Thursday, October 23, 2014


Last week I went to Philadelphia for two days. In the past I've flown into it and driven past it, but never really seen it as a proper visitor. I'm not sure that two days constitutes a proper visit, but I was still able to see some interesting stuff while I was there.

We stayed in the city center, at the Loews Hotel, which was quite nice. The first morning I even roused my lazy butt sufficiently to use the lap pool. In the afternoon I walked a couple blocks over to the Fabric Workshop and Museum.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect at FWM. I suppose I thought it would be like going to the Cooper Hewitt. Fabric swatches or samples on walls, a lot of explanatory text, some archival photos. There was definitely an element of that, but a lot more and overall, one of the more memorable museum experiences I've had in a while.

The entrance is marked by a bright pink, orange and red sign (so awesome). Upon entering you are greeted by an attendant at a desk who asks for your name and zip code. No admission fee, only a donation jar. I assumed I would be able to roam the museum at will, but was informed that no, I would be given a guide. There wasn't a guide immediately available (this seemed crazy to me - that each visitor had an individual guide - I could only assume that they didn't have so very many visitors?) so instead I joined a tour in progress (consisting of two women).
The first two rooms held a video installation about a master indigo dyer (maybe someday this sort of thing will interest me, but as of right now, snore) and a series of blueprint renderings of Japanese furniture with tiny, spotlit reproductions of them on a shelf. And by tiny, I mean thumbnail scale. I wasn't able to linger long enough to figure out what that was all about though, because we were moving on to the next exhibition. We exited the entrance I had just entered and walked down the block to the next storefront. Our guide unlocked a door and we were in a new exhibition. This was a room with a "Shaker-inspired" exhibit. Paintings were cradled in these odd hook things that hung off pegs in the wall. A very cool braided rug dominated the front area, and, if one was so inclined, one could crawl through the fireplace opening to a second room, which had a configuration of branches hanging from the ceiling and strobe lights going off. It was like a tiny, weird, woodland disco.
Pretty sure Shakers didn't really decorate their walls, but, interesting.
Look at that rug! Love it.
This is when the other ladies departed, having seen the rest of the museum's offerings, and I had our guide to myself. Unfortunately my guide had only started working there 3 days prior, so she hadn't much to share in terms of insights about the work. I collected the printed info on display as we made our rounds thinking I'd read it later (still haven't, ahem).

We returned to the part of the building where we had started and took the elevator up several floors. The first stop was on a floor featuring the work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. There were a couple fabric designs I really loved - the first was a reproduction of a tablecloth fabric used by somebody's grandmother with a double black line overprinted in a tossed pattern on top. It was the quintessential 1980's MTV looking sort of thing. The second was a riff on those old black and white composition school book covers.
These 2 images are not mine, for the record.

The next floor displayed fabric screen printed by student apprentices at the Museum (thus, the workshop portion of the name) and a video documentary of them in action. The final exhibit was a video installation exploring Black male identity. Oh yeah, there were also a couple rooms somewhere in there with work by Philadelphia photographers. So, yeah, not nearly what I had anticipated in terms of, you know, looking at fabric. But, still, cool overall. Would recommend.

1 comment:

  1. I am a Midwestern in Texas who has rarely (aka, never) been in the East. I saw that building front with the daisies & the Pep Boys & was so intrigued. Looks like an interesting place. That rug is great!