Bauhaus Weaving Theory

Bauhaus Weaving Theory: From Feminine Craft to Mode of Design

T’ai Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctt9qh311
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  • Book Info
    Bauhaus Weaving Theory
    Book Description:

    The Bauhaus school in Germany has long been understood through the writings of its founding director, Walter Gropius, and well-known artists who taught there such as Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy. Far less recognized are texts by women in the school's weaving workshop. InBauhaus Weaving Theory,T'ai Smith uncovers new significance in the work the Bauhaus weavers did as writers.

    From colorful, expressionist tapestries to the invention of soundproofing and light-reflective fabric, the workshop's innovative creations influenced a modernist theory of weaving. In the first careful examination of the writings of Bauhaus weavers, including Anni Albers, Gunta Stözl, and Otti Berger, Smith details how these women challenged assumptions about the feminine nature of their craft. As they harnessed the vocabulary of other disciplines like painting, architecture, and photography, Smith argues, the weavers resisted modernist thinking about distinct media. In parsing texts about tapestries and functional textiles, the vital role these women played in debates about medium in the twentieth century and a nuanced history of the Bauhaus comes to light.

    Bauhaus Weaving Theorydeftly reframes the Bauhaus weaving workshop as central to theoretical inquiry at the school. Putting questions of how value and legitimacy are established in the art world into dialogue with the limits of modernism, Smith confronts the belief that the crafts are manual and technical but never intellectual arts.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4323-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.1
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.2
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.3
  4. INTRODUCTION: TEXTILES, TEXT, AND A MEDIUM-SPECIFIC CRAFT
    (pp. xiii-xxxiv)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.4

    Anni Albers published her second book,On Weaving,in 1965. A well-respected German American weaver who taught from 1933 until 1949 at Black Mountain College and had developed popular fabric designs for Knoll, she was also a prolific writer. Like her former volumeOn Designing,which was initially published in 1959 and reprinted several times due to its popularity,On Weavingbecame at the outset a powerful voice of the midcentury textile design movement in the United States.¹ Professional and amateur weavers read her texts, finding in them a philosophy of their craft’s “essence”—the “supporting, impeding, or modifying” tension between...

  5. 1 PICTURES MADE OF WOOL: WEAVING LABOR IN THE WORKSHOP
    (pp. 1-40)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.5

    Before the Bauhaus weavers wrote, before weaving had a theoretical armature to secure its status as a medium-specific craft, weaving was what Gunta Stölzl would later call “a picture made of wool.”

    A tapestry from 1921–22 by weaving workshop student Hedwig Jungnik is a good example of such an artifact (see Plate 1). Unlike a bolt of cloth whose fabric might cover,in various dimensions, a bed, pillow, sofa, or window, this small “picture” has a clear beginning and end. Framed by its four sides, it serves little other function than to hang on and decorate a wall. Within these...

  6. 2 TOWARD A MODERNIST THEORY OF WEAVING: THE USE OF TEXTILES IN ARCHITECTURAL SPACE
    (pp. 41-78)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.6

    Without a theoretical armature—a group of texts specifying weaving’s dimensions and goals—the workshop’s production of tapestries and carpets remained, for the first few years of the Bauhaus, a medium without ends. This state of practice without theory changed dramatically when several weavers, between 1924 and 1926, stopped focusing on pictorial objectives, began thinking through the requirements of the loom and malleable threads, and spelled out their aims using choice words. Through woven experiments and essays that considered the particular dimensions of their practice, the workshop embraced the rhetorical strategies of architectural criticism.

    The vocabulary offunction, purpose,and...

  7. 3 THE HAPTICS OF OPTICS: WEAVING AND PHOTOGRAPHY
    (pp. 79-110)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.7

    There remains an aspect of weaving to which I have alluded in previous chapters but never properly addressed: fabric’s tactility. The Bauhaus weaving workshop explored the possibilities of color and formal composition through the interlacing of threads, tacitly placing it in comparison to painterly composition and architectural function. Yet the specific palpability of threads and cloth surfaces required a new set of terms. Architecture’s rhetorical strategies regarding functionality and space were only partly sufficient, so photography became the next medium whose language was harnessed. With this development, one weaving student named Otti Berger addressed the limits of the visual and...

  8. 4 WEAVING AS INVENTION: PATENTING AUTHORSHIP
    (pp. 111-140)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.8

    There are more than one thousand samples of the Bauhaus weaver Otti Berger’s textiles in the Busch-Reisinger archive at Harvard University, many of which are variations on the same basic design, including a sample book from a series of textiles based on her patent “Möbelstoff-Doppelgewebe,”which she applied for in 1932 and received in 1934.¹ With the wordsSchriever—Rosshaar Doppel Gewebe, o.b., Deutsches Reichspatentand a logo bearing two mirrored horses emblazoned across its bright yellow cover, the sample book opens to fifty or so swatches based on three distinct textile patterns made of nylon, each in various colors.² Having...

  9. CONCLUSION: ON WEAVING, ON WRITING
    (pp. 141-174)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.9

    The Bauhaus in Berlin closed in 1933 and that year, with the political situation growing increasingly difficult for Jewish citizens and artists in Germany, Anni and Josef Albers left for new faculty positions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. When the couple traveled by ship to America, under a visa provided with the support of architect Philip Johnson (then director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Architecture), they brought with them relatively little in the way of things.¹ They did, however, bear the imprint of a certain field of thought that would carry out in their work...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 175-220)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.10
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 221-229)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.11
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.12
  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    DOI: 10.5749/j.ctt9qh311.13