Inspiration: Pre-Columbian Textiles

front s

This is a piece I’ve just finished.  I’ve been working on it for a few months.  It’s inspired by Pre-Columbian textiles and uses one of their embroidery techniques, but kind of in reverse of the way they employed it, so the visual effect is quite different.  I let the ends go wild on the back, which those artists never would have done, reflecting my surrealist-inspired love of the random in art.  If I were hanging it in a gallery I would suspend it from the ceiling to make both sides visible.  Since I need to walk through my residence without bumping my head, however, I’ll have to be satisfied with turning it around from time to time on the wall.

back s

I’ve been interested in Andean weaving for a long time, using colors and patterns frequently as references for my knitting.  But in my reading about the Bauhaus, I was led to Josef and Anni Albers and then to Black Mountain College, where Anni became acquainted with Pre-Columbian art and grew to love the intricacy of what they produced with simple tools.  I have owned a book for many years that discussed in detail the structures of these textiles, but I had only ever looked at the reproductions of the work, never at the way they were made.  What I discovered surprised me:  all of what I thought was knitting and a lot of what I thought was woven was actually embroidered.  I don’t weave now, but I love to embroider.  So I had to try it.

loop embroidery s

This piece does not use the “knitted” embroidery stitch, although I did try it on burlap, and want to use it for some future project.  But the wrapped-warp embroidery stitch especially intrigued me.  These ancient artists used a fine cotton warp and wrapped it with wool so the base fabric was completely covered–that’s why it looks woven.  I reversed the materials, purchasing a woven wool piece from a local weaver, Matthew Yanchuk, on Etsy (, and wrapping the wool warp with 3 strands of cotton embroidery floss.  I like the shadow effect.  The weavers and embroiderers of the Andes worked equally with the weft and warp and I did too.

front close up s

Another of my labor-intensive fiber projects, but one I definitely want to explore further.

You can read about the books I used as references on Goodreads:

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About memadtwo

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4 responses to “Inspiration: Pre-Columbian Textiles”

  1. helenazw says :

    Great work. Love that it’s reversible.


  2. memadtwo says :

    Yes I actually like the back best.


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  1. Bauhaus Grid | method two madness - August 5, 2015

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