My broad definition of textiles is any largely two dimensional material that is soft and can be manipulated and stitched into. I realise this is not as broad as some definitions. In my definition I would consider some papers as suitable for use in a textile context but not thick cardboard, stiff metal or wood. These things could be made into what I think of a textile – as in chain maille or wood pulp making rayon – but I think for me it’s something to do with the form the material is presented in. It must be essentially flat or linear, have some degree of drape and flexibility, and often made from smaller parts, essentially fibres or fragments of the material formed into a sheet.
So, for me, asbestos fibres presented in a fire blanket is clearly a textile, whereas asbestos fibres set in concrete sheet is not. And a plank of wood is not a textile but pulped and presented as rayon it certainly is.
Lots of different materials could be made into a textile, but the materials themselves are not a textile to start with.
Plastic, wood, plants, milk and animals can all provide the raw materials but some processing is required before they are a textile.
All textiles have stories behind them. Because they are largely processed to become a textile, they all have the story of how they came to be in the first place. History of the development of that textile, why it exists and how it was first used. Its cultural significance in different parts of the world, and its history of uses through the ages.
Then there is the personal history and story of an individual piece. Who spent time making it and why. Where it travelled and who it was close to. Who loved it and cared for it and held it close. Who used it to protect them from the elements and wrapped it tight around them. Who used it to comfort the sick or miserable. Who waved it in joy. Who repaired it and passed it on. Some much to love about textiles.
And there is the message from the work itself. Was the maker trying to convey something with the textile. A surrender flag or a protest banner. A clandestine message. A celebration of an event. A record of history. Textiles can convey and hold so much meaning.
I’m sure I could think of many more examples but I’m eager to get on and work with my textiles so I’ll leave this as a place holder and if I come across visual examples or other ideas I can add them here.