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Thursday, November 16, 2023
2 to 4 pm
The workshop discussion was dedicated to the important book "Worn" by Sofi Thanhauser, how the
how the textile trade and the East Indian Company inspired the emergence of patchwork and the
the artistic and social potential of designing a block.

The workshop talks are about the rich inventions of textile production, why we hardly know their history and what we can do about it. Thanhauser does a remarkable job of telling the story of our clothes and uncovering connections I've never seen before. These workshop discussions are about these new insights. They want to make an active contribution to the largely untold story of fantastic inventions with fibers and fabrics, in which women have been the protagonists in large parts of the world since the beginning of human history, and how commercialization and trade have contributed to the devaluation of these achievements. Their importance is hidden. Their artistic and social significance is hidden.


Our clothes tell stories about us and our search for human warmth and belonging.

Sofi Thanhauser

The Fabric of the World

I always loved sewing.
A tailor regularly came to our house and made my beautiful Sunday dresses. She would sit at our treadle machine and with her hunched back, she looked like she had stepped straight out of my fairy-tale book. There were lots of pins on the floor, the ironed fabrics exuded an interesting smell. A concentrated and calm atmosphere were in the air. Sometimes I was allowed to visit her in her little witch's house in Brilon.
At the age of 14, I took down my red curtains and sewed a skirt. The skirt was not as grandly made as the dress in the movie "Enchanted", but with the same playful self-image. After leaving school, I became an apprentice at the excellent men's tailor Schmidt in Sauerland. After three years, I left the tailor's workshop with my journeyman's certificate, with distinction. I went to the theater and wanted to become a costume designer. I moved from the Dortmund Theater to the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie. Textiles as an artistic material disappeared from my view. I began to paint.

Many years later, I met Felicity Brown in Dubai. When I saw her working on the mannequin in Tashkeel, making beautiful painterly sculptures with dyed silk, I was enchanted. Just as I admired her textile work, she was inspired by my painting. We started working together.
Since then, I have been researching and learning about textile craft traditions from around the world, trying to understand their history and social impact. For me, they symbolize collective knowledge that has been condensed into a formula through the testing and refinement of the given material, which can then be put into words and passed on. Many hands and a lot of time were needed for this. As with mythologies, there is no author.

The textile production methods, the strings, fabrics and clothes that we use and wear make up a large part of our cultural history. The significance of this history is rarely told. Perhaps the book "Worn" by Sofi Thanhauser provides answers as to why textiles have fallen out of the canon of fine arts as an artistic material since the Middle Ages. A lack of creative potential in fibers and textiles cannot be the reason. Paradoxically, the reason lies more in their importance. Like foodstuffs, they are indispensable and their production is extremely complex. Since the Middle Ages as far as I understand it at the moment, a development towards the exploitation of people and nature can be observed. The trade in textiles as we know it began to be organized by guilds. Domestic production, that which had been made at home for thousands of years, was consequently devalued more and more.

The East Indian Company plays a violent role in this history.

Sofi Thanhauser's book "Worn" connects stories that I have never seen connected before! A completely different view emerges. It is an amazing eye-opener, an important book on my journey to the fabrics of the world.

Carolin Kropff, November 2023

Kindly supported by Kulturamt Frankfurt.

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