2/03/2012

Spider Silk



The little watercolour study above of an orb spider weaving its web is taken from “Animals at Home”, a children’s book I worked on many years ago. Whilst admiring the delicacy and intricacy of a spider’s web, it is hard not to find them more than a little creepy. I am not the sort of person who runs screaming from the bathroom when confronted with a spider in the shower but they do hold a weird sort of fascination don’t you think? So when I heard that someone had actually managed to capture this thread and weave it into a cloth, I was intrigued to say the least.



On a recent trip to the V and A in London we decided to see for ourselves and visited the Golden Spider Silk display. The two garments, a cape and shawl, are the work of Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley and are truly mesmerizing. The silk has been gathered from Golden Orb spiders found in Madagascar. It has taken over four years and the silk from countless threads; each thread being made from 96 twisted spider strands, to make the brocaded shawl. The resulting garment shimmers like sunlight on gold.

The exquisite cape has been inspired by the myths and stories, poetry and nightmares surrounding the spider. The original design is also displayed; this working drawing is a work of art in itself.



The cape has been lavishly embroidered with threads and stitches so fine that it is hard to believe that human hands are capable of such a feat.
It is said that over a million spiders and thousands of hours have gone into its creation. It is quite simply out of this world, I cannot imagine how it would feel to have it next to my skin but I am told that the fabric made from spider silk is extremely light. It put me in mind of the song from the Emperor’s new clothes, “The king is in the altogether!” If you get a chance this is a must see exhibition, you can see more here.

21 comments:

  1. That is exquisitely beautiful -- finery truly fit for a fairy queen. And what an undertaking! It makes unwinding silkworm cocoons look like a walk in the park.

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  2. How extraordinary and beautiful! Sounds made like an Elvish garment and looks like it too... amazing. I'd love to know what it feels like!

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  3. How amazing! I'd love to see it. Something from a fairytale, made real.... Thanks for sharing Valerie. :)

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  4. Loved reading this post and the comments left too. The shawl really is magical isn't it? I love your illustration too. I was always quite fascinated with spiders webs as a child. Lovely stuff :)

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  5. The silk and its natural colour is beautiful. Love your little spider watercolour, Valerie. Have a good weekend. Lesley x

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  6. So unbelievable! I really enjoyed the video - thanks for sharing about this. The cape looks illuminated and absolutely glows! (I'm trying to have a calm attitude about the large spiders, but they are kind of freaky.)

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  7. I reads about this with amazement. Glad you could see it and though I don't like spiders - love your illustration.

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  8. The garment is amazing. I saw something on the news about it fairly recently and the exhibition of designs and drawings must be very interesting. Like you I would feel strange at the thought of having spiders' webs (even in garment form) near my skin as I can't bear it when I walk into them in the garden:)

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  9. That is truly amazing. How in the world did they ever gather the strands? Why do spiders always find their way into the shower? I am always happy to see spiders inside and outside the house because I know they eliminate so may other less desirable bugs.

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  10. Utterley beautiful Valerie - I had not heard of this at all.

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  11. Absolutely magical! Thanks for posting!

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  12. I'm afraid spider's are the one thing that terrifies me but just the same I've always thought that their webs are beautiful. The two garments are just exquisite - I would love to see the exhibition.

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  13. woww....the shawl made out of spiders web !!
    it sounds like fairy tale story !!

    and nicely put in words by u..great post

    P.s -- saw ur site too..ur drawings are amazing !! keep it up

    Cheers,
    Ashish

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  14. I had to come and visit, when I stumbled across the lovely name and banner of your blog. We share a common interest in that and more....lovely art work as well, so glad I found you...N.

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  15. What an incredible feat! Such beautiful fabric. It always amazes me how strong spider silk is. I know hummingbirds weave it into their nests so the nest has mobilty for growing babies. I once read that spider webs was how engineers came up with the idea for cable bridges like the Golden Gate in San Francisco.
    Cute watercolour!

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  16. Beautiful! I had recently read about this, but the photo with the article I saw was not very good. Yours are much better - :)
    I, too, admire spiders without liking them much. Yeesh.

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  17. Amazing! So glad to have found your blog! ~ Anne ♥
    www.alittlefurinthepaint.blogspot.com

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  18. Valerie, thank you for sharing this, isn't it incredible! like a faerie cloak. I love the working drawing too. So wish I was closer, I could spend days getting lost in the V&A.

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  19. That is utterly amazing. I'm one who couldn't bear to gaze at your spider images for more than a minute without getting creeped out, but going to the V&A is a dream of mine, and it is wonderful to read of it and of the enormous creativity involved in this unconventional piece.

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  20. thank you for sharing this. So beautiful. Odd to consider that one is wearing a spider web about them... so to speak. Amazing the things people think of doing and the mastery they come to know!
    your painting is quite charming.

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