Tsutsugaki Noren X LINK

Noren (-簾) are Japanese fabric hanging dividers, used to gently define borders between rooms and spaces. By using vertical slits and keeping empty space below the fabric, the scene beyond is partially visible, encouraging passage.

Noren are traditionally used in Japanese homes to protect from the elements and provide shade in summer and as entrance curtains to shops and restaurants. Today, noren are also displayed as beautiful artworks.

These noren artworks ‘Desire Line 1’ and 'Mountain Folds’ by Hannah Waldron are produced by LINK,  and are hand dyed by the Nagata dyeing house in Izumo, Japan. Shigenobu and Masao Nagata -- fourth and fifth generation father and son craftsmen are one of only a few remaining natural indigo dye houses in all of Japan.

'Desire Line 1' 

"This work was inspired whilst on a journey to find James Turrell’s House of Light in the Tsumari Echigo region of Japan, which I reached by cycling up a very steep winding mountain path. But this work speaks more broadly of a journey of realisation, an emerging awareness of the interconnection of everything - a desire line towards trying to understand my place in the world as integrated with nature, rather than apart from. For me, this Desire Line series serves as a mantra for reconfiguring my own personal connection to the world."

'Mountain Folds’

"This work has its origins in the sight of mountains appearing tissue paper thin, unfolding and receding into the distance on a misty morning whilst cycling in the Echigo Tsumari region of Japan. I was cycling around the Art Field Triennale visiting artworks nestled in the landscape, which is symbolised here with the red square. I was also intrigued about the tsutsugaki process and designed patterns that I thought would make an interesting translation in the hands of the master craftsmen at the tsutsugaki workshop. Similarly with the gradient I was keen to see how they would work with the traditional indigo-dyeing dipping process to achieve the ombré."

Read more in Hannah's blog post or see more photos in LINK's blog post (Japanese)

Buying enquiries please visit LINK’s page

Japan Journal pt4: Izumo tsutsugaki workshop production visit

I have been collaborating with LINK textiles for a number of years creating artwork for furoshiki - a traditional Japanese textile format- a multi-functional square piece of cloth, historically used to wrap clothes to transport to the bathhouses, and in more recent times to wrap gifts with. Each design I have made explored the portability of the function, the nomadic qualities of these transportable cloths, as subjective maps.

Recently I was invited by LINK to create artwork for another traditional Japanese textile process - tsutsugaki - literally meaning 'tube drawing', which uses a rice paste to act as a resist in combination with natural indigo dyeing, to create textile artworks, historically produced as wedding gifts in the form of bedspreads, and wall hangings, and also as 'noren', curtains that act as inviting entranceways to spaces. Having witnessed some beautiful examples of tsutsugaki noren on my last trip to Japan in 2012, and always keen to embrace the limitations and therefore potential of a new process, I was delighted to accept this commission. As luck should have it, I was able to join Kyoko of LINK on a production visit of the tsutsugaki workshop in Izumo, this May, as part of my QEST research trip.

Landing in Tokyo, I skirted around the city, from Narita to Hakeda airport to join LINK creator Kyoko and long-term photographer of all things LINK Martin Holtkamp to fly to the far west of the main island of Honshu, to the small coastal city of Izumo. Getting on the small bus that took us on the short hop from the airport to the centre, glimpsing fragments of the landscape as the sun set, we settled into the quiet confidence of the place, pulsing along to its own quiet rhythm, which I discovered is steeped in spiritual history, craft and its own distinct culture. After the most delicious seafood feast in a quiet backstreet of Izumo, and a midnight dip in the hotel's own onsen, I felt perfectly at home.

The next morning, we arrived at the workshop to be greeted by Mr Nagata and his son, and their dog Beck in a cosy corner of their workshop, the entirety of the space adorned with their craftsmanship - wall hangings, furoshiki, banners, table cloths and more. Over Japanese tea for the next hour Kyoko and the father-son duo discussed in Japanese the intricacies of the technique, the current state of the industry of Japanese craft textiles, the tools, their customers, as well as the rich culture of Izumo. We were shown work from his ancestors from the Meiji period, a baby blanket of exquisite detail, fortuitous cranes and turtles under a sunset cloud, and a bed spread of family crests, sewn together from 4 pieces, still luminously rich with indigo, despite the passing centuries.

