Victoria Finlay
AUTHOR

Victoria Finlay

I’ve just published my fourth book, Fabric: the Hidden History of the Material World (out in the UK November 2021, due in the US June 2022). It’s the last, and most personal in what's turned out to be a trilogy, together with Colour (2002) and Jewels (2005). In a way they are each about the histories of small, colourful and (usually) lovely objects, but they are also about how we humans try and make sense of the world through symbolism, stories, and the things we use and own. For Fabric I travelled to many places, including Papua New Guinea to learn how to make cloth out of trees; Guatemala to try and spin cotton; China to see the Neolithic pot which held the earliest known example of coloured silk; Gee’s Bend Alabama to learn about patchwork; northern India to find out what was so extraordinary about the pashmina shawls woven in Kashmir; and Paisley to discover why exactly that Scottish town became associated with the patterns on those Kashmir shawls. I began the research just after my parents died, three months apart, and inevitably I found myself thinking about how fabrics can give a glimpse of something truthful, a clue to what is beneath the surface of things. My previous book was called A Brilliant History of Color in Art. At the beginning I thought, oh that won't take much work as I'd already written Colour. But actually it involved a whole load of new research and ideas, and it took AGES to write (mostly between 1am and 6am). It's beautifully designed, which I can say because I had very little to do with that. And of course it's packed full of great art images from the Getty Museum and elsewhere I first became fascinated with colours when I was eight, and my father showed me the stained-glass in Chartres cathedral and explained how the blue glass was made 800 years ago and we couldn't make it like that anymore. Many years later I gave up my job as arts editor at The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong to write Colour: Travels through the Paintbox (in the US, Color: a Natural History of the Palette). The author photo was taken at the Getty when I was so happy to find a case full of pigment samples. The face-painting photo was taken on the Tiwi Islands in Northern Australia where Doreen Tipoulera created the Big Sheep, Little Sheep Dreaming in ochre on my face. And the Afghanistan picture was taken at a house in Sar-e-sang, where miners dynamited for blue. At the moment the shutter was pressed I had just noticed something metallic under the sofa I was leaning against. It was an AK47.
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