-Maffei explores the effect of textile history, both of the past and personal, on the creative process and growth of her own work in tapestry. Her path, including an overseas internship, commercial studio work, and gallery conservation of antique textiles provides insights into the development of the artist/weaver of the 21st century.

Knotted Tapestries
Sunday, April 10, 2pm

Featured artist Anne Jackson makes vibrant, complex tapestries exploring contemporary ideas, often in a historical context. Focusing on her current project, “The Witchcraft Series,” her illustrated talk will cover the development of her work and take a wry look at the place of textiles in the art world.

Bodies of Work
Sunday, May 1, 2pm

Focusing on the human form in tapestry, Micala Sidore examines the history of tapestry weaving from an Andean culture in 500 BCE to the present. For both newcomers to tapestry and those in-the-know, she suggests an approach to viewing tapestries, understanding what makes them successful, and appreciating the weaver’s work.

Programming for the American Tapestry Biennial 8 is sponsored in part by the American Tapestry Alliance in association with Tapestry Weavers in New England.

Maren Caulfield
Coordinator of Membership and Development