Unforgettable Textile Design in Everyday Things

If you look at the objects that you encounter in a day you will more than likely find that at least one of them is touched by design with cultural antecedents outside your own.  Many of the designs we see in everyday life come from textile surface or structural design that have been passed down through multiple generations proving that they are unforgettable and continue to have appeal.  Textile surface design or applied design is when a finish of some type is applied to a textile.  Embroidery, painting, or tie dyeing are examples. Structural design incorporates the design as fabric is produced, such as weaving a tapestry or creating lace. What is fascinating is when that surface or structural design is incorporated into a different type of object than for what it was originally intended. A pair of socks could have a Navajo geometric design knitted into them.  A tray might have an Incan Tocapu design painted onto it.  An African Kente Cloth design might be printed onto a fabric shower curtain.  Now the materials and the way of creating the design have both changed but the visual idea of the design is still dominate.

Producers decided how far to take the use of the design on which they base their work.  Is it a direct copy and has it been approved by the original creating group?  Is it an inspired piece that uses ideas from other works?  Is it a piece created in traditional ways by a group in the same ways as their predecessors? Is it even a textile or another form of media that uses like graphic ideas?  These are questions that play into the design process of the producers, values, and perception and evaluation of the design.

A selection of nine projects from Clothing, Textile and Interior Design 446 Cultural Dynamics Course at The University of Alabama are presented. Each project has a representative everyday object that can been found in today’s global market.

Guatemala Mayan Weaving

The Technique

    What process was/is used to make the design in general?

    Is it surface, structural, or a combination?

    What materials were/are used for the design?

    Who did the work?

    What was/is the purpose of the textile with this surface design?

    Is the technique still being carried out today by the culture? Do they still practice the technique, teach it, and produce objects with the technique?

    Popular Culture Today

      How is this surface design or structural design or combination produced today?

      Has the visual of the surface or structural design been used in material culture production today in popular culture or the fashion world?

      Is it copied or used as inspiration?

      What materials are used in the production?

      Where can it be purchased?

      Who is producing it?

      How much does it cost?

      Legal/Moral Issues


        Has the culture group who produced the technique you researched given permission for the use of their work with the examples discussed in Part II?

        Discuss the laws that govern cultural intellectual property in the country where the culture resides.

        What laws in the US govern cultural intellectual property?

        Is the design considered sacred and should not be reproduced because of its sacred nature?

        Is the technique/visual representation of the culture’s work considered public domain?