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Dym  |  california textiles

Dym | california textiles

Dym | california textiles, an on-going project, is an artisan studio or workshop that produces block printed textiles. Run by an artist enlivened by mixing an ancient technique with embodied algorithms, Dym | california textiles insists on slow manufacturing in Northern California where cost of living and wages are high, far from the traditional homes of this craft. The deliberateness of the process fosters creativity on more than one level.

Dym | california textiles official website.

Launched with sincerity as an artisan business, Dym | california textiles has, behind the scenes, conducted non-stop research in different disciplines: economic models; decision-making; embodied/analog production values; materials (+ "sustainability"); and, most excitingly to me, algorithmic, flexible patterns. As the block printing is practiced here, these subjects overlap and intertwine: Complex, evolving, changeable patterns require an embodied human with a capacity to make decisions on the fly and strategically.

 What is the difference between the block printed textiles at Dym | california textiles and the so-called paintings, block-prints on cloth, by Miriam Dym (and Hannah and River)?

What is the difference between the block printed textiles at Dym | california textiles and the so-called paintings, block-prints on cloth, by Miriam Dym (and Hannah and River)?

The economics of artisan work correspond to the larger economic system. There are no economies of scale in block printing, or hardly enough to make a difference. Though faster than hand weaving patterns into cloth, block printing is one of the slowest ways to print pattern onto cloth. (I suspect that printing was invented to get decoration onto cloth more quickly than pre-industrial weaving or embroidery allows.) This slowness becomes useful when it enables the "laborers" to have agency and responsively interact with their work; to create endless variation with limited means [3]; to behave as though what we make and how we make it matters both to us and to our customers. 

We amplify what's possible with a modular, interactive design system. This happens through teaching and learning from the printers, an on-going, generative feedback loop. As we practice block printing itself, even with its physical costs and repetitive labor, it offers deep satisfaction. watching designs emerge from capable hands, gazing at and wielding color, in the integration of play and camaraderie in the work process.

Still, I remember William Morris, who wanted his workers to be satisfied and proud of their work, to be well compensated. He wanted humans to have beautiful things, that they'd care for and honor. He wanted craft to replace mass production. His battle, like mine, was lost long before he was born. The Luddites rebelled when machines replaced their handcraft spinning labor. They fought not only for paid work, but for work with its own rewards—whether meditative or from pride at skill or more. Capitalisms insistence on economies of scale that benefit the few isn't news, but it is still exhausting. 

 

[1] For more about David Cope, see this vintage Guardian article. David Cope, Computer Composer. Google also works.

[2] My father, Clive Dym, technically a civil engineer, leapt into AI back in the late 1980s. 

[3] The limited means are the quite small number of printing blocks that have led to "infinite stripes".

 

 
 
 Tools of the trade.

Tools of the trade.

Ymy Sfumato, alter ego: her performances and their artifacts

Ymy Sfumato, alter ego: her performances and their artifacts

Drawings 2012 and 2016

Drawings 2012 and 2016