Matilda McQuaid


Over the last fifteen years I have been fortunate enough to visit Japan a number of times and usually with the goal of researching and finding textiles for exhibitions.  There have been many textile discoveries, but more important has been my privilege to meet the extraordinary textile makers.  These encounters with the artists and designers at their studios, factories or homes have helped me to understand the context for their work and to appreciate what inspires them and why they chose textiles as their medium of choice.
indigo, shibori, tie-dye, Japan

United Nations Fever

This past week has been a whirlwind of openings at the United Nations in celebration of  newly renovated chambers: the Secretariat, Economic Social Council, and today, the Trusteeship Council chamber.  Each of these rooms, originally given to the UN by Norway, Sweden, and Denmark respectively, were also renovated by these countries -- a gift that keeps on giving (very generously).  Perhaps the highlight is the Trusteeship Council chamber (the General Assembly is still to come) with a renovation of architect's Finn Juhl's original 1952 horseshoe plan, co
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Silk Banksia

The natural world is inspiration for British textile designer, Jennifer Robertson, whose jacquard woven Silk Banksia, displays the vibrant color and luminosity of the Australian wildflower, banksia.  As the designer states: “The design is an exploration of the poetic language between silk, flora, and human sensorial experience with interior space and the natural environment.” 

Learning by Crocheting

There is something very seductive about mathematical models and equations.  Whether it is their complexity and conciseness, orderly arrangement of symbols and numbers on the page, or their beauty as physical structures, they reflect the problem-solving process in action.   
crochet, math, Daina Taimina


Color was a central element in all of Verner Panton’s designs for interiors and furniture, and in particular, textiles, which became his most important vehicle for color in the futurist environments for which he is best known.  Born in Denmark, Panton lived and worked most of his life in Basel, Switzerland, where by the mid-1950s he was an internationally acclaimed interior architect and designer.  He studied at the Technical College from 1944-47 followed by architecture studies at the Royal Academy of Art in Copenhage

Waste Not

Resourcefulness has been a key component of Japanese life for centuries, and in design, one sees this most dramatically with materials and objects being repurposed, recycled, or reused.  The Japanese textile company, Nuno, founded in 1984, is constantly striving to integrate this ecological approach while continuing to create some of the most technologically innovative and beautiful contemporary textiles anywhere in the world.
Nuno, textile, silk, kibiso, Reiko Sudo

Velvet with Gold Disks

This sumptuous red velvet with gold disks embodies what we can learn from textiles by looking, comparing, deconstructing, reconstructing, and then interpreting our observations.  Milton Sonday, my predecessor in the Textiles department at the Cooper-Hewitt, is a master of this methodology and has spent years employing it and teaching it to researchers and curators around the world.
textile, velvet, gold, Milton Sonday


Japanese textile designer, Junichi Arai (b.1932), said that the crucial problem for contemporary textile makers is choosing and blending the myriad of available materials, tools, and technologies. He explains that history should be the maker’s guide, as there have been passionate efforts dedicated to making better fibers, textiles, and garments.
Junichi Arai, Japan, textiles, melt-off

It's all in the fist...

Make a fist. Pound your hand. Chances are, this was how the paisley pattern started—according to Indian textile designer Umang Hutheesing, who happens to know a lot about the history of Indian textiles. On a recent visit to New York City, I asked Hutheesing for his opinion on the derivation of the paisley pattern. The most popular story says that the form is derived from the shoot of a date palm, which symbolizes the tree of life.
paisley, Maharam, textile

Beautiful Ladies

Admirers of this exquisite tapestry fragment woven in medieval Spain fondly refer to it as "the Drinking Ladies"—an apt description for the two pairs of beautifully-robed women who lift their cups and bottle in salutation. The Drinking Ladies communicates the pleasures of female companionship amid the sumptuous environment of the wealthier classes. This was the time when the Alhambra was in its greatest splendor, with every surface of the royal residence covered in elaborate decoration.
tapestry, slit tapestry, Anni Albers, textiles, weaving, spain, Alhambra, Bauhaus