Southern Geometries at Fondation Cartier

One of the other exhibitions I specifically visited Paris to see was Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia, at the Fondation Cartier.

Exploring the geometric art of South America, the exhibition included architecture, painting, sculpture, ceramics and textiles from indigenous communities as well as well known artists.

For me the textile highlight was Brumas, an installation by Olga de Amaral. Layered curtains of cotton thread painted with acrylic and gesso hung in the centre of a darkened room, the colours and shapes changing as you walked around it. And the shadows on the floor were equally fascinating.

There were also some delightful woven bags on show, mostly from Paraguay. In the picture below, those on the top row are by the Nivaklé, who weave by hand but also use a vertical  loom. The designs show an Andean influence.

Those in the bottom row are by the Ayoreo, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes of South America. Woven from plant fibres or wool, the geometric patterns hark back to Pre-Columbian art.

Also from Paraguay were these wonderful chief’s sticks woven from plant fibres by the Mbyá-Guarani tribe. The light coloured fibres are bamboo, while the darker ones are some kind of creeper. Again, the patterns have been inherited from the Pre-Columbian era.

Paraguay chief's sticks

I also have to mention these vessels by Mexican ceramicist Gustavo Pérez. Although clay rather than textiles, they look as though they could be leather or even paper.

Ceramics by Gustavo Perez Ceramics by Gustavo Perez Ceramics by Gustavo Perez

Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia runs at Fondation Cartier until 24 February.

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Art of Bamboo in Japan at Quai Branly Museum

I’m just back from a five-day trip to Paris, where there were a few exhibitions I wanted to see. Foremost of these was the Art of Bamboo in Japan (Fendre l’Air) at the Quai Branly Museum.

I’ve written previously about the history of bamboo basketry in Japan and some of the main makers. What this exhibition does exceptionally well is trace the development of bamboo art from a functional but still beautiful craft to contemporary sculptural forms.

Rokansai, widely considered to be the most important bamboo artist of the 20th century, developed the concept of three types of basket:

  • Shin: Formal pieces that are symmetrical and very neatly plaited
  • Gyo: Semi-formal pieces, either symmetrical with irregular weaving or asymmetrical with regular weaving, or a combination of both
  • So: Informal pieces, often free form, that my integrate a handle made of a rhizome.

As a material, bamboo is supple, light, astonishingly flexible yet mechanically resistant, and impermeable – as these pieces show.

Ryumon Motif by Honma Hideaki
Spiral basket for ikebana by Tanabe Chikuunsai II
Detail of Chikuunsai II basket
Basket for ikebana “Fenced” by Iizuka Rokansai
Work by Honda Shoryu
Mugen by Morigami Jin
Work by Morigami Jin
Work by Hiroi Yasushi
Ichiyo by Nagakura Ken’ichi
Disappear I and Disappear V by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

“Art of Bamboo in Japan” runs at the Quai Branly Museum until 7 April 2019.

Several types of smocking

I’ve experimented with Canadian, or North American, smocking before, here and here. But last week I attended a couple of workshops with Eileen Wedderburn in the fashion department at Morley College.

All the other students were fairly experienced dressmakers and wanted to apply the smocking technique to clothes. By contrast, I was more interested in using smocking to create sculptural effects.

We started with traditional English smocking, where the fabric is marked with dots before gathering it into pleats using the dots as guides. The pleats are then held in place by embroidering on top before removing the gathering threads.

Some stitches allow more elasticity to the pleats than others. Here’s a sample showing several different stitches.

sample of traditional smocking

From top to bottom, the stitches are:

  • outline stitch
  • cable stitch
  • wave stitch
  • honeycomb stitch
  • vandyke stitch
  • surface honeycomb stitch (with some beading).

Some of these stitches look quite similar but are subtly different.

The two rows of honeycomb stitch didn’t work too well on the sample because the pleats were quite tight, and I think it’s seen to best effect when there are more rows.

