Reub's journey

30 January 2012

Is it worth it

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
This cape, shown last week, resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and is one of two textiles in the world made from the silk of the golden orb spider. It took the efforts of 1.2 million spiders to create this garment. This is the brainchild of English textile expert Simon Peers and U.S. designer Nicholas Godley. In the highlands of Madagascar it took 4 years for dozens of workers to collect female spiders every morning, harnessing them 24 at a time into special “milking” devices that allowed workers to extract their silk. The spiders were then released.

They also made a shawl.
Sang Tan/AP photo
I am both revolted and inspired by this, a dangerous mix.


  1. Well, this shows how ignorant I am. I never heard of the golden orb spider. Not sure I would want to wear spider designs...I think it would make me itch. :)

  2. Yes. Revolted and inspired simultaneously. Thanks for this - I think!

  3. Great jumpin' jehosaphat. I watched the video twice to see if I was missing something of intrisic value in doing this.

    No, I didn't miss anything.

    I'm left feeling gratified that there was some human scarring involved.

  4. Rebecca, I had never heard of this spider before either. It spins webs of gold. I would much rather see the web than wear the cape.

    TWG: I know! But John points out that it isn't that different from wearing silk, created by silkworms.

    Reya: I'm revolted by the decadence of this garment, like something produced for the capital in the Hunger Games. An extreme luxury item produced for the shallow rich.

    But the idea of wearing golden's like something from a fairy tale.

    Laoch: yeah, creepy. At first I thought this was a garment made centuries ago, but no, it's contemporary creepiness.

    Jo: I feel much the same way. John says that I shouldn't jump to conclusions, though. He asks me to consider how a village-run cottage industry in silk might benefit a desperately poor community in Madagascar.

    But the spiders. Were they ok after having all of the silk removed from their bodies? I don't have any idea how sustainable this practice might be. I don't blame them for biting.

  5. more creepy than fascinating - I wish I didn't know you could milk silk from a spider...

  6. Kerry,

    Obviously, the creators of this garment knew how many spiders they would need to collect to make the thing....1.2 million of them.... someone with lots of money paid for the creation of this... the money could have been used for so many other useful things. Not only that, but it is VERY expensive to have this garment 'kept' in a museum in 'preservation conditions... temperature, humidity, cleanliness.... $$$... A waste of the earth's resources... in my opinion. Thank you for sharing this, Kerry.

  7. Pauline: I think the creepiness factor is boosted by the fact that this is a spider thing. How much different is this, really, than taking silk from silkworms?

    But yet. It is creepy. I hope the spiders bounced back after their "milking" experience.

    Linda: Well, you have put it out there clearly. This is a ridiculous use of resources.

    Unless John is right, and that villages in Madagascar can harness the spiders to help the whole area recover from deforestation and the hopelessness of poverty.

    It nags me though. At what price art? The pyramids of Egypt were built at an enormous human cost. The Sistine Chapel was absurdly expensive.

    What is the balance?


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