Date of this Version
In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000
In the mid-1970s, Chinese goods began to flood American markets as a result of President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in February 1972. Among such trade items as blue Mao jackets and caps with red enameled stars, proletarian black cloth shoes, and little red books were photograph-like woven portraits of the potentates of Communism: Stalin, Lenin, Marx, and Chairman Mao.
Convinced that China had computer-and-loom systems that could instantly weave textile renditions of photographs, I raced off to the textile industry in New York City to weave on these digital wonders. Industry experts quickly disabused me of this idea. If New York didn't have such a sophisticated computer system at that point in time, neither would China.
Twenty years later, in 1995, I visited one of the factories in China where they manufacture woven pictures. We watched a technician as he translated an image into instructions for a jacquard weaving, painstakingly hand painting a point paper - one tiny rectangle at a time. No Mao A Minute.
Over the years, I attempted to simulate virtual computer-and-loom systems. In the 1970s I used a pencil to translate the gray values of a video image printout into shaded satin weave structures. In the 1980s I used a 128K Macintosh computer and a software package2 to convert video signal into shaded weaves. What was missing, of course, was the link to the loom.