Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Peck - Interwoven Globe

I never actually watched  Bueller.  I could not identify with it. With a few notable exceptions,  I did not go to class in high school.  I would go to home-room for roll call, and then I was more or less free for the day.

On the other hand, calculus class was small (4 students), and the teacher both very smart and very well qualified, so calculus was a delight.  I never missed that class. There was no place I would rather be. There was nothing I would rather do. I did not aspire to be Bueller!

Peck edited  Interwoven Globe, a beautiful book on the history of textiles with chapters by Peck, Guy, Phipps, Denney, Sardar,  and Watt.  In a previous post, in this blog, I noted  that perhaps the most interesting thing in the book was a footnote to Phipps's chapter on the Iberian Globe. It is the "Black Swan" that tells us that circa 1500, textile production in Europe was undergoing a revolution.

And, then the next 6 chapters in the book is a superficial catalog of fabric objects. There is a long chapter on tapestries. (In the Louvre bookstore, the book is actually shelved with the books on tapestries.) This is all very interesting, but there was a revolution in textile production during that time period (1500 - 1800) that affected politics, economics, and social welfare; that the book completely ignores.  The authors are more interested in nuances of  dye print patterns, than in how the base fabric is made. However, understanding base fabric is essential to understanding dye print technology, which is essential to understanding  nuances of  dye print patterns patterns.

This book is like most textile history books; there are a lot of observations, but no thought about what they mean.  It is such a beautiful book.  I am sure that all the folks that love the Ferris Bueller movie will love the book.

I have a very different take away.  The book fascinates me for what it does not say; and, the questions that it fails to raise.  Every  object raises the questions, "How did they make that object?"  and "Could I make that object with the technology base and infrastructure that they had?"  If I can not answer those two questions, then I either do not understand the object or I do not understand their technology base and infrastructure.  Certainly, sometimes we do not understand the objects. However, sometimes it is clear that we have absolutely failed to understand the technology base. That is, they had tools we do not recognize.  Sometimes, we just have to say, that if they had these objects, they must have had those tools. And that logic is valid until someone shows us how to make such object, without those tools.

 Look at the photo of the sample book on page 283; and, we can know by the 1771 date that they are hand combed, hand spun, wool fabrics.  They are producing commercial volumes of  a variety of different fabrics, and they are offering to sell substantial volumes of these fabrics.  If they were able to spin like that (quality and volume), then every competent hand spinner should able to spin like that.  That page gives me a baseline for reasonable minimum skill for a hand spinner (and weaver.)  Moving on, objects such as the great tapestries were the result of industrial scale factories. Hundreds of  spinners, spun for their entire career to produce edition after edition of these works, all produced from the same cartoon and woven on the same looms for a period of ~120 years.  The yarns contained silk, silver, and gold.  If hundreds of spinners could spin like that for generation after generation, then I should be able to spin like that. Note the cottons from India and the silks from China.  If they could spin like that, then I should be able to spin like that. These materials were mostly produced in commercial quantities by professional production spinners.  
with respect to the cottons, we need to remember that printing is inherently a technology of mass production.  If they were printing, they were producing commercial quantities.  Let us call all spinners producing yarn for these commercial weavers  "competent spinners".  Individual spinners with talent and elan could be expected to produce small quantities that were at least 2 standard derivations better. Let us call these "expert spinners".

I see Interwoven Globe as an outline of the skills that a competent hand spinner should have.  I do not see why a hand spinner in 2013 should not be held to the same standards as spinner in 1770.  Looking at British Law, it appears that circa 1600, spinning schools were expected to produce a competent spinner in only 2 years - call it 5,000 or 6,000 hours of instruction and practice.  Does that number seem familiar?

The spinners that made the objects in Interwoven Globe set a standard.  If I am going to call myself a traditional spinner, I need to meet their standard.  What other modern spinners do is not my problem. My problem is to understand  the traditional standard and try to meet it.


Anonymous said...

Aaron. Take a deep, deep breath. Now go to Amazon and search for "textile history." Go ahead. We'll wait.

Now, how many results did you get? Really? Me, too. How many of those results have you read? Hmm. Now, use your super math skills to figure out how accurate an overview you might have of this field from the percentage of it which you have actually sampled. Go ahead. We'll wait again.

Now go get yourself some Elizabeth Barber. Read it. Get some more and read that, too. Look at her co-authors and read some of their work. When you figure out that one swallow does not a summer make, nor one book an expert... then we can talk about history.

Anonymous said...

Not going to publish that one, Aaron?

Anonymous said...

Aaron, do you understand that "Interwoven Globe" is a catalog of an exhibition? It's neither a teaching text nor a collection of research papers... it is, in fact, supposed to be precisely what you object to: primarily descriptive.

This is why people become irritated with you, I suspect. You don't examine a subject carefully or in detail and then you make sweeping generalizations about what "everybody" thinks or what "all historians" say. For example, your Rapunzel story is not only old hat, it's simplistic and uninformed old hat. See Jane Schneider. You can exchange ideas and share your thoughts without coming across so poorly if you learn to use language a little better. More "I think" and less "no one else thinks."

In reality, you haven't familiarized yourself with this field of study at all. And you should. Since the early nineties there have been some brilliant advances in thinking and research methods. You'd really enjoy it.

Aaron said...

I choose my teachers with care.
Asimov, Dr. Grill, Dr. Forrester, Drs. Meadows, Dr. Long, C. J Date, Gus Benz, Steve Weil, . . .

and "Anonymous" is just not on the list.

If Anonymous can make objects as good as those in Peck, I would grant that she is an average competent textile worker.

I sat down with the best of the best, and 4 days later one exam question flunked out 95% of the students in the program. Many had read more than I, but I had thought more about what I had read. People that survived that 4 year program, had absolute, unshakable confidence in their skills. At one point, I wrote a 3 page memo that received more than 1,000 negative comments from management above me. My response to those comments took up two file drawers. The management team ultimate got a $10 million performance bonus as a result the cost savings produced by that memo. We saved taxpayers $5 billion. We cleaned up bad stuff better, faster, cheaper. I still love that motto.

Harold Wilson said...

Aaron, I am interested that you assume Anonymous is a she. Why is that?

Aaron said...

Anonymous is likely many. Most spinners are women. Therefore Anonymous is mostly female.

Some Anonymous have style similar to females on Raverly.