We were then guided through the process through a series of demonstrations. I spotted my artwork draped in mid air above our heads, and another half of the noren was retrieved and suspended it the upper part of their studio in order for Mr Nagata senior to demonstrate the application of the design, the 'tubedrawing'. He filled his tube tool with the paste, and began to 'paint' on my design, that had already been marked out in pencil, sucking on the tube every few minutes to release air bubbles, and he sat with repose on the tatami mat, in the morning light, attentively applying the resist paste to the cloth. After completing a section, he would throw on some rice husks and dust them across the work, to help seal in the paste to the fabric.

The dyeing room was his son's domain and we watched with delight seeing the magical transformative process of indigo dyeing take place on our noren pieces.  The dyeing room with the 6 vats sunken into the ground had the patina of countless years of dyeing and we couldn’t help but watch with wonder as we witnessed the metamorphosis from white to green to blue, as the oxidation takes place. Above the dye vats in the corner of the ceiling we noticed a shinto shrine to the goddess of indigo dyeing, commonly told to be filled with jealousy should any female do any dyeing, so indigo dyeing is strictly a male business. 

Seeing our designs be submerged in the the vats, and remerge transformed into colour so rich, for fabric to be so utterly transformed by the power of nature was a bewildering thing to watch, and what struck me was how gentle this process seemed. Rice paste, rice husks, paper tubes with a metal tip, indigo vats with only fermented natural indigo and nothing else added. Then the large fabric swathes are taken out to the canal just outside the workshop, tied to a pole in the middle of the gushing river, and the rivers flow washes the natural indigo away with a little help from Mr Nagata to beat away the remaining rice paste. It takes at least 10 dips, each having to dry for hours in-between dips, then carefully washed, dried, ironed, then sewn by Mrs Nagata on site.

After warm good-byes, bows and the trading of business cards, we were kindly driven to the local Shussai pottery, and adjoining cafe where we tucked into the most delicious curry before heading back east on the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. We left filled with the joy of experiencing dedicated craftsmanship, one of only 2 remaining tsutsugaki factories remaining in Japan, and a feeling of gratitude of experiencing artistic collaboration across the world.

All photos courtesy of Martin Holtkamp / LINK

Visit https://linkcollective.com for more info on our latest tsutsugaki collaboration.

Japan Journal pt3- The Site of Reversible Destiny

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After leaving the Aritmatsu Shibori Festival, we made up way back north-east via Nagoya to visit the incredible project - The Site of Reversible Destiny. 

'Arakawa and Gins' Site of Reversible Destiny--Yoro, is a created landscape containing a series of pavilions, undulating planes, shifting colors, and disorienting spaces that the artists presented to visitors as a place of purposeful experimentation. The work is part of the larger Yoro Park, located in Yoro, Gifu Prefecture, and opened to the public in 1995.

The first pavilion encountered is the Reversible Destiny Office (added later in 1997) that contains an uneven pastel colored maze and a ceiling that mirrors the design of the floor. The Critical Resemblance House is the next building in the park and also includes a maze with walls bisecting furniture and a map of Gifu Prefecture forming its roof. The Elliptical Field encompasses the rest of the park and is set in a concave basin in the foothills of the local mountains.

More pavilions (referred to as Architectural Fragments) are set in the terrain of the Elliptical Field and have names such as Exactitude Ridge, Trajectory Membrane Gate, Zone of Clearest Confusion, Mono no Aware Transformer, and Imaging Navel. Additionally, the Elliptical Field contains an intricate network of 148 paths and 5 maps of Japan placed at different scales throughout the landscape. The vegetation includes 24 different breeds of herbs selected by Arakawa and Gins to emphasize the changing of seasons.' (Text taken from http://www.reversibledestiny.org )

Visiting the park became like entering a new world full of latent possibilities. Arakawa and Gins believed that changes in bodily perception would lead to changes in consciousness thus they developed architecture and environments to challenge the body as a way to “reverse our destinies.” Arakawa and Gins' wish was for visitors to explore the site like children and to reorient perceptions and discover the unlimited possibilities of the body.  

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Sol exploring the site

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The site requires an increased bodily awareness, an attention to terrain, and and unexpected forms that aim to sharpen the mind. The entire landscape acts upon you like a thought experiment in the potentiality of bodily perception, testing body and mind and interaction in a way that feels completely bizarre and challenging to how one is used to traversing a site. It was truly wonderful to visit this legacy to the visionary couple, for further reading they published a number of books including 'Architectural Body'. 

Prepare to be astonished! 

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Rain Day + Empty Zoo (A5) special combo | Hannah Waldron
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