Golden Spider Silk Cape at the V&A

19 Feb

As the exhibition of Cecil Beaton photography took less time to go around than expected (see previous post), I was excited to find I had time to swing by the display of spider silk that I’d been hearing a lot about – and it’s well worth a visit! It contains one cape and a shawl, woven from the silk of over a million golden orb spiders from Madagascar. Each item is such a vibrant yellow, it dazzles as if made from gold.

Spider’s silk is one of the strongest threads in the world – one strand can bear the weight of 200g – but is exceptionally hard to harvest. The silk is strongest when extracted from the spider itself, not the cocoon, so a team of dedicated craftsmen have spent the last five years gathering 24 spiders a day, placing them in an extraction contraption (see diagram below) to harvest their silk, and then releasing them back into the wild. I’m not sure how I feel about the process, which sounds far from pain-free, but the result is undeniably out-of-this-world.

Don’t take my word for it, go and see for yourself – these pictures hardly do it justice. Runs to 5 June, vam.ac.uk

V&A, London

V&A, London

V&A, London

The silk extraction process!

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