Now this is one not for the faint at heart! Love spiders? Neither do I BUT I absolutely love this! On show at the V&A Museum in London is an exhibition which displays the world’s largest pieces of cloth made from spider silk. On show is a brocaded shawl made from the silk of more than one million female golden orb-weaver spiders which have been collected in the highlands of Madagascar, Africa. Also on public display for the first time is an amazing golden cape. At the exhibition you will also find on display a short film that features background material which reveals the process.
Made by Englishman Simon Peers and his business partner American Nicholas Godley who both lived and worked in Madagascar for quite a few years you will see a hand woven textile that is four-metre-long (13-feet-long). Appearing in the wildest, most vivid gold colour, is this fabulous silk created by more than one million female Golden Orb spiders in the highlands of Madagascar. It is an extremely laborious process as it was collected over five years by 80 people! According to the V&A on average it takes 23,000 spidersto create about one ounce (28 grammes) of this beautiful silk.
Ecouterre tells us that Simon and Nicolas who were inspired by 19th century illustrations, collected and harnessed ‘over 1 million spiders in special “silking” contraptions to extract their threads, 24 critters at a time. But unlike mulberry silk from silkworms, in which the hapless pupa is boiled alive in its cocoon, the spiders were released into the wild at the end of each day. The spiders are collected each morning and harnessed in special contraptions which allow handlers to extract their silk, 24 spiders at a time. At the end of the day, the spiders are returned to the wild.’
The last known spider silk textile was created for the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, but no examples remain. This surely is one of the worlds’ most rare and precious objects. And to think it was created in Africa…need I say more.
Africa we adore you!
The textile is on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum from:
25 January – 5 June 2012
10.00 to 17.45 – daily
10.00 to 22.00 – Friday
The Victoria and Albert Museum is located at Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Author: Jacqueline Shaw