Micro/Macro Textiles: Object Studies

Detail of an Ecuadorian poncho (c. 1900-1950)

About Micro/Macro

The Micro/Macro Textiles: Object Studies blog is a collection of object-based investigations done by students in the Micro/Macro Textiles: Object Studies course at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). This course is held in the Textile Resource Center (TRC) in the Fiber & Material Studies (FMS) department, and was first taught by artist and educator, Anne Wilson. It is now taught by professor Isaac Facio, a conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago's Conservation and Science Department.

Students spend their semester engaging with objects of their choice, exploring their qualities and looking closely at their materiality, building a narrative to integrate into our collective database. By documenting and investigating objects in the TRC, students expand our communal knowledge base through their own unique lens and analysis. The format of this project is intended to develop a long term focus on a single or group of themes, patient, detail oriented research skills, and thoughtful and intimate evaluation of chosen objects.

Batik, photo edited by Ailene DeVries

Close Looking

An emphasis is placed on slow looking and hands-on study of objects to gain an understanding of textile and fiber structures, material choices, modes of fabrication and production, while assessing larger frames of cultural context, meaning and metaphor. Through thoughtful guided close observation, we learn about the complex lives of objects and the stories that they tell us to inspire and act as a foundation for our own creative work.

Using tools like the dino-lite, a powerful digital microscope, tweezers, loupes, and fiber tests, we engage deeply with the physical material at our fingertips.

Dino-lite capture of a silk suture during a visit from Dr. Maggie D'Aversa

Shelves in the TRC, photo by Ailene DeVries

About the TRC

The Textile Resource Center (TRC) is a growing research collection including historic and contemporary textiles, books, exhibition catalogs, and contemporary Artist Projects. It is a hands-on, non-circulating collection and provides unique, intimate access to textile objects and resources for the SAIC community.

The TRC currently has over 400 textile objects from over 30 countries (primarily non Western-European), and over 2,000 books on fiber materials, techniques, artists, history, and theory. It is overseen by faculty supervisor and professor, Dr. Nancy Feldman, along with two new graduate research assistants each year.

Detail of an Ewe (West African Strip-Weaving), photo by Lily Homer

The TRC collection began when professor emeritae Joan Livingstone and Anne Wilson taught a class on world textiles. They used their own collections, organized in boxes and bins in the back of the FMS faculty office, labeled weave, dye, print. Faculty could select samples to take into their classrooms as teaching aids. This system was popular and Joan and Anne realized that a permanent hands-on textile and book teaching resource would be extremely valuable. They committed to expanding this resource, making it more available and ongoing.

They petitioned for a space - and the current TRC facility opened 2013. This is a special, rare, hands-on collection. Students and faculty access and activate the collection through research, close looking, analysis, and asking questions of these objects. They dive into how it can contribute to exploration of form, structure, design, processes, and materials.

Sample of a cotton shibori, with ties left in

Our Classroom

The TRC is a hands-on resource open to all SAIC students, faculty and staff. It is located in the Fiber and Material Studies Department, Sharp 1003 and is available by appointment or during open access hours which change each semester. Students are encouraged to spend time with our textile collection, touching, exploring, and getting to know them for class research, studio projects, and personal inquiry. 

A large table, seating 10, sits in the center of the room, acting as a stage to lay out books and textiles and as a conference table for individual students and professors, as well as for classes, like Micro/Macro.

Drawer holding collection of obi, photo by Ailene DeVries

Follow Micro/Macro Textiles course on Instagram for frequent updates and insights into the SAIC fiber community.

Micro/Macro Object Studies blog was designed and originally compiled by Lily Homer, Teaching Assistant to Micro/Macro Textiles, Spring 2021. Updates by Delaina Doshi, Teaching Assistant, since Spring 2022.