So I tried an experiment with radial smocking, where I started with a piece of fabric shaped like a ring doughnut, with the smocking dots in concentric circles.

circular smocking

Because the distance between the pleats is greater closer to the edge, the honeycomb effect is more obvious. The elasticity of the stitch also allows the structure to be manipulated – I actually like the tubular structure on the reverse side!

circular smocking circular smocking

I also made a piece where the distance between the smocking circles was greater at the edge. This led to a flatter structure that was not so conical.

circular smocking

On the second workshop we did some North American smocking, where, rather than gathering, the stitch pattern (not necessarily in rows) is used to manipulate the fabric when it is pulled up.

The stitching is worked on a grid, so to save time by not having to mark out lots of grids, we used gingham fabric. 🙂

First we tried a lattice pattern.

Canadian lattice smocking

Again, I was very taken with the reverse side, which was like puffy diamonds and curled up nicely into a ball:

Canadian lattice smocking (reverse)

Then we stitched a flower pattern. This was interesting because, depending on where you started stitching, you ended up with black and white flowers (like me) or grey flowers, owing to the gingham pattern.

flower smock pattern

And the reverse pattern:

flower smock pattern (reverse)

I think this could be very effective stitched on thin prefelt and then felted.

Finally, I had a go at grid or Italian smocking. This differs in that, rather than creating a small stitch at every dot (or grid intersection), the stitches connect the dots (like running stitch).

The sample below was again stitched on a grid patterned fabric. I stitched two repeats vertically but only one horizontally, so the pattern is not very easy to see – it’s supposed to be chevrons. I should have started with a wider piece of fabric and stitched more horizontal repeats!

Italian smocking

Crocheting Persian tile blanket

I’m one of those people who can’t just sit and watch TV without doing something with my hands. In the summer this is usually stitching shibori patterns on scarves to be pulled up tight before being dipped in the indigo vat. But on long dark evenings, wool and needles seem to be more appropriate. And it’s so relaxing not having to make any creative decisions – just following a pattern.

Normally I would regard myself as a knitter rather than a crocheter, but I couldn’t resist this crocheted blanket pattern by Janie Crow, called Persian Tile. I bought the kit with yarn and pattern at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October, and it’s kept me going through all those long dark evenings. 🙂

I wouldn’t regard myself as an advanced crocheter. To start with, I had to revise the difference between double, half treble and treble crochet, and I had to refer to Youtube to find out about double treble crochet, which I’d never heard of.

The total blanket consists of 16 octagons, 9 more conventional granny squares, 12 half triangles for the edges and 4 quarter triangles for the corners. For the octagons I found it easier to crochet them all at the same time, ie do all the centres, then all the round 3s, round 4s etc, as it created a rhythm and once I’d got it I didn’t need to keep referring to the pattern. But it also meant that it took ages before I actually finished a single octagon!

The worst part was weaving in all the ends. The colour changed on every round, and some motifs, like the red and orange fans, were crocheted individually, so it seemed to take as long to sew in all the ends as to crochet the octagon! The triangles were also fiddly, because they were quite small.

It’s difficult to photograph the whole blanket, even though it’s not very large (about 110cm square). But it’s the perfect size for snuggling on the sofa on chilly January evenings in a draughty Victorian house. 😉

Happy new year!

Subtle at Japan House

I’ve been meaning to visit Japan House since it opened earlier this year but have only just got round to it, just in time to catch the Takeo paper show Subtle. And it was definitely worth it.

The installation on the ground floor by the exhibition curator Hara Kenya sets the tone. Shishiodoshi (so wonderfully omnomatopoeic!) was inspired by the traditional Japanese bird scarer, where water transfers from one bamboo tube to another, causing the empty tube to hit a rock, making a noise. Here, a glass tube hits a metal plate, releasing water that breaks into droplets as it hits a series of paper protrusions – rather like a pachinko game.

Downstairs, several creations by Japanese artists embody the painstaking national and individual commitment to craftsmanship.

Misawa Haruka’s paper flowers look like pencil shavings – and indeed are made in the same way. Printing paper with a colour gradation, gluing it and wrapping it to form a pencil-like form, and then sharpening it like a pencil, produces these exquisite flowers made of multi-layered paper.

