Antique textiles provide insights into the cultures that created them. Unfortunately, antique fabrics deteriorate with handling and exposure to light resulting in damage to significant artifacts. Ironically, displaying a fabric for the public speeds its deterioration. Therefore, many textiles are inaccessible, housed in temperature-controlled museum archives. A comprehensive historical textile database does not currently exist.
Vintage textiles are those from a more recent time period, but face many of the same challenges as antique textiles. The vintage textiles represent a higher level of manufacturing process, including colors, print and layout characteristics that were not necessarily present in the older textiles. The virtual representations created from the vintage textiles have a wide audience in quilters, costume designers and all forms of graphical and interior design.
The aim is to capture digital versions of the fragile antique and vintage textiles and create an open access database, designed for non-commercial use and a commercial licensing site to provide revenue to those archiving the materials. With these sites, the pool of public knowledge is expanded and has the potential to grow beyond the natural lifetime of the researchers, designers and textile artists. The users of both of these databases span a diverse range from textile historians and researchers to computer programmers, digital artists and designers.
Textiles are vastly under-represented in current digital texture image banks, which tend to concentrate on hard surface materials such as wood, stone, metal or break-up patterns such as gravel, sand, grass. Anyone who needs digital textiles is disadvantaged by a critical lack of textile images. Virtual Textile and the Virtual Textile project focus on the creation of the textile images that will fill that gap.
Virtual Textile is the synergistic brainchild of two individuals, Catherine Bradley of McGill University and Kat Lind of Dragon and Phoenix Software Inc. (DPS). A chance meeting at a theatrical conference and a shared concern about textile conservancy lead to long discussions, the formulation of long range plans and a strategic blend of patented DPS technology, joint textile knowledge and construction experience, and strong photographic skills. This was further supplemented by unique contributions of database and technologies to help make Virtual Textile a reality.
Virtual Textile customers come from many areas, spanning designers, crafters and technologists. Some of those are:
- Video game designers
- Graphic artists
- Fashion designers
- Interior designers
- Furniture designers
- Desktop publishers
- Web designers
- Historical reenactors
- Product designers
- Theater set designers
- Costume designers
- Properties artisans
- Film and television specialities, like CGI
- Textile designers
- Craft artisans, e.g., quilters and sewers
The potential customer base for Virtual Textile extends beyond this list. Anyone that appreciates the wealth of the textile legacy will find that a virutal textile adds depth, artistic contribution and unforeseen dimension to their world.
Wider World of Virtual Textiles
The digital conservation of textiles extends past the antique and vintage timeframes. There are many textiles that exist in experimental, theatrical or special effect forms that are also in danger of fading from view. These textiles may come from either physical or digital form initially. Tessellated images, physically engineered fabrics and artistic works by individual textile artists can also be part of the digital conservancy effort. These textiles are also represented in the Virtual Textile database, although they are not normally included in the OADB.