Museum Texture in Kortrijk talks about flax. That might seem a bit dull: stale beer and old Flemish movies immediately come to mind. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, as we found out for ourselves.
For starters, Texture is located in a breathtaking building. The former flax depot by the Linen Thread Company is situated right next to the meandering river Leie. The building dates back to 1912 and it has recently been renovated with great care by the experts of noArchitecten and Madoc. They managed to combine the industrial character of the building with its current function. The result is bright and transparent, fresh as a newborn baby.
Table cloth and muesli
This is the story of a brave, wonderful plant. One that knows all about blossoming frivolously in vulnerable colors, but also about giving comfort and working hard. A multi-tasker that hides in your morning cereal as well as in the tablecloth beneath it (and in the insulating material in your wall for that matter).
What other plant can do all this? This is as versatile as they come in nature. We humans already knew this for a long time. Its Latin name is ‘Linum usitatissimum’, ‘the very useful’. Luckily for the people of the Kortrijk region their soil, climate and amount of rain provides the perfect conditions to grow the world’s best flax (or so they say themselves, and who are we to say otherwise).
The museumgame Staf Stekel takes kids between the age of six and twelve on a journey into the world of flax. The game is also available in French – the French border is not far away – and in that case it’s Colin Pic Pic who takes families on a trip through the fascinating world of flax. The children receive a small booklet, in which Staf calls the shots and puts the youngsters to work. The journey starts at the Wonderroom: Felix and Mirtha get acquainted with flax in all its forms. The beautifully designed space is fully interactive and invites visitors to feel, smell, hear and even taste (not a big success). Designers, scientists and entrepreneurs all share their knowledge. The story of flax starts in present days before going back in time. This makes it more accessible for the little ones – and adults who don’t feel like a history lesson.
‘27 PET bottles gave their lives for a piece of sweater’
As Mirtha goes knee-deep into flaxseeds (‘What a nice feeling!’), Felix tests the difference between a flax insulated room and a mirror room at the flax cabinet. His scientific conclusion is that both rooms sound completely different.
You can discover what different kinds of textile look like through a microscope. From synthetic to linen and everything in between. We literally take a closer look at silk, cotton, polyamide, wool, viscose and marvel at their structures. Staf wants to know what the light green fabric is made of. ‘Polyester’, Mirtha reads. It’s a piece of fleece sweater, 27 PET bottles gave their lives for this one. This information provides us with the first number of the secret combination.
The mighty dollar
The next assignments bring us all kinds of different object that contain flax. From ping pong pallets to tennis rackets, skis or bike helmets and skateboards. Even a race bike! Felix gives the pedals all hell. What he lacks in length, he makes up for in motivation. With great interest the kids study the dollar bills, that for 25 percent are made out of flax. Kortrijk flax companies have been delivering flax to the US for many years now, for their dollar production. No Flax, no Cash! The Euro note however doesn’t contain flax, it’s made from 100% cotton. Luckily there’s no such thing as paper money, with all those bills that end up in the washing machine by accident.
Cows seem to like their daily piece of flax as well, when they chew their flax cakes. Scientific studies show that flaxoil mixed with cattle food decreases methane emissions by cows (eco-friendly farts!). This is not only good for the cows, but it’s better for the entire planet and its climate, struggling with an excess of CO2 gasses.
The perfume of the Leie
The first floor is all about the Leie – the golden river – and its eventful history. That history is interwoven with the story of flax, just like in the damask table linen. This part of the exhibit is no longer interactive and therefore less appealing to kids. Although the installation by artist Peter De Cupere is magnificent. He created a scent that’s reminiscent of that of the river Leie. That sounds more poetic than it actually is: remember what a farm with too much manure smells like? Say no more. But for the thousands of families that worked in the flax industry from generation to generation, it surely brings back memories. To our kids, it clearly just stinks. But then again it’s an interesting kind of stink. It makes you think.
Texture, Noordstraat 28, 8500 Kortrijk. Admission is free for kids, the booklet Staf Stekel costs € 2. The museum hosts plenty of workshops during school holidays. Info: www.texturekortrijk.be