Alan Donaldson on “The Natural Idea”

On June 18, 2016,  Alan Donaldson,

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gave a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program entitled “The Natural Idea.”

Alan is a retired professor of Textile Design at the North Carolina State University.  His early training in textiles was in Scotland.  He then worked in the textile industry in the U.S.  He is a skilled photographer and a weaver who works with both traditional hand looms and electronic Jaquards.  He has had a wide experience in a number of fields related to his textile design work too extensive to detail here (for example, he was a resource for a while to the Xerox Corporation).

(Note:  You will be able to see larger images of those in this post by clicking three times on them and are encouraged to do so.)

Alan began:

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Throughout the history of product decoration, images from nature have been used more than any other source of pattern and design.

This is especially true in the world of textiles – whether it be pictorial or in textural form, as is seen in the 400 year-old Jacobean fabric below.

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I am going to present you with a series of nature photographs I have taken.  In each case, I will also show you a textile I have woven that was inspired by a given photograph.

Here is the first pair and example.

On the right below is an image of some flower heads.  On the left is a fabric of silk, wool and Reindeer hair, that is modeled after them.

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Here are a closer image of the flower heads,

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and, below, the unusual fabric of fabric of silk, wool and Reindeer hair.  The properties of these three materials work to  let the fabric simulate the flowers.

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Here is the next example. The Fuchsia heads on the left were the inspiration for the fabric on the right.

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Here are larger images of this comparison.

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The next example asks you to work a bit.  What is the “secret, hidden” element in this photo that gives it life? (click three times on this image to get a larger version)

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Give up?  I think it is the small vertical highlight shown in the blown-up image below (start at the bottom).

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I felt that this feature of this photograph was critical and so worked it into the fabric of my woven piece.

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Alan took us into his next comparison.

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The inspiring nature photo is of a ripe wheat field, near Whitekirk Church, in East Lothian, Scotland –

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full of rhythm, and repetition of shape and color.

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And, below is the woven permutation.

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A larger image of the twill.

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Next, a simple wayside weed that inspired the fabric for a wedding dress.

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Below are larger images of the weed and the wedding dress fabric.

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Even the humble Goldenrod, below,

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metamorphoses into this shimmering silk.

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Sometimes words are not much needed.

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Again, two inspiring photos of Thistledown.

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And a resulting pile fabric.

 

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This close-up shot of a budding Maple, reminded me

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so much of Velvet.

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Larger inspiring image.

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and the resulting favorite textile.

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“Seasons of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness…”  (Keats)

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But, can anything really best the ultra-spectacular New England fall?

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Weaving inspired by these images.

First “Autumn Glory” (House of Alain LaLonde, Paris)

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A New England ‘study.’

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Below, “Spanish Mosaic” my professional tour-de-force, in 100% pure lana virgen.

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Floral source,

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interpreted for a high-class men’s suiting fabric.

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The brilliant colors, up-close, fade to rich, blue-grey from a distance.

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A knot in an old door in the image below

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inspires this Jacquard textile.

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A close look at this Jacquard fabric.

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Sometimes, I’ve been attracted to pictorial renditions of inspiring nature photographs.

This is photo I’ve entitled “The Red Hot Tree.”  It is one I took in East Lothian, Scotland in November, 1964.

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And this is my Jacquard representation of this same scene.

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Here are three photos of restless water,

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ever flowing, constantly moving,

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finding its destiny.

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And this is a textile such images inspired.

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Two photos of bubbles,

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Mighty-Fine!

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And here is a textile they inspired,

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chosen for a cover in December, 1971.

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There are a lot of old castles “Over There.”

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This one got me weaving.

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Of Castles and Cathedrals!

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Close-up (below) of a high-class men’s suiting fabric interpreted from the great stained glass window (above) in Exeter Cathedral, England.

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But there is also Mother Nature’s unbelievable stained glass window!

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That inspired my own compartment-ed textile version.

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I’ve done it more than once.

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Larger image of the Jacquard.

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The sun takes a long time to go down in these northern climes…

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The old photograph, below, was in the house where I was born and is here, still.

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And here is my recent Jacquard interpretation.

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The sun is still sinking in the western sky,

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but gives plenty of time for contemplation and new ideas.

JOY

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Created for the 150th anniversary of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, 1974

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Here, I’m watching the ripples at the water’s edge, looking

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for yet another fabric challenge.

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…to interpret these soothing, ebbing, overlapping wavelets in the dying sunlight.

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that is almost gone.

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This was the end of Alan’s lecture, but he had brought a number of pieces he had woven into the room.  Let’s look at a few of them.

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This is one of Alan’s pictorial textiles from the image above.

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Next was a pictorial textile that seems nearly a photograph.

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You’ve seen some of these fabrics during the lecture, but they are worth seeing again.

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The pictorial Jacquard weaving, below, that was the last piece Alan showed, is really for another session. 

Let me say here, only, that it is Alan’s version of an astounding silk textile that was woven on the basis of a famous painting and etching of the signing of the American Declaration of Independence.

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You will only be able to appreciate what an achievement it and the original, were and are, when we tell the whole story, something we’ll try to do in another post.

As we were setting up before Alan’s lecture,

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I asked him whether he had woven the material from which his vest was made.

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He confessed that it was one of his fabrics and that his tie had been knitted by his wife, Betty.

I want to thank Alan for bringing us this presentation that gives us a look at both his accomplished photography and the impressive textiles they have inspired.  Thanks, also, for his permission to fashion this virtual version of his program and for his editing of it.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the work of a skilled photographer, textile designer and weaver.

Regards,

R. John Howe

 

 

 

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