Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spider Silk Tapestry

Yesterday, I read an article in "Fast Company" that showed what can happen when the creativity of man and nature work in harmony! The article ("Creepy, Crawly Crafty: A Tapestry Woven by Eight-Legged Artists") wrote about two men ~ Simon Peers, a British art historian and Nicholas Godley, an American fashion designer ~ who spent half a million of their own dollars over a period of 4 years to collect the silk of a million female silk spiders (Nephila madagascariensis). This process of silk collection is actually done on this island country of Madagascar! What makes the whole process extra difficult to do ~ besides the obvious ick-factor! ~ is that the female golden orb spider has a nasty disposition and is cannibalistic, which as you can imagine, makes having and herding such large numbers somewhat of a problem. Thankfully, while they do bite, it isn't especially dangerous ~ small comfort, but there is that darned ick-factor again!

The silk was woven on a loom (see below) into an 11'x4' tapestry! The color of the silk is natural and gets it's golden shade from the natural saffron tones of the spiders' silk, which also amazingly, is barely visible when it is extracted, by hand, from the "spinnaret" (ok, I actually didn't experience the ick-factor with that lovely word) of the spider. The silk extraction required dozens of native Malagasy "handlers". The weaving was done by local weavers and shows a stunning pattern (see below) of geometric shapes which correspond to traditional images of animals and birds. One more unbelievable little tidbit about the spiders' silk: Its tensile strength is 5-6 times that of steel by weight!!!

The end result of this costly, time-consuming, and ick-factor laden project is, in my opinion so utterly worthwhile and amazingly, breath-takingly beautiful! My only regret is that I don't have the opportunity to see the finished piece in person. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

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