I just visited the display of textile tokens at The Foundling Museum. Many children were left at the hospital and all of them had a token of some form as a piece of identification should their mother come back for them. Although some of these were not textile (coins or half coins, jewellery, keepsakes etc) most were textile, not least as many of the mothers would not have had the money for a keepsake to leave.
At this time most childrens clothing was made from old pieces of their mothers clothes and as such they were often left little scraps as their identification. Some embroidered with names initials or a heart, some written on, some folded into cockades (a sort of rosette that denoted a male child) and some which were simply a scrap. They were fascinating, not least for the cloth itself which could show your class (printed or hand-embroidered pattern on silk - wealthy, plain cotton - poor etc), and the era from its patterns or fashions but also for the threads of familial emotion that these scraps hold. From some the pain of parting is palpable - a stitched heart cut in two so just one half is left, the carefully sewn initials even though each foundling was given a new name. Each one is pinned to a page on which the child's details are scribed, this seems almost clinical given the nature of the token.
A textile token holds many parallels - threads of family, lives interwoven, stitches in time etc and this added metaphorical meaning means this exhibition holds a certain weight to it. However it also holds a lot of hope - each token is there to identify the child when their mother comes to claim them, and love - something left to be remembered by, and so there was a lot of pleasure to be had through viewing these tiny pieces - a touching reminder of attachment and love.
When I was small my mother embroidered a sampler for me, and also one for my brother when he was born. Although these are much bigger than those tokens left with the foundlings and made much later (the hospital opened in 1739 and closed in 1954) I think they, at a mere 30 and 28 years old respectively are an interesting modern day version of these tokens, and ones that we still own today. The time and effort made by my mother to commemorate my and my brothers births in stitch is a testament to the parallels spoken of before, as is the fact that we still own them ourselves.
Slow processes and what Slow means to me: A partially finished series of ideas
In my opinion Slow is a thought process or philosophy rather than a time reference – just because a task takes a long time does not mean it is a Slow task. I feel that Slow can be defined as taking appropriate time compared to our perceived normal 21st century way of living (seen as Fast). A Slow process to me is one that has been well considered and thus decided upon due to its appropriateness. This consideration may only need to be undertaken once as the resulting information could be held in mind for future projects, or it may be that the thinking needs to be done every time a process is used. Slow and working in a Slow manner is about appropriateness, in terms of material choices, process choices and intended outcomes of your processes; in this sense Slow relates to time because, by working within a Slow framework one allows oneself the time to consider the available options, regardless of the scale of operation.
I feel that the following things should be considered as part of a Slow working process:
What is the intended outcome of the process?
What is the intended outcome for the series of processes, what are you intending to make?
What impact does the process have environmentally, both small and large scale, and if negative, how could this be reduced?
Also post-consumer use and recycling of the end product.
This should lead to a list of ‘needs’ for the outcome, which should help determine which process is most appropriate. I believe that Slow relates to processes in a decision making format – why use that process? Is it the most appropriate for the intended outcome of the process?
I feel that one does not need to be personally involved in the process itself to consider it and its implications, also I feel that processes can be considered on an industrial scale. One does not need to be an individual designer maker to work within a Slow framework/context, nor does one need to be a professional designer.
Personally when deciding upon a process I use my STEER theory, developed to offer a framework for Slow design. I take a few moments to consider what I need it to do (STOP), I then consider whether it will do that to the standard I need it to, be that finished perfection or experimental designing stages (THINK), I then might ask around or look online to see if there is any other way of doing it – is there a way better environmentally or more appropriate aesthetically (EXPLORE). I then go ahead with the process I have decided upon and involve myself in my making process (ENJOY). I will at some point look over what I have done and how I did it in order to establish if I was happy with it, practically, environmentally and aesthetically and how I would do it if I were to repeat that process (RETHINK). Part of working Slowly is being willing to rethink, revisit ideas to rework them. Particularly as someone who is concerned about the environmental impact of my work I find the ‘re-‘ stages of my work very interesting, and often they offer a lot to learn from.
‘We shall not, therefore, be concerning ourselves with objects as defined by their functions or by the categories into which they might be subdivided for analytic purposes, but instead with the processes whereby people relate to them and with the systems of human behaviour and relationships that result therefrom.’ (Baudrillard, J; The System of Objects; Verso 2005; p2)
Slow means many things. The context that I mainly use it in is as a philosophy which allows one the time, particularly as a designer, to think thoroughly about ones work, about choices that we make regarding materials and processes, and the end results that we aim for. Slow sits on the same philosophical shelf of thought as many other sustainable design theories.
Slow is not necessarily slow in a time sense (items or processes do not need to be long-winded or time consuming) but is more about allowing oneself time, or simply not rushing.
By Slow Textiles I refer to ones created using the rough principles laid out above, created using sustainable materials, sustainable processes and with environmentally sound aims for the end product.
Slow Design, Slow Textile Theory
A manifesto or framework for Slow designers and Slow Textiles