Eight years and 2m arachnids later, spider silk fabrics go on show in London

6 September 2021
Mark Brown, Arts Correspondent

Garments made from silk of golden orb-weavers form part of exhibition of curious objects connected to natural world

Tropical female spiders are the size of a child’s hand, they can eat their puny male relatives for lunch and produce extraordinary golden silk that can be made into textiles like nothing else on the planet.

That is the idea. But the execution of such a project was far more complicated. Around 2 million spiders had to be collected from the highlands of Madagascar and their silk harvested over eight years to produce just four textiles.

It was, agreed textile designer Simon Peers, a crazy endeavour to embark on in the first place. “Over several hundred years you’ll find strange people who have tried to do this and every time it has been found to be mad,” he said.

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Exhibition Diary

September 2021
The World of Interiors

Nature nurtured: a collection of organic artefacts, including precious textiles made from golden spider-silk.

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Object Lessons

September 2021
The Art Newspaper

Shawl made from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders

This is one of only four known textiles produced from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders (Nephila Madagascariensis) – and three of them (two shawls and a lambda) are included in this exhibition of natural wonders at Oliver Hoare.

The laborious process of making them is mind-boggling–it has taken the textile designer Simon Peers and entrepreneur Nicholas Godley almost 20 years of work, leading a team that harvested the silk of more than two million spiders. They spet 15 years researching 18th and 19th century methods, designed equipment to extract the silk, then embarked on eight years of production, employing a team of 80 people to search the Madagascan highlands every morning for spiders (which were returned unharmed)…

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Apollo Gallery Highlights

September 2021
Apollo Magazine

Ranging from Chinese scholar’s rocks to meteorite fragments and from a narwhal tusk to an inscribed sapphire, this exhibition of some 40 objects is a celebration both of the beauty of nature and of the civilisations throughout history and across the world that have prized it. The highlight of the display is a group of three textiles spun from the silk of golden orb-weaver spiders in Madagascar – one of the most elusive materials in existence.

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