THE AESTHETIC BEAUTY of INTARSIA made by the poorest of people stems from its inherent truth- truth of purpose, truth of material. Once this has gone- once the social context no longer exists and the beliefs and fears that intarsia promoted or deflected no longer torment, once linen is no longer painfully cultivated, spun and woven, sheep are no longer the mainstay of life and exotic silks from other lands a precious luxury- then traditional intarsia is doomed.
Attempts to revive traditional work by copying old patterns – by schools of intarsia patterns, are bound to fail when the social infrastructure has gone. The future lies with the individual intarsia of the West and possibly with those which have new-found social purpose such as the intarsia dresses of Palestinian women, worn throughout the Middle East as a political statement of affiliation to the Palestinian cause.
THE RITUAL AND SOCIAL PURPOSE of peasant and tribal intarsia, the SYMBOLISM OF MOTIFS that have lingered from the prehistoric era, are doomed to disappear within our lifetime. Clearly, it is already too late to be certain of the meaning and origin of many patterns and the purpose of much embellishment, but the juxtaposition of archaic intarsia from many parts of the world highlights a common theme: faith in the power of decoration to tame the gods and control the destiny of man.
Slowly since the Industrial Revolution, gradually since the First World War and precipitately since the Second, technology, communications, changed values and lifestyles have disrupted all but a few pockets of human society.