The Taunton Kimono -part 2

This is the second post covering the making of a silk dyed Kimono for the “Imprints” exhibition at the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.

Detail of the finished Kimono showing the Shibori textures

Detail of the finished Kimono showing the Shibori textures

Stage two of painting the silk involved adding detail and richer colours to the design.

Fossil ammonites were used as motifs to add detail

Fossil ammonites were used as motifs to add detail

While the Rhinoceros teeth were my main inspiration, many other items in the museum fossil hall were used as inspiration for decorative details. These included ammonites, crinoids (also called sea lilies), gryphaea (devil’s toenails) and the ribs of an ichthyosaur. Some fossil cabinets had photographs of coral as a background, and these too found a place in the decorative scheme. Even the colour scheme of the Kimono was originally inspired by a picture of a red desert scene on the end wall of a display.

Fossil Crinoids or

Fossil Crinoids or “sea lilies” were another source. The dye didn’t work as planned, and so some of the fine detail was lost

The long white bars were inspired by a cluster of fossil ichthyosaur ribs

The long white bars were inspired by a cluster of fossil ichthyosaur ribs

At this point the front of the Kimono was lagging behind the back view

At this point the front of the Kimono was lagging behind the back view

Here the garment is pinned up prior to the second steaming

Here the garment is pinned up prior to the second steaming

Some of the detail and colour intensity was lost in the second steaming process. This was partly due to my unfamiliarity with the dyes, but mostly due to fact that the silk was just too lightweight to take intense dye easily. If I make another Kimono like this I will certainly use a much heavier silk.

Adding stitches for Shibori knotting

Adding stitches for Shibori knotting to create texture (click to enlarge)

Texture was added to the silk using Shibori knotting techniques. First the areas to be textured were stitched

Stitching a different pattern

Each thread was then pulled tight and knotted before the fabric was steamed again to set the creases

Each thread was then pulled tight and knotted before the fabric was steamed again to set the creases

Fully knotted silk ready for steaming

Fully knotted silk ready for steaming

After the final steaming to fix the texture, all the Shibori threads had to be carefully removed before the Kimono could finally be assembled.

Assembling the garment. The main body panels were nearly 4 metres long and everything was hand stitched

Assembling the garment. The main body panels were nearly 4 metres long and everything was hand stitched

Preparing the silk lining material

Preparing the silk lining material

The Taunton Kimono

The Taunton Kimono

The “Imprints” exhibition is on at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, Castle Green, Taunton, from 10th October 2015 to 2nd January 2016.
The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm

The Taunton Kimono -part 1

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The Taunton Kimono – part 1

A couple of years ago The South West Textile Group arranged a future exhibition at the Museum of Somerset in Taunton. The long time scale and the chance to exhibit in a beautiful space made me decide to take on a major piece of work. I have long wanted to tackle making a Kimono and this seemed the perfect opportunity. The project proved to be a long and steep learning curve, but on October 9th I got to see my piece (now known simply as “The Taunton Kimono”) on display at the private view of the “Imprints” exhibition.

My Kimono on display at the entrance to the

My Kimono on display at the entrance to the “Imprints” exhibition at the Museum of Somerset

All the work in the exhibition was to be inspired by items or displays in the Museum of Somerset permanent collection, so a day trip to the Museum was the starting point for everyone. A tour around the collection begins with the fossil gallery. It was here that I found the objects upon which I wanted to base my design. One was a 55,000 year old fossil Woolly Rhinoceros skull which featured the most amazing teeth. The serpentine graphic shapes of these teeth just begged to be reused in a piece of art, and the fact that the skull had been dug up just a few hundred meters from the museum seemed to make it even more appropriate.

The 55,000 year old woolly rhinoceros skull at the Museum of Somerset

The 55,000 year old woolly rhinoceros skull at the Museum of Somerset

Design work began with sketches based on photographs taken at the museum. (In the end I almost filled a couple of sketchbooks with ideas big and small.) These led on to a large number of watercolour sketches where I began to get an idea of the colour scheme I wanted to explore.

Watercolour sketch exploring ideas for the Kimono design.

Watercolour sketch exploring ideas for the Kimono design.

Preparatory watercolour sketch

Preparatory watercolour sketch

Work on the Kimono itself started with a full-sized line drawing that was then transferred on to the silk.

The final design was drawn out full size on pattern paper

The final design was drawn out full size on pattern paper

Transferring the design to the silk using a fugitive ink pen

Transferring the design to the silk using a fugitive ink pen

I had originally planned to use exclusively Shibori techniques to decorate the fabric, but the silk I had was too lightweight and too prone to bleed along the satin fibres to be reliably dyed using these methods. I therefore resorted to conventional silk-painting techniques and used Shibori purely for texturing.

