February 14, 2003
to Examine the Enduring Power of a Delicate Thread
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Editor's note: Colorful images
of silk garments, artworks and other items are available. To
request, contact Marti Hobbes at (413) 585-2190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-A luxury good and
a major international commodity, silk drives economies, inspires
fashion and holds enormous promise for fields as diverse as medicine
and the military.
"Silk Unraveled," a three-day, interdisciplinary symposium,
will bring together at Smith College more than 20 scholars, researchers,
artisans and students from around the world to examine the complexities
of silk production and the range of silk's social, political
and sensual power.
"Thirty years ago everyone thought silk was dead,"
symposium organizer Kiki Smith, theater professor and designer
at Smith, observes. "Polyester was the thing.
"Today, sericulture or silk production is one of the holy
grails of materials science," she notes, "and silk
products are a significant artisan export in developing countries."
The symposium, which begins on Friday, March 28, and concludes
on Sunday, March 30, is free and open to the public with advance
registration. To register, call (413) 585-2154 or email email@example.com.
With the exception of the silk-making demonstrations on Friday,
all sessions will take place in Wright Hall Auditorium.
The program for Friday, March 28, titled "From Moth to Cloth:
The Processes of Silk Production," will feature artisans
and students demonstrating how silk textiles are made. The demonstrations
will include the raising of silk worms and the harvesting of
their cocoons; the unwinding of the cocooned fibers; the twisting
of multiple silk filaments into thread; the cleaning of the threads;
and dyeing, warping and weaving. The demonstrations will take
place 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the atrium of the Brown Fine Arts
Center and will continue on Saturday, when families and children
are invited to a special family day of silk exploration known
as "Got Silk?"
At 7:30 p.m., Madelyn Shaw, associate curator of costumes and
textiles at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design,
will present a public lecture titled "Reweaving Threads
of History." Shaw is the guest curator of "Silk in
New England Society, 1730-1930," an exhibition opening that
day on the first floor of the Smith College Museum of Art. (The
exhibition marks a partial reopening of the museum; the grand
reopening of the entire museum to the public will take place
on Sunday, April 27.)
On Saturday, March 29, symposium participants will consider case
studies of silk production success and failure. From 9:30 a.m.
to noon, Christopher Clark, professor of history at Warwick University,
United Kingdom, will discuss "The Travails of the 19th-Century
American Silk Industry" and Karen Selk, an importer of silk
and a representative of silk artisan cooperatives, will present
"A Comparative Look at the Success of Silk Production in
Laos and India."
From 2:30 to 5 p.m., Luca Mola, professor of history, Warwick
University, will discuss "Italy and Silk in the Early Modern
Period" and Ronald Currie, former director of the International
Silk Association, will provide "Guidelines for a Successful
The concluding session of the symposium will take place 1 to
4 p.m. Sunday, March 30, and will focus on the question of silk's
value today. Clare B. Smith, president of the Hartford-based
non-profit Aid to Artisans, will talk about "Marketing Handwoven
Silk Products from Southeast Asia and India in European and American
Markets." She will be followed by Li Long, deputy director
of the Zhenjiang Sericulture Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural
Sciences, discussing "Why Sericulture Today."
David L. Kaplan, director of the Bioengineering Center at Tufts
University, will give the symposium's closing speech, titled
"Biomedical Utility for Silks: New Uses for an Old Material."
Both "Silk Unraveled" and "Silk in New England
Society" are culminating events of the Northampton Silk
Project, a six-year, community-wide effort to uncover, understand
and convey the story of silk in the Northampton area and its
place in the history of silk throughout the world. More information
is available at www.smith.edu/hsc/silk.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the country.
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