A Biography of Tapestry: Moki Cherry: Home, Stage, Museum
What led you to choose this subject?
I was led to writing about Moki Cherry’s tapestries and their relationship to different environments because of the eerie absence of critical writing about her artwork (despite being exhibited internationally and being such an important part of jazz musician, Don Cherry’s aesthetic).
Favorite book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?
The best thing I’ve read is an issue of the feminist arts journal Heresies called Women’s Traditional Arts, The Politics of Aesthetics, from 1978. I found the writing and photography in here to be provocative and relevant. Lucy Lippard’s article ‘Making Something from Nothing (Towards a Definition of Women’s Hobby Art)’ provided a feminist approach to my research into Cherry’s tapestries and the social conditions they were made in.
Favorite image/object in your dissertation and why?
My favourite image is a poster that Moki Cherry made for a concert in Stockholm 1967. It was the first concert that she collaborated on with Don Cherry as Movement Incorporated. It was really rewarding to discover this poster among other archived papers, and to see the symbols of hands, lips, birds and stars that are recurring motifs throughout her later tapestries.
This year Liberty of London turns 140 years old; favourite purveyor of fine fabrics, the decorative arts and department store-based fantasies. In October the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey, London opened their exhibition ‘Liberty in Fashion’ to mark the occasion and celebrate Liberty’s most visible contribution to British design.
On a blustery, rainy Saturday morning in November (when I probably should have been squirreled away in a library doing MA course work) I trekked south of the river for a day of unashamed textile ‘geekery’. I was at the F & T museum with the express purpose of undertaking an introductory course in textile weaving with the added incentive of a quick look around the Liberty exhibit once I had proved my worth as a weaver.
Master Weaver Caron Penney and her unwavering patience and enthusiasm, took the class of a dozen with varying skill-levels during a seven-hour crash course in the techniques of tapestry weaving. I got carried away with pink, black, white and silver glitter threads and powered through a 4 x 3” patch (tapestry is not a race). In a testament to Caron’s own skills, we all got quite ambitious with our techniques and I would urge anyone curious to keep an eye out for the many classes she runs throughout the country.
On a textile induced high, fingers buzzing with a new skill (“I could make a rug if I wanted!”) I breezed through the ‘Liberty in Fashion’ exhibition before the museum closed. There are over 150 examples of textiles and garments spanning Liberty’s lifetime, from the heritage of late 19th century Aesthetic dress and 20th century Art Nouveau designs, through to collaborations with Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. The beauty of the exhibition, and it really is hard not to call it beautiful, is the drawing of a concurrent thread through a century of British Fashion. Pattern is king at Liberty, but the emphasis on fabric production lends accessibility to the garments. Liberty doesn’t draw a distinction between the high and low, and while Manolo Blahnik may be covering his iconic shoes in the Hesketh print this November, your Grandmother could be using that same fabric to make her handkerchiefs.
‘Liberty in Fashion’ is open at the Fashion & Textile Museum until February 28, 2016.