The silk was pinned to purpose made frames and the design was divided up using water-based gutta resist

The silk was pinned to purpose made frames and the design was divided up using water-based gutta resist

Using a hairdryer to selectively dry the dye allowed the creation of tonal variation

Using a hairdryer to selectively dry the dye allowed the creation of tonal variation

The two halves of the Kimono were developed together to ensure a good match

The two halves of the Kimono were developed together to ensure a good match

My husband Alex was heavily involved in the project throughout. As well as helping with both the design and execution, he also made the painting frames with rollers on each end to cope with the long fabric lengths. His other great contribution was in making a really good steamer to fix the colours. He simply fixed an aluminium tube to the top of a large saucepan, with a hollow tube suspended down the centre around which the silk was rolled.

The silk was steam fixed in a steamer made by my husband Alex

The silk was steam fixed in a steamer made by my husband Alex

After the first round of painting and steaming, the pieces were pinned together to see the effect

After the first round of painting and steaming, the pieces were pinned together to see the effect

The “Imprints” exhibition is on at the Museum of Somerset, Taunton Castle, Castle Green, Taunton, from 10th October 2015 to 2nd January 2016.
The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm

My next post will cover the remaining part of the Kimono making process.

The Taunton Kimono – part 2

The Arimatsu Shibori Museum

During the Edo era in Japan, the Tokaido road leading from Kyoto and Osaka to the capital Edo was the nation’s main highway. Near the city of Nagoya a village called Arimatsu grew astride the Tokaido and achieved great prosperity through the production of indigo dyed clothing fabrics that were sold to travelers on the highway. These fabrics were decorated using sophisticated Shibori tie-dyeing processes. Shibori techniques already had a long history in Japan but in Arimatsu many processes were developed and refined that allowed the large-scale production of many complex patterns.

A historic textile warehouse on the little street that was once the great Tokaido

A historic textile warehouse on the little street that was once the great Tokaido

Alex and I visited Arimatsu in 2014. The village has long been absorbed within Nagoya’s suburbs and what was once the great Tokaido is now just a sleepy side street lined with many nice old buildings. Several of the buildings are the great warehouses and mansions of the textile merchants who made their fortunes here, alongside old-fashioned restaurants and craft shops selling shibori items. There is also the Arimatsu Shibori Museum, which was the reason for our visit.

Arimatsu Shibori dyed fabrics on sale in a craft shop

Arimatsu Shibori dyed fabrics on sale in a craft shop

The key to Arimatsu’s success lay in systematising and regimenting the production of small and complex repeat patterns. One important technique was the printing of a guide pattern on the fabric using a fugitive ink. This allowed the craftperson to align many hundreds of small individual elements with great accuracy. Various posts and hooks were also developed to help the worker carry out the arduous task of repeating complex patterns.

A craftswoman tyeing Shibori knots using dots printed in fugitive ink as a guide

A craftswoman tieing Shibori knots using dots printed in fugitive ink as a guide

At the Arimatsu Shibori Museum one can watch craftswomen demonstrate some of their techniques, though when they are working at full speed it is almost impossible to see what they are doing. It is only when they slow down a great deal that one can work out how the seemingly magical knotting techniques are achieved. The ladies we watched were very patient and spent a lot of time showing us exactly what they were doing step by step.

Craftswomen demonstrating at the Arimatsu Shibori Museum

Craftswomen demonstrating at the Arimatsu Shibori Museum

This woman is using a hook tied to a post to help control the complex knotting process

This woman is using a hook tied to a post to help control the complex knotting process

A section of knotted fabric. When the entire bolt of cloth is completed it will be sent for dyeing

A section of knotted fabric. When the entire bolt of cloth is completed it will be sent for dyeing

Pieces of knotted fabric. The completed material beneath shows the final pattern

Pieces of knotted fabric. The completed material beneath shows the final pattern

The Museum features a wonderful display of example pieces that show each traditional pattern from untied material through the tied stage, the dyed stage and on to the finished patterned fabric.

Examples of just a few of the many classic Arimatsu Shibori patterns

Examples of just a few of the many classic Arimatsu Shibori patterns

Each sample shows every stage from blank white cloth through to finished pattern

Each sample shows every stage from blank white cloth through to finished pattern

A close up showing the different stages

A close up showing the different stages in producing one design

There is also a display area showing Kimono and other items created from Arimatsu Shibori fabric.

Gallery display showing Kimono with Shibori designs

Gallery display showing Kimono with Shibori designs

A famous Kimono with Hokusai's "Great Wave"

A famous Kimono with Hokusai’s “Great Wave”

A contemporary Shibori wall hanging

A contemporary Shibori wall hanging

The museum features a large shop with a wide range of locally produced textile goods ranging from small “touristy” items up to very fine goods such as Kimono at truly eye-watering prices. Sadly, even with the local craftspeople’s great speed and skill, such labour intensive items now struggle to find a market at a viable price. Much of what looks like Shibori fabric sold in Japan today is in fact printed and we discovered that much of the genuine Shibori made for the more commercial end of the market is now sent from Arimatsu to Korea and China where it can be knotted by much cheaper labour.