Material Witnesses – Iris Gowen

Iris Gowen

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral – Means of Production

36” x 36”


machine quilted and pieced with machine-free hand embroidery

Approximately 85% of the top is made of silk from Thailand, China, Nepal, India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

When I think of material I think of cloth, and when I think of cloth I think of silk. The production of silk is unlike that of any other fabric. Elements and processes go into its production, starting with the silkworm eating the mulberry leaf which enables it to wrap its cocoon; that is the source of our silken threads. Processes of weaving silk highlight its rich shimmer – threads of contrasting colors are cross-woven so that the color of the fabric changes with the shifting of light across the fabric. For me, silk is the ultimate material.

Other fibers are used as dictated by the theme (wool, cotton, linen and polyester). As I worked, I thought of all the other ‘silent’ witnesses who are behind the production of fiber: the flax from which we derive linen, the sheep which gives its fleece for our wool, the cotton bolls, and the chemistry of polyester. This quilt serves as a tribute to these witnesses behind the materials.

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