October is Portland Textile Month and you’re invited to see exhibits displayed in windows or outdoor spaces throughout the city as well as participate in virtual workshops and talks to learn from artists about Oregon’s textile traditions in fine art, home goods and fashion.
There will also be socially distant community projects, such as creating a communal piece woven with any chosen material, even torn jeans, bubble wrap or flexible twigs.
The 40 events are organized by Portland’s Textile Hive, which preserves more than 40,000 culturally significant fabric swatches from around the world in the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection.
Aranow, called the Margaret Mead of textiles, is a fashion designer and textile scholar who dressed guitarist Jimi Hendrix in snakeskin bell bottoms and, a half-century later, continues to inspire new looks and influence leaders in footwear, upholstery and other trend-setting industries.
Aranow’s vast holdings, the largest digitized independent textile collection in the world, are studied by designers and educators. They want to understand historic colors, textures and patterns to “weave the future,” she says.
For Portland Textile Month, Aranow will discuss the reuse and adaptation of vintage Japanese textiles during a free virtual talk on Oct 19.
Digital archive expert Caleb Sayan, Aranow’s son, who oversees the abundance of irreplaceable materials at Textile Hive, founded Portland Textile Month three years ago.
The theme this year, Repair and Reuse, was selected to encourage everyone, those new to textiles and those intimately familiar with them, to take advantage of opportunities to connect to each other.
Sayan says collaborative projects, conducted safely during a pandemic, can make people feel less isolated and “help mend our community’s social fabric” caused by current challenges.
“This is no ordinary year,” says Sayan, who teamed up with Katen Bush of the Berber rug store Kat + Maouche and volunteers to put on the festival. “We’ve approached it humbly and with a renewed purpose to highlight beacons of Repair and Reuse among our textile community.”
The goal: To engage, express ourselves and even celebrate, he says.
Starting Oct. 1, you can view displays of furniture made from upcycled denim, an iconic Eames chair upholstered in a handwoven cactus silk rug, and “Millinery Macabre” by hat designer Dayna Pinkham.
A quilt in the window of Blackfish Gallery was inspired by 500 Oregonians explaining “What does it mean to be an American?” to Alicia Decker and Ellen Knutson of the Oregon Humanities Conversation Project.
The world-fabric flag, “Immigrants are a Golden Thread woven through the American Fabric,” at T Project is part of artist Bonnie Meltzer’s larger, interactive installation “Tikkun Olam–Mending the Social Fabric,” which is set to open at the Oregon Jewish Museum in 2021.
A virtual lecture by fiber artist Steven Frost on Oct. 5 is hosted by Portland State University Art + Design School. On Oct. 8, there will be a virtual hands-on workshop by artist Natalie Yap to show how to make a loom from packaging castoffs and weave with plastic yarn.
Learn how archetypal images and symbols add meaning to textile art and create a symbolic applique during a virtual workshop ($50) on Oct. 18 led by sculptor and arts educator Carolyn Hazel Drake.
The entire lineup of Portland Textile Month events is posted at portlandtextilemonth.com.
Here are highlights of events, starting Oct. 1:
An exhibit of the African-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt at the Oregon Historical Society Oct. 1-Nov. 2 allows viewers to learn the fascinating story of 15 African American women who completed the quilt in 1976 to celebrate 200 years of U.S. democracy and Black history.
On Oct. 15, there will be an online discussion on the quilt’s significance by one of the original quilters, Sylvia Gates Carlisle, along with Portland historian Carmen Thompson and quilt historian Mary Bywater Cross.
Each of the 30 blocks of the quilt represents an important event, individual or group in America’s Black history and the African American community in Portland’s longtime efforts to address racial discrimination and injustice.
Quilters also included the late Kathryn Hall Bogle, a journalist, social worker and community activist, and the late Gladys Sims McCoy, who was elected to the Portland Public School Board in 1970, making her the state’s first African American elected representative.
Xander Griffith’s Visions of a Felt Filled World is colorful storytelling in felt of Native American tales and folk stories. The artist, who is a member of the Cherokee nation, describes a collective group as “a chromatic stampede changing the landscape with every step.” The installation will be at Powell’s City of Books Cafe windows (1005 W. Burnside St.) from Oct. 3 to Oct. 31.
Create puppets from reclaimed fishing gear to comment about the environment and contribute to “Ghost Net Landscape: Sea Stories.” The exhibit at Crema Coffee + Bakery in Southeast Portland runs from Oct. 1-31. Artist Emily Miller and organizers say free puppet kits are available at the bakery, Kat + Maouche and Dick’s Primal Burger.
— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072