The four-metre-long hand-woven textile, a natural vivid gold colour, was made from the silk of more than one million female golden orb spiders collected in the highlands of Madagascar by 80 people over five years.
I remember hearing about endeavours by scientists to mass-produce spider silk. The approach, if I remember correctly, was to modify the DNA of goats so that spider silk proteins were produced in the goats' milk. I even wrote a (terrible) story around that premise during my stint at Clarion South. But I haven't heard any more on that front for years — I wonder what happened?
I never knew that anybody had collected enough spider silk by hand to weave fabric from it, which is apparently an until-now forgotten art.
The effort involved in such an endeavour — catching the spiders every morning, harnessing them into contraptions designed to extract their silk, making thread out of the silk and textile out of the fabric — the patience and time and labour that has been poured into it is … humbling.
It made me think about all the energy that I pour into my writing. Sometimes, when I'm tired, when I'm frustrated with my chronic time-poverty, it's easy to feel dispirited. About a lack of progress, or the latest mental block, or the sheer enormity of the task still to go. And I can't whinge, like I want to, because I chose this, and I keep choosing this. Every day I choose writing. (Even if it feels like a Clayton's Choice, but that's a topic for a whole different post.)
It helps me to stumble across stories like this. Tales of fascination, and the endeavours born out of and carried onwards by that fascination. Perhaps making a coat out of spider silk does nothing for us on a practical level: but I, for one, smiled when I heard of it. And felt inspired.
And now I have a new trick to add to my toolbox for when I get the grumps with the process: I shall simply consider my words to be little golden orb spiders. All I need to do is catch a few dozen a day, and coax them gently into a pleasing order.
And hope the wily bastards stay put.