Geometric Threads at the Exploratorium

A new summer series of events, Geometric Threads: Artisanal Takes on Pattern, Dimension, and Topology, has been put together by the Exploratorium Museum in San Francisco focusing on the appearance and use of geometric shapes in crafts, clothing and textiles. For those unfamiliar, the Exploratorium has hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art, and human perception and is housed in the Palace of Fine Arts of San Francisco.


I am rather excited by the idea of this series (on in July and August) and hope to make it over to at least one of the programs, though my calendar is getting pretty full. I am particularly interested in those that involve crochet, Japanese embroidered balls, lacemaking, and custom couture. Included in one of the programs is a showing of the paper-folding documentary, Between the Folds (2009), by Vanessa Gould, which I’ve just added it to my Netflix que.

The series is connected to the Exploritorium’s current exhibit, Geometry Playground (through September 6, 2010) and is meant to highlight “geometry found in traditional and contemporary crafts.” This will include the interrelationships of quilts; ethnic clothing, fabrics and designs (Hawaiian Ka’pa cloth, Korean maedup, Japanese temari, Islamic art, Moroccan tile) ; maritime knots & ropemaking; lacemaking; crochet; upholstery; cartography; origami and much more.

This makes sense, as the Exploritorium is more well-known for its science and math exhibits, than for art or fashion. I’m thrilled, though, the disciplines are being intermingled, and look forward to thinking specifically about textiles as three-dimensional objects. Events will take place on Saturdays in July and August. Though not mentioned in the official press release for the series, Lace (and the Lacis Museum of Berkeley, CA) will be involved in the July 3rd program.

Here are the schedule and presentation descriptions from the press release (I added the links and highlights to point out things of interested to WT readers):

July 3 & August 7 2010: Geometric Threads: Symmetry, Topology, and Handmade History, Noon-4pm

We may think of reuse, recycling, and upcycling as contemporary ideas. But textiles were once made by hand and considered much more valuable than they are today. The folk arts of lacemaking, marlinspike seamanship (ropemaking), and Japanese temari (embroidered balls) produce extraordinary symmetries and pattern; they also evolved as creative solutions for repair or reuse. Crochet, on the other hand, emerged as a less expensive alternative to other forms of lacemaking with the advent of machine-made thread in the early 1800s. Though each of these techniques developed from different needs and influences, they all begin with a simple string or cord, and result in an endless variety of elegant designs. Explore their intertwining geometries with experts and enthusiasts who continue to preserve and evolve these artisanal traditions.

Wendeanne Ke-aka Stitt

July 10 & August 14, 2010: Geometric Threads: Patterns and Tessellations, Noon-4pm

Tessellations—perfectly fitting patterns of shapes—appear in honeycombs, fish scales, pine cones, and a myriad other natural forms. They are also a popular element in many human-made designs, such as those found in Islamic art and architecture. The complex artistry of Moroccan tile mosaics, quilts, and Hawai’ian kapa cloth (created from the pounded and fermented bark of the paper mulberry tree) reflect a variety of intricate geometric designs. Watch master quilters, an expert tiler, and Hawai’ian kapa cloth artist Wendeanne Ke-aka Stitt skillfully arrange simple shapes to create exquisite patterns—then get a taste for tessellating by fitting fabric shapes together into your own mesmerizing designs.

Ke Alo Ha via Snyderman Works Gallery

July 17 & July 31, 2010: Geometric Threads: Moving Between Dimensions, Noon-4pm

The expert artisans who make our clothes and furniture use geometry everyday. See master upholsterer Mike Boloyan and an expert clothing designer share the skills and techniques they use to transform two-dimensional fabrics into striking, three-dimensional pieces of furniture or custom-made couture. Afterward, an exploration of cartography will reverse the process—flattening three-dimensional terrain into a two-dimensional map.

July 24, 2010: Geometric Threads: Form and Fold, Noon-4pm

Supplied with 3 or more points and lines, we can make a myriad of shapes called polygons. These closed figures include triangles, pentagons, nonegons, and more. Joined together, polygons create an amazing array of patterns found in nature and in handicrafts such as weaving and origami, the Japanese art of paperfolding. For this special presentation, expert geometer and origami impresario Chris Palmer shares his marvelous techniques for folding elaborate forms in paper and silk, while master weavers demonstrate their skills at interlacing patterns. Between the Folds (2009), by Vanessa Gould, will also be shown. This award-winning documentary explores the creative world of master paperfolders—and features the work of Chris Palmer himself. Should inspiration strike, you’ll have a chance to play with shapes and patterns of your own.

August 21, 2010: Geometric Threads: Forms in Nature, Noon-4pm

Curved forms and surfaces found in the natural world have long been evoked in art—especially in the textile arts. Crochet, popularized in the 1800s, crafts fabric from yarn or thread, one loop at a time, with the help of a crochet hook. Familiar for its lacelike patterns seen in everyday objects such as sweaters and throws, crochet has also been used to create sculptures and mathematical models of hyperbolic surfaces that recall the ruffled edges of kale or coral. Meet expert fiber artists who not only capture the color and shapes of curvaceous species but who also support their conservation through the re-use of recycled materials. Learn how their one-of-a-kind sculptures are crocheted from plastic bags and other commonplace materials.

Note: All images (and credits) available at Geometric Threads. (*This image came from the Go There Guide)

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