Travelers Bound by a Common Thread
Many years ago, invisible threads tugged and lured me to set forth from my island nation of Japan, and to explore the worlds that lie beyond the Far East. These same threads drew Cary Wolinsky away from a Northeastern town in the United States, compelling him to wander the corners of the earth, from Benares, to Samarkand, to Kyoto. While these threads may be thin, to insatiably curious people driven by a passion to seek out the new, they are lifelines upon which we rely; which guide us, and form the fabric of our lives.
I am a longtime subscriber to National Geographic Magazine. Whenever I feel that I am on the verge of forgetting something valuable in life, or I think that my work is losing direction, I pull out a copy and lose myself in its pages. The magazine never fails to provide me with a window into the process of living: vivid scenes of different people, nature and cultures. The magazine never fails to fill me with amazement and the thrill of discovery; and always inspires me with the courage to move forward. The reason lies in the stories themselves. They are products of painstaking and time-consuming efforts that always touch our hearts and spirits. The photographs provide a conduit into the process of life itself, taking us where we cannot go ourselves, becoming our legs, eyes and hands.
It was on the pages of National Geographic that I first became acquainted with Cary Wolinsky’s work. I was profoundly moved by the beauty of his photographs, and truly impressed by his ability to communicate through them.
Nina Hyde, the then-fashion writer for the Washington Post, introduced Cary to me in 1982. At the time of our meeting, Cary and Nina came to visit me at my studio in Paris. Nina had received special permission from the late Katherine Graham, owner and publisher of the Washington Post, to write a series of articles on “Textiles” for National Geographic, and she was starting to do some background research. Cary was introduced to me as her photographer; later, I learned that he had been trying to realize this project for more than twelve years.
The “Textiles” series has been very popular with readers, and has spanned 20 years, appearing in five National Geographic issues. “Silk: the Queen of Textiles” in 1984 was followed by “Wool: Fabric of History” in 1988; then “Cotton: King of Fibers” in 1994; “The Quest for Color” in 1999; and finally “Dreamweavers: Weaving the Future” in 2003. The creation of this series has been characterized by a sense of joy and wonder and Cary’s work, in collaboration with wonderful writers, has yielded truly brilliant results.
Cary has taken his readers on a long journey that has encompassed not only traditional fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton, but also the fabrics of the future. Fibers, threads, fabrics, and garments constitute an essential part of human creativity that allows us to bring beauty into our lives. With perseverance and passion, Cary has continued to capture images that portray the crossroads where textiles meet culture and commerce.
Since the earliest days of antiquity, fabrics have had the power to captivate our senses and emotions in addition to serving as protection from the elements. Fabrics are pleasing to the eye and pleasant to the touch. And that’s not all. Each piece of fabric unwittingly holds a piece of the very story of civilization, and the part of the world that gave it life. A single piece of fabric speaks volumes about the raw materials, dyes, and the techniques used to weave or knit it, as well as the life and dreams of its creators. And as society undergoes changes, so too do the threads and fabrics which clothe it. From traditional folk costumes to today’s blue jeans and T-shirts, nothing else so accurately reflects or illustrates the society in which it was “born.”
I feel the same warmth from Cary himself, as I do from his photographs. Even when I met him for the first time, I felt as if I’d always known him. I have a tremendous respect for his wonderful sense of humor, finely tuned power of observation, and uncompromising attitude towards his work. Cary’s photographs are particularly fascinating because he is able to call upon his unique sense of humor to succeed in an extremely difficult task, to visually express things that cannot be physically seen or translated in a photograph.
An example of this can be seen in the last installment of the “Textiles” series, “Dreamweavers: Weaving the Future.” Cary wanted to include a segment about my A-POC collection (short for A Piece of Cloth): a project I had been researching and developing for a number of years. This innovative process makes use of the latest in digital technology to create clothes from a single thread to finished garment in one continuous process. Describing this process visually without relying on verbal explanations was no easy task, but Cary’s imagine and innate sense of humor produced a delightfully joyful scene that fully exhibited the essence of what A-POC was all about. I’ve heard that Cary’s family tree is filled with skilled storytellers and poets, so it comes as no surprise that Cary, too, has the gift. His is as a visual storyteller.
The single strand of thread that becomes a single piece of cloth is the basis for my touchstone, the foundation of my work. With threads to weave my dreams, and fabrics as my conduits, I will continue my own quest to create the new and innovative. And I am very much looking forward to seeing where Cary’s insatiable quest to find and photograph new and unusual fabrics takes him. Cary’s photographs portray the world that serves as the background for threads and fabrics, a world of which I am but a small part. Today the foundation of making fabric, or the interwoven warp and weft threads, now takes the form of the zeroes and ones of the latest digital technologies. The long history of the past, technology, and the dreams of the future are all intertwined in threads and fabrics. I hope that Cary will continue to tell this ever-evolving story with his photographs.
Cary, as a fellow searcher and traveler on these many roads, I hope we may both always follow the calling of our threads, wherever they may lead us.
— Issey Miyake