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 “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
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.
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
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
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
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
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