Andrea Aranow is the founder of TextileHive - a textile collection that has grown to 40,000 items housed in Portland, Oregon.
Partnering with her son, Caleb Sayan, the two have created a virtual database available by subscription for both professional and educational use. We spoke with Andrea about the similarities and differences between textiles and ceramics, and her past and future travels.
"You’re actually making a product. I only made products for a short time, at the beginning of my working career, during the Dakota Transit time when I was actually assembling surface patterns out of snakeskin colors. So, I think it’s different because you’re using a primary material. By traveling, I get sensitive to these primary fibers and to the different techniques that I watch people use, but my creativity might be more in putting collections together - trying to understand where things came from, what they mean, how the art is important that inspired them. You’re a creator and I collate material."
“My forte is in bringing designs and hand-made goods from one culture to another."
"I love seeing people wearing the textiles. I like dressing, wearing, and attitudes. It’s fascinating to see the designs that people choose when weaving. It’s a long process... there I was in my mid 20’s with my boutique in the East village, and then I went to Peru in the mountains on a vacation, and I just had no idea. I thought wait a minute, I’m a little girl from Springfield, MA, and I used to go to the five and dime and pick out the best print and cut it up, but this stuff about making clothes without cutting it? Making the clothes from scratch, that’s foreign and very exotic. I loved it! I would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for the Civil War. It was a very good experience, such genuine people. Beautiful."
"Things move and read differently depending on the cultural context."
"I worked a little for the Minsterio De Cultura. But that was too superficial, so I quit that after six months, and started studying on my own. They didn’t allow enough time. Life in the mountains isn’t like that, it was slower. I collected and looked for progression in dates – like how did the colors change, dyes, style, and tastes change. All these things make a forward motion even in a traditional society. Incremental changes. So, I made this big collection, but had to leave because of the Civil War, and moved to London. The British museum decided they wanted to buy the Peruvian collection, and I documented it with a graduate student there for 6 months. And from there I was off to adventures in Asia."
"When you look at a piece on a grey day in Japan versus the California sunlight, you get a whole different read."
"The more people you talk to the more you’ll learn, the better your eyes get, because then you’re looking through the eyes of a farmer or a 7 year old primary school student. The more eyes I can see through the better I am, as an overall eye. I’m still learning, I’m so curious and still training and still have tons of questions. So, to answer your question, that’s why I’m going back to Japan."
Andrea was photographed at her NY studio and home
Photos – Jacob Lewis Ferguson