Research Trip to The British Museum

Although my fabric collages have been successful, I felt that I could develop my research to understand how textile materials were used to visually describe morals among different communities. Today’s research trip was therefore an opportunity to study artefacts from a range of different countries, but also to gain inspiration from colour pallets and pattern within each section.

I started by visiting the Ancient Egyptian gallery as this has been of interest through the initial stages of this project. The collection is extensive, holding a range of different artefacts from sculpture to mummies. My study was mainly focused on the hieroglyphics and the decorations which were crafted onto mummy masks and tombs. The gallery doesn’t hold any form of textiles, yet the patterns of the language and wall paintings were of great interest. Within the life after death section, the audience gained a real sense of the strong spiritual beliefs of the culture through funeral rituals. Texts were important in bringing about transitions from death to gain new life, these included prayers and hymns to the Gods in order to protect the dead. These are now messages which have become lost within translation, and are now limited to visual admiration.

This research was useful to look at the power of visual languages and portraying messages through illustrative means. Yet, this section did not offer any developments to my understanding of textiles as a medium, and therefore I felt that other sections of the museum could be stronger influences to my design work.

A series of North American collections caught my attention as there was a large display of decorated and embroidered clothing. At the time of first European contact, the native people living on the American Plains formed two cultural groups. Village dwelling farmers inhabited the river valleys, and normative people ranged over the plains. The arrival of the horse introduced by the Europeans 300 years ago improved hunting and allowed the communities to become more civilised. The people of the Plains decorated most of their possessions. Men drew figurative designs on clothing and whole hides (translated as winter coats). They also carved in stone and wood to create sculptural works. Women were seen to decorate clothing in a geometric design, typically in quill or beadwork. Furthermore, on display was a rib boned shirt which was a garment worn on important occasions and a tunic embellished with a floral pattern. This pattern was typical to the people of the Northern plains, and other decorations such as bear claws were used as decoration to convey the close relationship between the people and the wildlife.

This discovery is both visually stimulating and conceptually sound as the creators of Snapchat also originate from America, and therefore these two types of American folklore and image making can be combined to show evolution within the country. The objects and clothing found within the gallery were elaborate in colour and style, with vivid patterns and beading which I now wish to include within my experiments. Before the arrival of the Europeans, most of the beading materials included bones, teeth, shells or stones. These were items that could readily be found, but symbolic meaning and beauty could be bestowed on them. These are objects could easily be incorporated within my experimentations and alongside the imagery I am abstracting from Snapchat stories.

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