Paper flower by Misawa Haruka Paper flower by Misawa Haruka

“Spring” by Ishigami Junya is an extraordinary piece made by cutting out the shapes of leaf shoots on 10,000 strips of paper and then gluing them together to create what looks like a sheet of tiny paper cress.

Spring by Ishigami Junya

“Control” by Nakamura Ryuji explores what happens if the looseness and flexibility of paper is tightly controlled – does it appear to be another material? Gluing together a series of paper rings at certain points produces something that feels more like delicate chain mail rather than a floppy newspaper.

Control by Nakamura Ryuji

The materiality of paper is also explored in several small collections. Creating a fold in a piece of paper is irreversible, changing the paper forever, but it also creates an interior, “wrapping the object and offering it as a gift”.

Translucent paper allows you to see through to the other side, engendering a feeling of doubt, encircling objects like a layer of fog.

There are also some fantastic commercial paper lace doilies (as we used to call them), and some laser-cut designs by Hara Kenya inspired by microscopic plankton.

There are also some wonderful paper samples in the shop, as well as lots of other gorgeous items, so leave time for that!

Subtle runs at Japan House, London, until 24 December 2018.

 

Basketry at Morley with Stella Harding

For the past few weeks I’ve been back at Morley College on Tuesday evenings, attending a creative basketry course with Stella Harding. The focus of this course, though I didn’t know it when I signed up, was random weaving, so I’ve been able to build on the classes I did with Polly Pollock earlier this year.

Stella brought along lots of inspiring samples.

We started by making open and closed forms in cane without using moulds, which was new to me. We also had a go at dyeing cane.

Now we’ve been let loose on experimenting for ourselves, with different materials and forms – here are some of the pieces I’ve made.

This is a more complex form in cane. Apparently this style is known as a hen basket – I can just imagine a chicken sitting in there. 🙂

This was a random weave piece I made using dead fronds from some kind of palm in my back garden. I have no idea where it came from and have always thought it rather unattractive – but it’s great for basketry material!

And this is a piece that combines felt and paper yarn, inspired by a physalis (cape gooseberry).

Some of these samples are helping me work up ideas for a couple of exhibitions coming up next year – watch this space!

Sparkle Fair this weekend

This weekend I’m taking part in the Sparkle Contemporary Craft and Gourmet Food Fair at the Landmark Centre in Teddington. I’ve previously done the Contemporary Textiles Fair at the same venue (and will be doing it again next March), but this is my first time at Sparkle.

Sparkle 2018 flyer

If you show the flyer above on your phone at the entrance, you can get 2 for 1 admission (normal adult admission is £4).

I’ve been experimenting with making ecoprinted scarves with coloured backgrounds. It’s still a bit hit and miss, but some of my successes will be on sale at Sparkle for the first time. 🙂

Sparkle is at Landmark Arts Centre, Ferry Road, Teddington TW11 9NN.

Opening times:

Friday 16 November, 6-8.30pm
Saturday 17 November, 10am-5pm
Sunday 18 November, 10am-5pm

Hexagonal basket making

I spent yesterday near the Ashdown Forest in Sussex doing a hexagonal weave workshop with the lovely Polly Pollock. We were working in the cosy studio of another basket maker, Annemarie O’Sullivan, as the squally showers drenched the garden and fields outside.

Polly Pollock hexagonal weaving

Using flat cane, Polly started by showing us how to make the base of the basket. Weaving in three directions (triaxial weaving) looks a little tricky but if you remember some basic rules it should be OK.

hexagonal weave base

To form the sides of the basket you need to create corners, which require pentagons rather than hexagons.

hexagonal weave corners

Then it’s back to hexagons and business as usual.

hexagonal weave basket

The trickiest part is finishing off. I made my first acquaintance with an Archimedes drill (if you pierce cane it tends to split) and after a bit of nerve wracking precision cutting it was complete!

Here are all our baskets lined up, finished with different coloured chair cane – guess which one is mine! 🙂

hexagonal weave baskets

Depending on where you place the corners you can produce different shapes.

hexagonal weave vessel

And of course you can used dyed cane too.

dyed hexagonal weave

Annmarie runs various basketry workshops – check her website for details.