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.

 

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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.

Innovative weaving: Anni Albers and Ann Richards

Regular followers of this blog will know that my primary textile interests are to do with form and texture. So I haven’t paid much attention to weaving (although my recent explorations in basketry rely on weaving techniques). Two recent events have punctured this insularity.

The Tate Modern exhibition on Anni Albers opened about 10 days ago. After its exhibition on Sonia Delaunay in 2015 this seems to be continuing the art world’s discovery that textiles can be art too.

Ironically, Albers faced a similar prejudice when she attended the Bauhaus art school in Weimar, Germany, in 1922. Despite its pretensions to equality, women students were often shepherded into the weaving classes rather than painting or sculpture.

But Albers made the most of the hand she was dealt. Weaving, with its warp and weft, admirably fitted in with the modernist grid concept, but by using unusual materials, such as cellophane and metallic threads, her pieces created painterly effects such as the impression of shifting light as well as retaining their texture.

La Luz 1 by Anni Albers
La Luz 1

In 1933 the Nazis forced the Bauhaus school to close, and Albers moved to the US with her husband Josef. As well as teaching, she started making “pictorial weavings” – artworks to be hung on a wall rather than used as fabric. I found these to be some of her most interesting pieces, experimenting with twisted warp threads, double warp layers, and gathering yarn to create bobbles.

Variations on a Theme by Anni Albers
Variations on a Theme

Dotted by Anni Albers
Dotted

As well as art textiles, Albers also worked on architectural commissions, including room dividers and window covers for furniture designer Florence Knoll in 1951. These included very open weave lattices in linen that filtered light while also allowing air to circulate.

Albers’ most ambitious pictorial weaving was a memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York. Although she was from a Jewish family, Albers had been baptised as a Protestant and didn’t regard herself as really Jewish. But her piece, Six Prayers, beautifully interprets the Torah scrolls and Hebrew script.

Six Prayers by Anni Albers
Six Prayers

Albers was a master of technique, creating multilayered, highly textured pieces. But she also saw thread as a material she could use to “draw”.

She also turned to more conventional drawing, painting, embossing and printing techniques in a series of entangled knots, one of which was interpreted in this rug.

anni albers rug

Albers didn’t keep many sketchbooks, but she did produce lots of samples, which are absolutely fascinating.

anni albers sample

Albers is probably best known for her seminal 1965 book On Weaving. The exhibition includes some of the source material she gathered for the book, including woven pieces from around the world.

Anni Albers continues at Tate Modern until 27 January 2019.

On a slightly smaller scale, the other event that made me reassess weaving was the Praktis 2018 exhibition in the lovely Bury Court Farm in Hampshire. Two friends, Barbara Kennington and Lucy Goffin (aka Material Being) were  exhibiting some of their exquisite embroidered waistcoats, stitched pictures and paintings.

material being waistcoats
Image: Material Being

Also taking part was weaver Ann Richards, who uses high twist yarns to create pleating that happens spontaneously when the fabric is soaked in water. Ann did a demonstration while I was there, putting a small woven piece in a glass of water, whereupon it pleated by itself, apparently by magic!

The pleats instantly reminded me of arashi shibori, and I couldn’t resist buying a bracelet.

ann richards bracelet

Along with two other textile artists, Alison Ellen and Deirdre Wood, Ann is taking part in the exhibition Soft Engineering: Textiles Taking Shape, which will be moving to Whitchurch Silk Mill in Hampshire next year.

Textiles in Turin

The main point of my visit to Turin was to attend the Slow Food Convention (Terra Madre Salone del Gusto) – mainly an excuse to gorge on so many delicious things! However, I encountered a surprising number of textiles on my trip so thought I’d share some of them with you. 🙂

Disappearing dye

The Japanese stand at Salone del Gusto offered several workshops, including the chance to dye a T-shirt with Commelina communis, aka Asiatic dayflower.

Well, I’d never heard of this flower so of course I had to sign up!

Fumiko Fujii, the dyer running the workshop, explained that the flowers are collected and then pressed flat on to paper, which is soaked in water to extract the blue colour. However, it is not fast when washed! For this reason it is used to paint the initial designs on kimono and washed out later.

So Fumiko had added some indian ink to the dye so that it wouldn’t wash out, and I used this to draw my practice design on paper – the snail logo of the Slow Food organisation.

However, when it came to painting the design on the T-shirt, I decided to use the pure Asiatic dayflower extract – and not wash it! 🙂 I added some red highlights with dye made by soaking hibiscus flowers for three days. It was much trickier painting the T-shirt because the absorbent fabric caused the dye to spread.

But it was lovely to meet Fumiko and learn about another Japanese dye.

Egyptian dresses

The best-known textile in Turin is of course the Turin Shroud. But in the city’s wonderful Egyptian Museum are some garments that are far older and definitely authentic. These pleated linen dresses, for example, are in amazing condition for fabric that is around 4,000 years old.

There were also some great examples of Coptic weaving and embroidery from the 3rd to 11th centuries AD.

And this is the remains of a design for weavers to follow, drawn on papyrus.

