Reviving a lost tradition: Cape made from silk of a million spiders unveiled for new exhibition


Reviving a lost tradition: Cape made from silk of a million spiders unveiled for new exhibition

Made from the silk of more than a million spiders a unique cape will go on display in Europe for the first time.

The striking cover up took more than four years to create and 80 people were involved in the process.

Each morning a team would scour the highlands of Madagascar for female Golden Orb spiders – which boast a leg span as big as a hand – to harvest the materials needed.

Made from the silk of more than a million spiders a unique cape will be displayed at London's V&A Museum

Made from the silk of more than a million spiders a unique cape will be displayed at London's V&A Museum

Once the collection process was complete each spider would be
harnessed in specially conceived ‘silking’ contraptions where trained
handlers would extract silk from 24 spiders at a time before returning them to the wild.

One gossamer thread is made from 96 twisted strands of silk and on average it takes 23,000 spiders to gather 1 ounce of silk.

The woven textile, which is naturally golden in colour, measures four metres long and is the only object of its kind to be created in such a labour intensive way.

Simon Peers and Nicholas Godley, both expats living in Madagascar, were responsible for the design.

Inspired by 19th century accounts
and illustrations they started experimenting with spider silk in 2004 to see if they could revive the lost tradition.

The cape will now be displayed at the V&A from January 25 to June 5.

Commenting on the exhibition Mr Peers said: 'We were keen to show the spider silk textiles at the V&A, being the most appropriate place to premiere this work in Europe.

Model Bianca Gavrilas wears a hand-embroidered cape made from the silk of the Golden Orb Spider in the V&A Museum

Model Bianca Gavrilas wears a hand-embroidered cape made from the silk of the Golden Orb Spider in the V&A Museum

Unique design: The woven textile, which is naturally golden in colour, measures four metres long

Each morning a team would scour the highlands of Madagascar for female Golden Orb spiders

Each morning a team would scour the highlands of Madagascar for female Golden Orb spiders

'As far as we know the V&A has never before shown anything made from spider silk, despite its diverse collections of art and decorative arts.

'So we are pleased and very proud to be adding a first to a museum with such a rich, long and illustrious history, and would like to think that we in turn can be an inspiration to others.'

The Spider Silk textile was first shown at the Natural History Museum in
New York in 2009 where it broke all records for visitor numbers to a
single exhibit.

There have been very few experiments with spider silk and no serious
attempts to weave with the material since 1900.

Frenchman, Francois-Xavier Bon de Saint Hilaire, first illustrated how fabric could be spun from spider silk in 1709.

He boiled cocoons, extracting the threads with combs to make socks, gloves and supposedly a full suit of clothes for
King Louis XIV.

The last known spider
silk textile was created at the end of the 19th century for the Paris
Exposition Universelle in 1900 but no examples remain.

The new piece has been created in the form of a cape, decorated with intricate embroidery and appliqud motifs.

Golden Spider Silk will be shown in the V&A’s Studio Gallery, 25 January – 5 June 2012

Spectacular surroundings: Model Bianca Gavrilas poses in the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Gallery

Spectacular surroundings: Model Bianca Gavrilas poses in the V&A's Medieval and Renaissance Gallery