Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Invisibility Cloak: Spun by a million spiders
Textiles technology has had, what I believe to be, a revolutionary moment within fibre development and discovery.  1.2m Golden Orb spiders were captured from the wild in Madagascar, few by few, in order to produce this 'liquid gold' canvas, as told by journalist Denna Jones. These spiders were only held for a short period of time and then released back into the wild as spiders cannot be farmed due to their cannibal qualities. It took four long years to produce this fine show piece with every contained fibre being made of the super-strong spider silk.

The producers of this piece, Nicholas Godley and Simon Peers, explained that it was in 1710 that spiders were first offered as a source of silk by the Frenchman Fran├žois Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, but the method was not perfected as he boiled the spider cocoons in order to then extract the threads with combs to produce products such as socks and gloves, meaning the properties were not known to be as beneficial as they could have been.

However, within the early 19th century the Jesuit priest Raimondo Maria de Termeyer made the discovery that the threads extracted from the spider itself produced a much higher-quality silk. Some may argue that there are some moral issues surrounding the production of spider silk as the spider is clamped down using a piece of wood, with a half mood aperture for its abdomen, whilst a winding machine extrudes a continuous strand of silk which implies the spider could be harmed or distressed.

The beautiful embellishments found on this fabric fairytale were all hand embroidered using spider silk embroidery thread. The beautifully depicted memoir celebrates the spider 'in myth and metaphor'. The spider silk is said to be weightless, with its touch feeling non-existent. Godley states "It's like an invisibility cloak, because you can't feel spider silk", there is something quite magical and ephemeral about this golden piece and, as Peers says, "If we hadn't made the cape, this silk would be webs in the wind." Peers and Godley have managed to capture the magic deriving from the myth and metaphor of the spider, using it to produce such a bewitching garment.
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