First published in 1965, Anni Albers’ seminal book, On Weaving, is both a thoughtful meditation on the art of weaving and a beautiful photographic collection of historical craftsmanship. Albers, who we have written about in the past (and used as inspiration for some of our own work) was part of the Bauhaus movement and one of the most respected textile artists of the twentieth century.
Anni Albers spent almost two decades researching and collecting images of textile art from all over the world, which she highlighted in the book alongside her own work. She delves into the processes and art of weaving, its history, the specific tools used, and how traditional weaving fit within the world of modern design. As the modern-day popularity of artisanal and bespoke goods rises and at-home crafting increases, Albers’ thoughts on handcrafted and machine-made items underscore the importance of examining design problems by hand.
Her perspective on technology and mass production is particularly relevant to us, as we have faced and found solutions to what she considered a potential problem—that technology could limit creativity. Albers’ thoughts on human ingenuity vs. mechanized production encourage us to push our limits as a company and ensure that we never lose the human element that makes Alabama Chanin products unique. She was inventive—and that inventiveness inspires us to explore, experiment, and come up with creative solutions in our product development and methodologies. According to Brenda Danilowitz of the Albers Foundation, “For her, handlooms allowed for the slow operation necessary for experimentation. To create something lasting was to pay close attention to the material at hand, and she let the thread lead the way.” That mindset is a jumping-off point for everything we create.
Though Albers wanted the original On Weaving printed in full color, the publishers reproduced the book’s images in black and white; over the years, readers frequently complained that they could not view Albers’ work in its true color. In 2017, a new and expanded edition of On Weaving was released and it includes full-color, full-page images. The images from the original book have been kept, but the new volume includes new photography of Albers’ textile and graphic work, including some of her intricate diagrams.
On Weaving has a message for all artists, regardless of discipline. She delves into process, problem-solving, and our relationships with nature and technology. There is a part of her philosophy that still resonates today. In the preface, Albers writes, “Though I am dealing in this book with long-established facts and processes, still, in exploring them, I feel on new ground…Thus tangential subjects come into view. The thoughts, however, can, I believe, be traced back to the event of a thread.” An event. To Albers, material is an event, a sort-of living object, a challenge, and an opportunity. It is a beginning.