Noémi Speiser

Threads are magic, language, grammar, symbolism and message

Opening and Book Release:
Saturday, March, 4 p.m.

Curated by Cyril Kazis,
Thessy Schoenholzer Nichols
and Bernhard Duss
Exhibition:
March 16 – March 23, 2024
Thu-Sun: 1 to 6 PM
and by appointment

Interwoven, twisted, intertwined, linked and connected, threads are magic, language, grammar, symbolism and message, but they are also mysteriously encoded in inconspicuous and complex numbers, in rhythms and geometric representations of colors and materials. The thread and everything connected to it has shaped our lives for thousands of years and will continue to do so for millennia to come.

Noemi Speiser (97) is the absolute luminary and “Grande Dame” of textile techniques invented and developed since time immemorial. She is one of the contemporary witnesses and scientists who have tirelessly dedicated her life to researching the textile creation process, materials, hands, knowledge and creativity. She was not afraid to use unconventional means, such as dismantling existing braids, to understand the essence of the technique. This allowed her to break through with “track plans,”, as used in industrial braiding, to explain the intricate path of  each thread in each braid or plait. In her own way, we can call her the discoverer and unveiler of certain textile techniques that few, or in some cases no one, knew about in the 1960s/70s when she set out on her own to discover the hidden secrets of plaited braids.

Her work is now being honored for the first time in a comprehensive exhibition with photographs, documents, analyses, drawings, and original research objects that can also be understood as works of art. On the occasion of this exhibition, her life’s work “An Annotated Classification of Textile Techniques”, which has just been published by Haupt Verlag, will be presented to the public. 

In her book, the entire textile world is divided into three categories and numerous sub-groups.This classification makes it possible to classify, understand and categorize each textile technique or structure more precisely. It is primarily intended for the specialist, but can also be exciting for the non-specialist to develop and contemplate, as her method can be applied to many fields of science and art. 

The numerous drawings she has made are not intended as a guide, but rather to provide a better understanding of this immense subject of textile technology. Among her many published works, her monumental “Manual of Braiding”, which she edited in the 1980’s and which can be found in every major library, deserves to be mentioned in particular. This book has also been republished by Haupt Verlag.

Photo by Ferdinando Godenzi

Bio

Noémi Speiser was born on August 11, 1926 in Surbiton, Surrey, United Kingdom. She came to Switzerland in 1932 and completed her education in Ennetbaden Baden and Aarau. She later attended the preliminary course at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich and began an apprenticeship as a hand weaver at the Heimatwerk Brugg, Aargau, which she had to abandon due to illness. Instead, she studied textile design at the Basel School of Arts and Crafts. After graduating, she taught embroidery for many years and, from the 1970s, ‘oblique interlacing’ (weaving) in the textile class at the Basel School of Arts and Crafts. Since then, she has devoted herself to researching textile techniques and has traveled to Japan several times. She has promoted the study of braiding, also known as the off-loom technique, and is the author of the world-famous ‘Manual of Braiding’ and several other publications, as well as her life’s work “An Annotated Classification of Textile Techniques”, which has just been published by Haupt Verlag.