I also loved the patterns created by the bandages on mummified animals.

There was some great weaving too.

And the patterns caused by some of the displays turned them into mini installations.

Fabulous felt

Finally, we made a trip out to the suburbs to the Leumann Village. Rather like Saltaire and Port Sunlight in the UK, Leumann Village was built by enlightened entrepreneur Napoleon Leumann to house workers in his cotton mill. The village included a church, a school, public baths and a railway station.

Today the factory is home to various factory shopping outlets, but there is a small museum where you can see how the workers lived.

The day we visited there was also a textile fair and exhibition, which included some fabulous sculptural felt work by Esther Weber.

Catching up

So sorry for the radio silence – the past few weeks have been filled with doing rather than writing! Here’s a round up. (Warning – lots of pics!)

Kent workshops

I had a wonderful time at the two workshops I ran in Kent on felting and ecoprinting. Two very enthusiastic groups of ladies made some beautiful work. Hopefully we will be able to arrange some more workshops in the future.

Exhibitions

I went to a surprisingly interesting exhibition about teeth at the Wellcome Collection (closes on Sunday).

Artistic window display featuring dentures and dental implements:

More (and more!) dental implements:

And a cute Italian poster for toothpaste:

I also went to the Chelsea College MA Textiles exhibition (finishes today). I loved these beautiful ethereal garments made from discarded fishing nets by Jialu Ma:

Hongyangzi Sun’s knitted magnetic building blocks were lots of fun:

I also liked Anum Rasul’s architectural textile constructions, combining hard and soft elements:

And Miles Visman constructed a fascinating colour exercise showing how embroidered panels change under different lighting:

Inspired by nature

I spent a lovely weekend in Deal in the gorgeous cottage of a friend, going for walks on the beach and in the countryside and sitting in the garden.

Dead hollyhock:

I thought this was a giant dandelion but I’m told it’s meadow salsify:

Spot the crab (or ex-crab):

Work in progress

I’ve been experimenting with coloured backgrounds in ecoprinting:

And I’ve also been trying some weaving with palm fronds. In my back garden is some kind of palm. I don’t know what it is or how it got there – I didn’t plant it! The lower part has lots of dead fronds so as I was tidying it up a bit I thought I would try a bit of weaving with them. They are surprisingly easy to work with and I like the frayed ends where they were removed from the trunk.

 

Workshops and American Museum Textiles Fair

I thought I’d already posted about these events but it was actually on my website and newsletter, so sorry about the short notice!

Workshops

Next week I’m running a couple of workshops for beginners on felting and ecoprinting. The venue is The Old School, School Lane, West Kingsdown, Sevenoaks, Kent TN15 6JN, just off the M20. For more information and to book, please contact Judith Yarnold, judithyarnold@gmail.com, 01474 852669.

Introduction to felting

Tuesday 21 August, 10am-4pm

Felt is one of the oldest known fabrics in the world. It’s made by wetting layers of wool roving and rubbing and rolling with soap until the fibres interlock to form a robust fabric. This one-day workshop introduces you to the basic felting technique.

In the morning you will start by making a flat piece of felt to learn the basic technique. You can decorate it with yarn, silk and other embellishments.

In the afternoon you will make a 3D object (a small bowl) by felting around a resist. Again, you can decorate this in various ways.

We provide: All materials, but please bring an old towel and a plastic bag to take your work home with you

Numbers: Min 5, max 10 in class

Cost: £60 to be paid up front + £6 for materials to be paid in cash to the tutor on the day

When: Tuesday 21 August, 10am-4pm. There will be an hour’s break for lunch. There is a small shop that sells food about 5 minutes’ drive from the venue or you can bring your own.

Introduction to ecoprinting workshop

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Ecoprinting is also known as botanical contact printing or bundling. It involves making a bundle of leaves in fabric and steaming or simmering in water or dye. In these conditions, certain plants leave their imprint on the fabric.

We will be working with silk in this workshop, as it is one of the easiest fabrics to use with this technique. In the morning we will go on a foraging walk to look for leaves and other foliage to use for ecoprinting. Then we will come back and make a couple of small samples using iron as a mordant. They will steam or simmer during our lunch break.

In the afternoon we will unbundle the samples to see the results and then lay out a larger piece (a silk scarf). While this is steaming we will experiment with hapazome (flower pounding), another method of using plants to make marks on fabric.

We provide: All materials, but please wear old clothes and bring an apron

Numbers: Min 5, max 10 in class

Cost: £60 to be paid up front + £15 for materials to be paid in cash to the tutor on the day

When: Wednesday 22 August, 10am-4pm. There will be an hour’s break for lunch. There is a small shop that sells food about 5 minutes’ drive from the venue or you can bring your own.

American Museum Textiles Fair

Claverton Manor, Bath BA2 7BD
Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 August, 10am-4pm

Spend the weekend browsing antique, vintage and world textiles as well as yarns, and makers’ suppliers at the ‘home of quilts’ in the South West. I will be bringing my latest batch of upcycled indigo shibori and ecoprinted garments and accessories.