I saw a very amazing museum exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Colorado. It was about the Silk Road from China, Xi’an to Constantinople, 5,700 miles overall.
It spanned mountains and huge deserts, temperatures ranging from 120ºF to -50ºF. The Silk Road was used between 500-1500 b.c.e. The entire route took more than six months to complete, if you were brave and bold enough to try it. Most only traveled parts at a time, and traded goods along the way. The route was very dangerous, bandits were everywhere, and death was common for a bolt of precious silk, so travel was safest with a large group. Camels were rented or bought, as they were the most reliable form of transportation, and most travelers walked along side, as the camels were loaded with goods for trade.
But, how it changed Interior Design! Exotic goods from faraway lands coming overland from so far away and all in high demand. As a species, we love to “feather our nest.”
Interior Design has only been defined as a profession in very recent times. In early 20th Century, a group of all male designers, by the way, declared it a profession. But way back when, the Silk Road brought things to a whole new market, somebody, somehow, was declaring, “I gotta have this!” And somebody, somehow, had to make it all look good together, and someone, with no official title, made it happen.
Let’s take silk alone. It takes 2,500 silk worms to make one pound of silk. That’s one robe, and the worms die in the process. I use yards and yards for curtains for one room, and I’m talking now in 2014. The laborious process to takes to get that silk still to this day starts the same way. The Chinese kept the whole process a total monster secret forever so they could corner the market. But the “known” world was totally intrigued. Goods from all of these exotic places soon became status symbols of the rich and famous. You had to have on display these exotic items and wear these exotic fashions. The very dyes used to color the fabrics became a precious commodity. The quest for “goods,” things we decorate with, and use for all types of design, are influenced by the total world market the Silk Road opened up.
These things only have “value” if there is a market, and there is something, almost in our nature, that says we want to be surrounded by things of beauty, and that brings us comfort! No one “needs” such things as herbs and silk fabric, but we love the new tastes and exciting feel of luxurious things that are new to us.
The Silk Road was definitely a start that may have triggered so much more exploration of the entire known world, and in search of what? Something new and different! Isn’t that my job description?