Saudi Aramco World: January/February 2014 - page 6

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Saudi Aramco World
TEXTILES AND COSTUME
Textiles made in ancient Mesopotamia were traded widely and were much in demand. Old
Akkadian cuneiform texts (ca. 2220
BCE
) from Tell Asmar (ancient Eshnunna) mention institutions where women and orphaned children
produced high-quality textiles, mainly using sheep’s wool. Flax, used to make linen, may also have played an important role in the tex-
tile industry. Plain-weave linen has been found in the Royal Cemetery at Ur (ca. 2500
BCE
). It could take many weeks to produce a high-
quality piece of cloth on a loom, depending on the material, the weave count and elaborations. The material of the cloth represented on
the female statue shown here is unknown; it was most likely sheep wool rather than linen, which was apparently reserved for priests,
high officials, rulers or statues of deities.
FASHION
DESIGNER
Diane Mayers Jones is a
Chicago fashion designer
who specializes in custom
formal wear for women. She
was initially self-taught, but
later formally trained. She
also gives introductory and
advanced sewing courses in
her studio, Dzines by Diane.
She has been in business for
more than 20 years.
Shown with:
Limestone female statue from the Early Dynastic
III
period, 2650–2550
BCE
, Sin Temple
IX
, Khafajah, Iraq. (36.1 cm /
14¼
"
) This standing female figure is depicted wearing a shawl, likely one piece of cloth roughly the size of a single bed sheet. It
was probably wrapped around the body and draped over the left arm, leaving the right arm and shoulder and lower legs and feet
exposed. The figure represented here is likely to have been a woman of relatively high status.
“As I look at her, she’s wear-
ing this dress and I’m blown
away, because I am a dress per-
son. I am always wearing a skirt
and blouse or a dress, so as I
look at her, I think, ‘Wow,’ you
know, ‘She’s got on this beautiful
wrapped dress.’ ….I love mak-
ing beautiful dresses, beautiful
prom and wedding dresses; some of the garments that I make are just so—you know—with the times, a lot of wrapping, a lot of draping.
When I see her, she’s got a little draping going around the front with the low-cut collar, it’s just wonderful. I feel like we are so bonded here.
If I did a little tweaking, it could be worn by the women of today. The work that actually goes into a garment of this style took so much lon-
ger in the past because they had to do everything by hand. These people worked hard at what they did. You can see her hands are cupped
together in reverence to God. I’m a very religious person, and it makes me think of myself.”
PHOTOGRAPHS
As the curators selected the artifacts and the people to be fea-
tured in the exhibition, I, too, wanted an engagement with his-
tory through my choices as a photographer.
The wet-plate collodion process was invented in 1851, 12
years after the invention of the daguerreotype. This process
can be used to make negatives for various printing processes,
but I used it to produce tintypes, a positive mirror image on
a lacquered aluminum plate. Each plate needs to be prepared,
exposed and developed within a 10-minute window, while the
plate is still wet. To create the photographic image, syrupy col-
lodion is carefully poured onto a thin, flat surface—in my case,
a piece of black, lacquered aluminum. The collodion provides
a tacky surface to which light-sensitive silver can adhere. The
chemicals react so slowly to light that an exposure can take
anywhere from several seconds to a few minutes. So that our
sitters would not have to sit paralyzed during a lengthy expo-
sure, I used high-powered strobes to pump out a powerful
burst of light in a fraction of a second. The finished tintype is
a one-of-a-kind object that can be viewed within minutes of
the exposure, much like a Polaroid. The tintypes themselves
are very much like the sitters—each plate has its own individ-
ual character.
—JASON REBLANDO
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