Over the summer I put a lot of effort into some new textile necklaces. I recently sold the one I was most pleased with but I thought I would share a couple of images of the piece.
The Summer Show, the annual exhibition of work by the Devon Guild of Craftsmen membership is on at their Bovey Tracey gallery until 4th September 2016.
This year’s show has no specific theme and features a particularly wide range of exciting work. Wai-Yuk is represented by her “Taunton Kimono”.
If you have the chance to be in South Devon over the next month, try to get along to see a very fine selection of the best in contemporary craft.
The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Riverside Mill, Bovey Tracey, Devon TQ13 9AF
Open seven days a week – 10.00am to 5.30pm.
A major exhibition of IKAT textiles has just opened at the Brunei Gallery, in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Organized by the World Crafts Council, this marvellous show is well worth a visit by anyone with an interest in traditional textiles.
Ikat is a technique where yarn is dyed with multiple colours prior to weaving so that patterns arise from aligning the yarn colours during the weaving process. Yarn is most commonly dyed using a tie-dye or similar resist technique. Because the production techniques are both painstaking and time consuming, Ikat textiles are among the most expensive of all fabrics. Variations on the Ikat technique can be found all around the world.
The Brunei Gallery is a beautiful venue and deserves to be much better known. It is only a 3 minute walk from the British Museum. In addition to a program of changing exhibitions, there is a permanent collection and a beautiful Japanese roof garden.The show features examples from some ten countries in the Asia-Pacific region, plus items from Latin-America, the Middle East, West Africa and Europe.
As well as the textile displays, on specific event days there are live demonstrations, a symposium and film screenings.
The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30 to 17.00. Closed Sundays, Mondays and Bank holidays. Admission is free.
For more details, see the Brunei Gallery website
When the family took a short break in Florence a couple of weeks ago we were all struck by the amount of wrought ironwork attached to walls and covering ground floor windows. Much of this ironwork dates back to renaissance times but the tradition of using metal in attractive and interesting ways continues today.
In medieval and renaissance times Florence was a turbulent place, with civil unrest, invasion and religious upheaval all being regular hazards. Measures to keep unwanted intruders out of your property were essential.
During the renaissance, streets and buildings were lit by burning torches inserted into brackets on walls. Different designs of bracket can be seen throughout the old city.
A few weeks ago we spent a weekend in the lovely city of Hereford. As well as spending time visiting the beautiful cathedral and interesting shops we also took a trip by car to see an old favourite of ours.
Stokesay Castle is a medieval fortified manor house situated on the A49 between Hereford and Shrewsbury. It was originally built in the 1280’s and much of that first building phase has somehow survived.
Some additions and alterations were made in the 16th century, most notably the construction of an ornate gatehouse. The only other major change to the layout came during the civil war when the Parliamentarians demolished the curtain wall after the castle was surrendered to them.
Stokesay was built as a grand country residence by a powerful wool merchant named Richard of Ludlow, who was one of the richest people in England.
The great hall is the stand out feature of the castle and gives a powerful impression of how basic life in a medieval household must have been. We had last visited Stokesay about fifteen years before on a warm summer’s day. This time we came on a bleak freezing day in February and it really brought home how cold life was in large uninsulated buildings without glazing to keep the wind out.
Things became more civilized in the sixteenth century when a private room adjoining the great hall was converted into a solar, with glazed windows and wood panelled walls.
The building of the decorative gatehouse as part of the sixteenth century updating illustrates how life had become much less dangerous on the Welsh borders by this time. The gatehouse is very beautiful but looks slightly incongruous in the context of the other buildings. The missing outer castle wall adds to its sense of dislocation.
Today, Stokesay Castle is owned and maintained by English Heritage. In a world where heritage sites too often try to be entertaining, this old building that has survived so miraculously is presented to visitors with the minimum modern embellishment possible and that is very refreshing. If you are ever in that part of the world it is worth a visit.
This is the second post covering the making of a silk dyed Kimono for the “Imprints” exhibition at the Museum of Somerset in Taunton.
Stage two of painting the silk involved adding detail and richer colours to the design.
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.
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.
After the final steaming to fix the texture, all the Shibori threads had to be carefully removed before the Kimono could finally be assembled.
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
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.
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.
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.
Work on the Kimono itself started with a full-sized line drawing that was then transferred on to the silk.
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.
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 “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is also a display area showing Kimono and other items created from Arimatsu Shibori fabric.
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.
Hida no Sato (Hida Folk Village) is a wonderful open air museum situated on the outskirts of Takayama, a delightful town in the mountains of central Honshu, north of Nagoya. The site consists of around 30 old buildings from all over the mountains that were dismantled and then rebuilt here in the 1970’s. The buildings are mainly large farmhouses of various types and most are over 100 years old.
The Hida region of Gifu Prefecture is subject to heavy snowfall (often up to two metres) and the different styles of architecture show alternative approaches to dealing with this climate. In the north of the region the farmers built using steeply sloped roofs so that snow would slide off. This is the “gassho-zukuri” (praying hands) style of building used at the nearby Shirakawa-go village that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other areas built houses with very strong, low-pitched roofs so that people could climb up and shovel off the excess snow.
Visitors are able to wander around and enter the buildings. Inside are many of the everyday tools and artifacts used by their original inhabitants. Each structure also functions as a museum for one aspect of traditional mountain life, including weaving, house building and repair, cultivation, transport, etc.
Models are also used to show house construction techniques and such things as farm layouts.
