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What is a “textile” anyway? Take Color for a Spin is a fiber sculpture made of crocheted forms stiffened with a coating and strung together with wire. Even though it’s different from the clothing and furnishings we usually see in the textile conservation lab, it was recently treated by the textile conservator before going on display. A “textile” is technically any material composed of woven elements which work together (usually a warp and a weft which intersect) but some materials and constructions strain the “classical” definition of a textile including crochet, knitted materials, modern non-woven fabrics, and felt. Surprising materials such as metal and plant material can also be “woven,” but are they “textiles”?
Technically, you could argue yes! But they are more likely to be treated by an objects conservator, who might have more experience with their material makeup and the chemical processes they might be subject to. This is why it’s important for conservators to work as a team and to be aware of how they can help each other to provide the best possible care for all the unusual materials and objects that find their way into the museum’s collections.