Devon Guild Summer Show

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”.

Devon Guild Summer Show

Private View

The Summer Show Private View

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.

Antwerp Kimono Show

Last weekend we travelled to Antwerp to see an exhibition of kimono by the late Japanese master Itchiku Kubota. Kubota is one of my favourite artists and the chance to see some of his pieces that I only knew in reproduction made the trip a must.

Kim1

The exhibition was small with just eight kimono, six from the “Symphony of Light” series (the “Universe” set) plus two from his “Mount Fuji” series. The works were fabulous, which I knew they would be, but sadly the quality of the display was very poor with untidy hanging and lighting totally unsuitable for this type of work. The main light came from an internal paved courtyard but this caused so much reflection on the glass that you could only really see the piece directly in front of you. Fortunately we were permitted to take photographs, which is normally strictly forbidden in Kubota exhibits.

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Reflections on the glass made viewing very difficult!

The “Universe” set of kimono represents a mythical dragon within Mount Fuji breathing out flames and magma. They form one amazing continous image which was impossible to photograph but I have put together a set of individual photos to show the effect.

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The Universe set from “The Festival of Light”

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The complexity of the shibori work is amazing

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The subtle areas are among the most beautiful

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One of the Mount Fuji kimono

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The hand-stitched shibori textures are breathtaking!

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The other Mount Fuji kimono

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Kubota would spend as much as a year working on each kimono

The exhibition runs until the 19th June at MOMU – The Antwerp Fashion Museum. Antwerp itself is not a city I had ever considered visiting but proved to be a very pleasant and enjoyable destination.

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.

Kaga Yuzen Dyeing

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.

Restrained, traditional Kaga Yuzen Kimono at the Kanazawa Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts

Restrained, traditional Kaga Yuzen Kimono at the Kanazawa Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts

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.

Kaga Yuzen features fine white lines between the blocks of colour and often has fine shading within the colour areas

Kaga Yuzen features fine white lines between the blocks of colour and often has fine shading within the colour areas (Click to enlarge)

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 Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Centre had lots of Kimono on show but was disappointing

The Kaga Yuzen Traditional Industry Centre had lots of Kimono on show but was disappointing

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 Nagamachi Yuzen Kan had a large gallery space and a welcoming atmosphere

The Nagamachi Yuzen Kan had a large gallery space and a welcoming atmosphere

A design drawing.

A design drawing.

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

An artist's work table. Note the heater set into the surface to dry the dyes

An artist’s work table. Note the heater set into the surface to dry the dyes

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.

Artists work on several pieces at once

Artists work on several pieces at once. Bent bamboo strips with pins in each end are used to stretch the silk

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.

The black background was painted after the design was fixed and covered with resist

The black background was painted after the design was fixed and covered with resist

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.

A finished Kimono

A finished Kimono

Wai-Yuk Kennedy - Kaga Yuzen artist!

Wai-Yuk Kennedy – Kaga Yuzen artist!

New Jewellery From Old

Usually I like to start a new project from scratch. Reworking pieces that I have previously made is always difficult and a little less satisfying than creating a whole new piece of work.

If you make things by hand for a long time, you inevitably end up with a growing collection of odds and ends lying around. These can be from experiments that did not work out, or were abandoned, or even finished works never sold and you were never completely satisfied with. Once in a while I make an effort to use some of these pieces to develop new work and I recently produced a number of things that I am quite pleased with.

The neck-piece shown below is an example where I have combined various parts to make one new work that I think works quite well.New_Neckpiece_2New_Neckpiece_1New_Neckpiece_3

I have also been producing some completely new neck-pieces and have included photographs of a couple for comparison.Neckpiece_2 Neckpiece_1

New Brooches

I thought I would share a few of the pieces I’ve been working on lately. With these brooches I have focussed on creating lines that flow and echo within the shapes.
We’ve been experimenting with different lighting when photographing, but it’s sometimes a struggle to reproduce the original colours in photos. Let me know what you think!

Pastel rainbow textile brooch by Wai-Yuk KennedyAutumn textile brooch by Wai-Yuk Kennedy???????????????????????????????

‘Empress Dowager’ Textile Sculpture

In my last post, I gave a sneak preview of a piece I made for an exhibition at the Bristol Guild GalleryThe exhibition was put together by the South West Textile Group, and was entitled, ‘Suspension.’ 

I was interested in the challenge of creating a three dimensional form, and the end result was ‘Empress Dowager’ – a 3D hanging textile sculpture. I used many of my original textile techniques to create it, but had the added challenge of making sure that the sculpture was interesting from every angle.

'Suspension', textile art sculpture by Wai-Yuk Kennedy

'Suspension.' Detail.

‘Empress Dowager.’ Detail.

The design was originally inspired by Buddhist parasols and by the ceremonial parasols that I saw in The Forbidden City, Beijing, many of which were embroidered with colourful, racing dragons. The parasols are traditionally a symbol of luck, royalty and protection, whilst dragons symbolise royalty and Imperial power.

Buddhist parasol

Buddhist parasol

A ceremonial parasol in the Forbidden City

Although the Bristol exhibition is now closed, the South West Textile Group will be showing the ‘Suspension’ exhibition at The Town Mill Gallery, in Lyme Regis, from the 3rd – 30th October 2013.

You can find more of my large-scale textile work here:
Textile Sculpture: 4D Sphere
Textile Relief: Dragon

'Suspension', textile art sculpture by Wai-Yuk Kennedy

‘Empress Dowager’