The immense size of many buildings is very impressive. Large extended families would have all lived together under one roof.
Hido no Sato even features an original village well that has been painstakingly reconstructed on the site.
This is a wonderful place to visit and certainly proved much more interesting than we had anticipated. In one part of the site visitors can watch traditional craftspeople at work and buy their wares.
It is becoming something of a tradition for me to post photographs of my Christmas cakes each year. This time we were away for Xmas and this meant that my approach was simpler – basically just some cut-out flower shapes and colouring. Even so, I was quite pleased with the results.
Below are the small cakes I made for friends and relatives. An individual hand-decorated cake is always a great gift. I would like to wish everyone who follows this blog a very happy and fulfilling New Year!
Yuzen Dyeing is a traditional process for decorating silk which uses a paste resist made from glutinous rice to contain dyes within desired boundaries. It can be thought of as a sophisticated production version of the western “Serti” technique for silk painting. While Yuzen dyeing is carried out in many parts of Japan the most famous traditional area of production was the “Kaga” region, an old province, now part of Ishikawa Prefecture on the North coast of Honshu.
Kaga Yuzen production was centred in Kanazawa and the decorated Kimono silk from this area became famous from the eighteenth century onwards. The distinguishing features were highly naturalistic designs based on plants and animals and a colourful but strictly limited palette.
During our visit to Japan this year, Alex and I travelled to Kanazawa to see what we could learn about Kaga Yuzen dyeing as practised today. Our first port of call was the city’s Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts. This was a very interesting place to visit with some great exhibits by young craftspeople but it only had a few Kimono and very little information.
Our next port of call was Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Centre, a sort of co-operative education and marketing effort for all the local producers. Sadly this featured the same disappointments we encountered at a few other venues in Japan: no photography permitted and a distinct feeling that they only really cared about you spending time in the gift shop buying the quite pricey and often slightly tacky souvenirs. Still, the displays did feature many Kimono including some with very dramatic and unusual compositions. We were also able to sit and watch a lengthy TV documentary on Kaga Yuzen dyeing. One thing the displays at this Centre made clear was that today’s Kaga Yuzen dyers have now largely abandoned the traditional restricted and restrained colour schemes in favour of much more exuberant, sweet and perhaps even syrupy hues.
The next day we went to a privately run Kaga Yuzen studio, the Nagamachi Yuzen Kan. Here we were made very much more welcome with photography positively encouraged and a helpful guide who tried hard to be informative, despite speaking little English. I suspect that this studio makes most of its income through teaching but it had a large gallery full of Kimono on display. The sweet, bright pastel colours were again in evidence but the technique shown was superb.
The Kaga Yuzen process can be summarised as:-
1. The design drawing is transferred to the silk over a lightbox using fugitive ink that will wash out.
2. The design is outlined in very fine lines using a bag of rice paste and a fine nozzle similar to that used in cake decoration
3. The individual areas of colour are painted in. Artists use an electric heater to quickly dry the dyes so that they do not run and work on the different sections of Kimono fabric simultaneously.
4. The fabric is given a short steaming to fix the painting before all the design areas are coated with rice paste resist.
5. The fabric is stretched and the background is rapidly coloured in using a large brush.
6. The fabric is given a final steaming to fix all the colours
7. The silk is washed to remove all the rice paste and excess dye. Formerly this was done in the local rivers but now this only happens during festivals and special events to entertain tourists.
8. After drying and ironing the finished fabric is made up into a Kimono.
This summer we spent a glorious two weeks travelling in Japan. This was a trip my husband and I had been planning for years and we had reached the point where we just had to make it happen. In addition to visiting many of Japan’s historic craft textile areas we also saw many examples of other traditional crafts; also beautiful scenery, exotic gardens, ancient castles and temples, plus lots of fabulous food!
Sadly the best textile museums we visited did not allow photography which limits my ability to share all I saw.
Nishijin Textile Centre
The Nishijin district of Kyoto has been home to fine fabric weavers since the fifteenth century. The Nishijin Textile Centre is dedicated to this great woven textile tradition.
Clearly this was a venture that was set up with a grand vision but there is now a slight air of a place that has seen better days. The Centre has some good educational exhibits, examples and models of many types of loom and a gallery with examples of traditional Kyoto weaving (no photography).
There are also a large number of looms used for teaching and demonstrations but these have a sense of being squashed into a corner by the large sales area stocked with very expensive but not always high quality Nishjin weaving souvenirs.
Rather than people interested in woven textiles the Centre now seems heavily focussed on the endless stream of coach tours that disembark for twenty minutes, take a few photos of the “Kimono Fashion Show”, buy some gifts then depart to make way for the next coach. So far as we could tell, at least 95% of the visitors did not bother visiting the gallery and museum floor at all.
If you manage to visit Kyoto you will never be short of places to see there but if you are interested in textiles The Nishijin Centre is worth a visit despite its slightly over-commercialized atmosphere.
Hi, I have not been posting here for a while but I hope to get back to adding regular updates soon.
Meantime here are a few of my recent textile jewellery pieces.
I just wanted to wish everyone a very good festive season and a happy New Year.
I have been very busy cooking and baking recently and thought I would share some photos of our family Xmas cakes. This year I made one for the whole family, plus a small one each for my son and daughter to take home with them. Unfortunately, I had used up most of my icing before I got around to decorating these cakes so I had to come up with a decorating solution that used only what I had left. I think that they still look OK.
I hope to get back to making regular posts in the New Year!