Serendipitously my QEST scholarship research trip to Japan coincided with the annual shibori festival in Arimatsu, a small town on the outskirts of Nagoya, with a 400 year rich history of trading shibori textiles. One Saturday morning on the hottest of June days, we took an early morning bullet train east out of Kyoto arriving there just an hour later, welcomed off the train by a host of cloth enthusiasts to this incredible two day event. The festival takes place mostly on the main thoroughfare, a pedestrian street lined with shibori traders, artisans demonstrating techniques, and shibori exhibits. The street is then punctuated by squares where public workshops and musical performances take place, street food is on offer (we sampled the delicious Kakagori and Takoyaki) and Matsuri floats are on display.
The art of Japanese Shibori takes the practice of tie-dye to a level of precision and skill that is hard to conceive. With a variety of techniques, tools and applications of bindings, wrapping, pleating, sewing and clamping, an incredibly vast scope of design possibilities can be achieved. Often in combination with natural indigo dye, the cloth produced is used for a myriad of purposes. My favourite displays of the day were the beautiful banners hanging in the trees above the music stage.
After three hours of flowing along this stream of textile celebration, with my bag a little heavier with a collection of antique shibori remnants I bought, we said goodbye to Aritmatsu, and headed back west to our next stop - The Site of Reversible Destiny… (next Japan Journal post coming soon)
Later on during our time in Japan, we visited our dear friends Ai-Aii Blue at their workshop on the beautiful island of Awajishima, where we got 1-2-1 tuition and got our hands blue ourselves making Tenugui - I tried out stitching techniques (NUI) whilst Hugh tried a clamping and folding technique (ITAJIME).
Sally and Junichi of Ai Aii Blue make imaginative, unique, contemporary Shibori indigo products using local natural indigo from Takamatsu where it is grown.They also had some indigo growing wild in their garden which they showed us, and also in its fermented dried state.
Sally and Junichi (AiAiiBlue) and their family at their home workshop.
Next year in 2020 AiAii Blue will begin a new adventure of opening a Shibori indigo dyeing workshop open to the public in Sumoto on Awajishima, with a shop and workshops. Keep an eye on their instagram for updates and make it a must if you're ever in the region, they are the best of people and never cease to inspire me. In fact it was Sally who gave me my first weaving lesson, her creativity is astonishing!
Indigo Shibori curtain by AiAii Blue (Image from sally-junichi.com)
The last Shibori highlight of the trip was another lucky catch - an exhibition of Indigo Shibori works by Motohiko Katano at The Japanese Folk Crafts museum in Tokyo. And we also managed to turn up on the day they open the house of Mingei founding father Soetsu Yanagi. I could of spent all day in this wonderful museum, and fell even more in love with Shibori and Kasuri.
This summer I was awarded a QEST scholarship fund to travel to Japan to learn the traditional Japanese ikat weaving technique of Kasuri at Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto. In late May to early June I spent 10 days going through all the stages of this meticulous process, creating two samples, and learning a great deal along the way.
Since journeying into textiles 10 years ago, I have been fascinated by the ikat process and in particular the Japanese iteration of Kasuri.
Kasuri is a technique whereby warp and weft threads are resist-dyed methodically to create patterns and images. Prior to dyeing, sections of the warp and weft yarns are tightly wrapped with thread to protect them from the dye. When woven together, the undyed areas interlace to form patterns.
On my masters course at Konstfack in 2014 I experimented independently with resist techniques, resulting in some pleasing haphazard samples, but I was left perplexed by the mathematical precision needed to design specific forms, so I was delighted when QEST offered me a scholarship to travel to Kawashima to grasp the knowledge behind the magic.
Samples shown to us during the course.
This incredible course, taught by the brilliant Sensei Emma Omote, was rigorously rewarding in the amount of knowledge we were given over the 2 weeks. Alongside the practical work where every stage was attended with precision I have never before encountered, we were enabled through the resources of the course and discussion with the other students from all over the world to be immersed into the history of the technique both in Japan and through other ikat disciplines globally.
Having this opportunity to deeply engage with this weaving process in the context of Kyoto with all its rich history of textile practice was such a gift. I will in particular remember my daily walk along the Kamo river to take the train out to KTS.
A huge thank you to QEST for enabling this research trip, and to Sensei Emma for her amazing teaching, and to the other weavers on the course who were so generous with sharing knowledge.
Samples I made during the course.
Really excited to now bring my understanding of the technique into my own weaving, and see how I can translate to my own visual language and in particular ideas related to my Fabric of Space-time research.
Launching today! A Day to Remember - Initiated by Case furniture in collaboration with Heal's fifteen unique interpretations of Robin Day's iconic 675 chair will be auctioned in aid of The Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation.
Myself and 14 other British textile-based designers were invited to pay tribute to the 675 chair by customising the chair. I contributed my Fabric of Space-time textile, with its starry grid nodding towards the modernist era of Robin and Lucienne Day and the space race era of the 1950s.
Designers include:Eleanor Pritchard, Donna Wilson, Charlene Mullen, Cristian Zuzunaga, Wallace & Sewell, Eley Kishimoto, Hannah Waldron, Beatrice Larkin, Catherine MacGruer, Darkroom, Bill Amberg, Stitch by Stitch, Margo Selby, David Irwin and Christopher Farr.
The designs will form part of a three-week window display and in-store presentation at Heal's flagship store on Tottenham Court Road from 1st to 21st August 2019. All proceeds will be donated to the charity, by supporting the educational work of the Foundation which help improve the future of young British designers.
Bidding starts today, live at Jumblebee !#ADayToRemember #675chair#casefurniture
Combined purchase special price
Empty Zoo risograph print
3 colour signed edition of 200
a5 (210 x 148mm)
Rain Day is a series of 23 ink drawings following the thoughts of a young boy, desperate to play outside, but forced to stay indoors because of the rain. Through the situation of being bored and frustrated the boy begins to notice all the details of his surroundings and think of others who might be in a similar situation.
Publication details :
170mm x 240mm
Wrap around cover
Numbered edition of 1000
Shipping in 3 weeks currently