Raw Material 4: Poetry of Cloth

April 19, 2016


(Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Absence, http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com)

The stories of people’s lives are implicated within the threads that compose the intimate surroundings of body and home. Textiles portray a sense of ritual, of making special everyday spaces through a quality of adornment and presence.

Even when the immediate feelings of grief and mourning are passed, we are changed forever; the emotions embedded in the fabric of our lives emerge at different times to stain our emotional states.

Melancholia has been described by Julia Kristeva as ‘an abyss of sorrow’. By exploring the expression of melancholia through the representation of loss in cloth…(lies the) question whether it is possible to re-evaluate the term ‘melancholia’ in the light of contemporary ritual and practice using textiles as a metaphor for grief and loss within rituals of mourning.

(Beverly Ayling Smith)

Some Functions of Texture, Fibre, Cloth, in Art Therapy: 

Rites of Passage, Heirlooms, Amulets/Charms, Adornment, Comfort, Mending


Photo: Beverly Ayling Smith, Shroud

The substance and physicality of fabric…conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations…As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming ultimately, communicative memories…By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information – caught within, behind, or beyond the edge…The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time (Rebecca Cross, Artist Statement)

Some Metaphors Referencing Texture, Fibre and Cloth in Art Therapy: 

Spinning a Tale, A Network of Ideas, Piecing Things Together, Hanging by a Thread, On Pins and Needles, Wear and Tear, Feeling at Loose Ends, Weaving Things Together, Patching Up Relationships, All Sewn Up, Ties that Bind, On the Mend

What if the poetics of cloth were composed of ‘soft logics’, modes of thought that twist and turn and stretch and fold? And in this movement new encounters were made, beyond the constraint of binaries? The binary offers two possibilities, either/or; soft logics offers multiple possibilities. They are the realm of the and/and, where anything can happen…Soft logics are to think without excluding…And if soft suggests an elastic surface, a tensile quality that yields to pressure this is not a weakness; for ‘an object that gives in is actually stronger than one that resists, because it also permits the opportunity to be oneself in a new way’ (Pennina Barnett, Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth)


Barnett, P. ( 2012  ). Folds, Fragments, Surfaces: Towards a Poetics of Cloth. In J. Hemmings (Ed.), The Textile Reader (pp.182-191 ). London: Berg Publishers.   

Cross, R. (2016). Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.rebeccastextiles.com

Smith, B.A. (2016) Artist Statement. Retrieved from http://www.beverlyaylingsmith.com


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