The Art of Mankind
By Mary Schoeser
Thames & Hudson, $95
How do you survey textiles through the ages and around the world? The topic is so big, so ubiquitous and wide-ranging, it might be easier to tell the story of oxygen. But author Mary Schoeser, a leading authority on textiles and honorary president of the United Kingdom’s Textile Society, takes on the task. The result is a mind-boggling, eye-popping 568-page tome that captures the sweep of the world’s most familiar art form.
As Schoeser explains in essays, images, and detailed captions, textiles derive from a wide array of materials – from silkworms to newsprint to seed pods. Over the millennia and in different cultures, they have been treated to a plethora of different processes – from felting to dyeing, embroidery, stenciling, and quilting. They have served a vast range of purposes – from containment to sculpture to costume. And from time immemorial they have expressed many meanings, conveying status, telling stories, reflecting fashion, and commenting on events of the day. It’s hard to imagine a form of expression more diverse or powerful.
With more than 1,000 color images, Textiles is gorgeous. And given its lucid text, recommendations for further reading, and resources section, it is also useful for any aficionado. ~Monica Moses
By Faythe Levine and Sam Macon
Foreword by Ed Ruscha
Princeton Architectural Press, $25
Sign painters may work in two dimensions, but they are kindred craft spirits, as this exquisitely illustrated book, filled with colorful signs and hand-lettered typography, attests. Handmade Nation co-author Faythe Levine and filmmaker Sam Macon profile 26 practitioners. Artists’ statements (excerpted from video interviews Levine and Macon conducted for a companion documentary of the same name) offer an intimate perspective on the field and reveal just how small and interconnected it is. Legends such as Ernie Gosnell and Keith Knecht have their say about the glory days of the late 1950s to the early ’80s, while companies such as San Francisco’s New Bohemia (which trained many artists in the book) pick up the torch, adding a handcrafted touch to storefronts and food trucks, and revitalizing this element of American cultural heritage. ~Andrew Zoellner
Merge: Art + Craft + Design
By Euphemia Toong
Gingko Press, $40
Creativity can’t be constrained: That’s the message of Merge, a global survey of artists and designers who transform all manner of materials into startling and wonderful works. Some employ unusual mediums; Ukrainian-born, U.S.-based Mark Khaisman, for example, layers translucent tape on backlit panels, producing incredible pictorial illusions. Others turn a fresh eye on familiar materials: Italian Gehard Demetz, for example, who assembles large masses of wood from many small blocks for his sculptures of children. Carving reveals seams and gaps, resulting in a haunting, fragmented feel. With 66 profiles in 250-plus pages, Merge promises inspiration and delight for all. The only shortcoming is erratically edited text, betraying the book’s original publication overseas. But as a visual feast with genuine international scope, it won’t disappoint. ~Julie K. Hanus