Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse at the Cooper Hewitt

Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse at the Cooper Hewitt

Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse
Through April 16, 2017

Cooper Hewitt
5th Ave at 91st Street
New York, NY
CooperHewitt.org

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum doesn’t get as much attention as some of its more famous members on Museum Mile but it has a lot to offer. 

The museum is located in the former home of Andrew Carnegie, a sixty-four room mansion built from 1899 to 1902. It is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The Museum was founded in 1897 by three Hewitt sisters, who were granddaughters of the industrialist, Peter Cooper.

The Cooper Hewitt underwent a major two year restoration, completed in 2015. The character and grandeur of the building was maintained while providing contemporary upgrades in everything from lighting to interactive exhibits.

When you arrive at the admissions desk you are given a “Pen,” which is linked to a code number on your ticket. As you roam through the museum you can use the pen to store information and photographs, as well as to draw on the interactive tables. You can then access your visit on any computerized device, seeing everything you’ve saved and created.

I was drawn to the Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse exhibit by three women: Luisa Cevese from Milan, Christina Kim from Los Angeles, and Reiko Sudo from Tokyo. These designers reuse textile materials, incorporating scraps and cast offs in the creation of their works.

Luisa Cevese repurposes silk threads cast-off from industrial silk manufacturing, along with polyurethane and metallic fibers, in her work. I was particularly enamored with her pieces, which were quite varied in their approach. In one textile panel she used scraps of second-hand saris. A line of purses featured cast off silk selvedges. She  also made beautiful table mats using polyurethane embedded with off cuts of mixed metallic fibers.

Three panels & purses by Luisa Cevese

Reiko Sudo explored silk production in Japan, which led her to transform silk waste into textiles. Kibiso silk is one of the recycled silk yarns spun from the fuzzy elements on the surface of each cocoon. Among the pieces on display were a pair of waraji sandals made of hand woven kibiso and a jaquard float weave made of raw silk and kibiso titled “Kibiso Circle.”

Kibiso Float by Reiko Sudo photo credit: Cooper Hewitt Museum

A tikdis shawl by Christina Kim was among my favorites by this designer. She appliquéd tikdis dots of brocaded cotton jamdani scraps onto a silk metallic fabric. Jamdani is a fine muslin cloth on which motifs are woven on a loom. Kim also designs light and airy clothing, created using jamdani scraps.

Tikdis Shawl by Christina Kim

Although the exhibit is relatively small, there is a lot of information with regard to the silk industries, their waste, and the potential for recycling cast offs and fabrics. The exhibit was an inspiration from an artistic perspective, as well as a display of innovative ways to reuse industrial waste and time worn fabrics.

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