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Published: 08 February 2019

By Andy Ross

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Uncommon Threads

The Wabanaki, a grouping of people on the East Coast of America and Canada, have an intriguing history not least because of the political geography of the area. Recently we added a new book to the library which is all about the textiles, clothing and costume of these people: Uncommon Threads.

Weaving, of course, played a huge part in the lives of early humans in the Americas. We have representations of clothing and garments from 28,000 years ago, and this book talks about findings of fabrics aged anywhere 9 and 12,000 years. None of these however come from this area because the climate and acidity of the ground has made much of the textile history vanish. However, there is a wonderful photograph, with a painting next to it, in the book of "ceremonial lance tips" made of slate. These pictures show, preserved on the bayonet blades, ghostly images of the twined matting which was lying beside the shafts, and these pieces are approximatley 4,000 years old. 

Sometimes it is not in the obvious places that textiles unveil their secrets. Just as in the bayonets with their shadows of twined matirial, so paintings by early European explorers preserve identities and costume. The book contains images of these first contacts and this art shows the extraordinary workmanship that went into keeping people warm and dry, and the care that was taken in making such things beautiful. Similarly, photography has hinted at the fineness and delicacy of the costume that people were wearing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This is a fascinating book, full of colour and ideas. If you would like to see it, please ask in the studio and we would be delighted to show you. The library is open to the public but it is not a lending library and publications must be used in the studio. We provide desk space, tea and coffee while you read. Please make an appointment by sending us an email - globalyell@btconnect.com - if you would like to use the library.