Yesterday I went to see the woven cloth made from spider silk at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Emails about this amazing cloth have been flying around the internet for about a month, and the descriptions at the museum website are quite intriguing, including a wonderful video which I will post here.
The cloth is under plexiglas in the grand gallery. When my friend Susan and I entered the gallery we had a hard time finding the exhibit! The plexiglas case is tucked against the wall at one side of the gallery, with very little signage to attract attention to it. There is one small display of photos and a brief description at the front of the case. Clearly, if you want to know as much as possible about the whole process-- the spiders, collecting the silk, making the thread and weaving-- you have to go to the website, which seems odd to me.
Yet there is no substitute for seeing this amazing woven cloth in person. In the late morning October light it glowed brilliantly, like a saffron dyed robe, and yet its glowing golden color is the natural color of the spider silk! Breath-taking!
My son visited during the last hour of the museum’s day, just after 5pm, and he said the piece is not well lighted. To him, it was a dull gold, not glowing the way I’d seen it.
This is not my first experience at learning a little about spider silk. During my younger son’s last year at the University of Rochester, he had a job working in the laser lab, and he arranged for me and his dad to get a tour. It happens to be the largest laser lab in the world, which must be the best kept secret! Professor Bigelow described to me that spider silk (purchased from spider nurseries) is used to hold a single atom in place in the chamber where it will be ‘shot’ with the laser. I don’t know anything about the spider nurseries, but I found it amazing that in Madagascar, the golden orb spiders were collected from the wild, ‘milked’ for their silk, and then returned to the wild. Amazing!
I can’t go to the Museum of Natural History without visiting all the wonderful textiles in the Central and South American exhibit! I can’t imagine a time when these textiles won’t thrill and inspire me!
After lunch, my friend and I went to Loop of the Loom, previously in Englewood, now on 87th and 3rd Ave. What a lovely spot this is! I wish I’d taken photos to share. It is a basement shop, yet so filled with light! The shop is dedicated to Saori weaving, which is not my style, but I’m always so intrigued with how personal the finished items are. I’m always drawn to the work people do on these simple looms. Actually, I have to say that I’m really quite moved by the strong evidence of the ‘maker’s hand,’ so prevalent in Saori weaving. I highly recommend stopping by if you are in Manhattan!