Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Silk Roads, Other Roads: Proceedings of the 8th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 26-28, 2002, Northampton, Massachusetts


Copyright 2002 by the author.


The steel mills in Bethlehem are quiet now, but Mildred T. Johnstone's boldly colored needlepoint tapestries vividly remind us of their awesome power in the 1940s and 1950s. Far from being realistic, literal renderings, these abstract and highly textural interpretations use steel making as a metaphor for modern life. The machinery is larger than life, crackling and spewing out the molten steel used to construct oilrigs and skyscrapers. The people in the mill are very small—the anonymous steelworkers in masks, the artist as a bewildered Alice in a Wonderland of Steel. Mildred Johnstone’s needlepoints are personal and spiritual. Her Buddha rising above the blast furnace signals that no matter how deafening the machinery, spiritual beliefs can prevail, bestowing a semblance of calm in a fast-paced, dehumanized world.