Kinetic peapod

A while ago, after experimenting with random weave puzzle balls, I made a multilayered set of random weave spheres in neutral colours.

random weave spheres

I then decided to develop this into a multistorey set of three multilayered spheres, but with only three layers each. (Still with me?)

I started with three random weave white paper spheres of different sizes.

Then I created another mould around them and wove another layer on top.

I joined them all together into a single mould.

And then wove around this single mould with black fibre (string and hemp).

Then it was time to remove the moulds! After removal of first mould:

After removing the second layer of moulds:

And finally after removing the innermost moulds:

The spheres in the middle layer touch each other. This was not my original intention, but I found it difficult to weave the joining “necks” narrow enough to prevent it. This means that when you move one sphere, the others move too, which adds an unplanned kinetic touch to the piece!

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Ghizlane Sahli at Sulger-Buel Gallery

To be honest, I’d never heard of either the artist or the gallery before visiting this exhibition. But a photo of Ghizlane Sahli’s work by the Sulger-Buel Gallery popped up on my Instagram feed, I followed the links, and a month later found myself tramping around the back streets of Borough in south London.

HT058 by Ghizlane Sahli
HT058

Ghizlane Sahli is a Moroccan artist who originally trained in architecture. The title of her first solo show in London, “Histoires de Tripes – Chapter II” is a literally visceral exploration of the human body.

HT066 (triptych) by ghizlane sahli
HT066 (Triptych)

In English, “tripe” can also mean “rubbish” – so it is fitting that Sahli uses discarded materials in her work. Plastic bottle tops and tubes are wrapped with silk yarn to form “alveoles” and then arranged on top of chicken wire in the shape of human organs.

HT062 by ghizlane sahli
HT062

HT050 by ghizlane sahliHT050

The colour and lustre of the silk yarn changes, depending on how it catches the light, so that white looks like silver one minute and mushroom grey the next.

Sahli works with local artisan women to create the alveoles for her work.

HT VOLUME by ghizlane sahli
HT VOLUME
HT070 by ghizlane sahli
HT070

Drawings of cellular structures, some with added embroidery, are also on display.

Histoires de Tripes – Chapter II runs at the Sulger-Buel Gallery until 7 May.

Woven balls

In November last year I attended a hexagonal weaving workshop with Polly Pollock, where we made hexagonal baskets. At the end of the workshop Polly demonstrated how to make a woven ball using flat cane, but we didn’t have time to try it ourselves.

A few weeks ago I came across a pile of discarded plastic strapping – the type used to secure boxes to wooden pallets by delivery companies. It was about the same width and thickness as the flat cane, so much to ESP’s horror, I decided to take it home and have a go at making a woven ball. (His horror was largely due to the fact that I didn’t have a bag at the time, so he had to carry it. 😉 )

Hexagonal weave actually lies flat, so to get a rounded structure you need to use pentagons rather than hexagons. I started by using five lengths of strap to create a pentagon.

Then I used a sixth strap to weave another layer of five pentagons. This formed the bottom half of the ball. To create the top half I wove another layer of five pentagons – the trickiest part of this is lining up the ends of each strap so that they overlap correctly, tucking them all in to form the single pentagon at the top.

After finishing I posted the final result on Instagram, whereupon someone asked if I’d tried making the 10-strand sphere! Not being one to shirk a challenge, I went off and found the instructions for this.

I started off with a pentagon made from five straps again, but this time added five more straps to surround the pentagon with a layer of hexagons rather than pentagons. After that it’s a case of working out where the other pentagons go: each pentagon is surrounded by hexagons. It was very satisfying to finish this!

Talking of recycling, I will be taking part in The Good Life: Revive, Recycle, Restore at the Weald & Downland Living Museum on 5 and 6 May (bank holiday weekend). I will be selling my garments and accessories upcycled with indigo and ecoprinting.

The museum is a fascinating collection of rescued rural homes and buildings spread across 40 acres of the South Downs, and this themed special event includes a fashion exchange, upcycling demonstrations, a repair cafe and various talks and taster classes.

 

Living Colours: Kasane – the Language of Japanese Colour Combinations

Last year the Victoria & Albert Museum in London had a display of some stunning naturally dyed silk by Sachio Yoshioka’s dyeing workshop in Kyoto, Japan. Below you can see four short documentary films made to accompany the display.

When Sachio Yoshioka took over his family dyeing workshop in 1988 – the fifth generation to do so – he decided to eschew the use of synthetic dyes and use only natural plant-based materials.

Through extensive historical research he tracked down plants and dyes used as far back as the Heian period (794 – 1185) and has encouraged Japanese farmers to grow previously rare or forgotten plants such as gromwell, whose roots produce a beautiful purple dye.

Now Yoshioka is back, this time with a bigger exhibition at Japan House called Living Colours: Kasane – the Language of Japanese Colour Combinations.

Kasane are layers of colour combinations found in the garments of aristocrats during the Heian period. The formal kimono worn by women of the court showed layers of different colours at the neckline, cuffs and hems. Changing the colours to reflect, for example, plants in season was seen as a mark of good taste and education.

Kasane were also used with paper: poems and love letters would be enclosed in several sheets of seasonally coloured paper.

The exhibition at Japan House is arranged by season, starting with kasane for spring, such as cherry and willow.

The deep red silk of the cherry kasane is dyed with safflower; placing a translucent white layer of silk above it produces a pale cherry blossom pink. The green  layer representing mountain scenery is produced with indigo overdyed with yellow from amur cork.

The willow kasane has white at the bottom to represent the white underside of willow leaves, while the green comes from light indigo overdyed with yellow from Miscanthus tinctorius.

Summer kasane include wisteria, with beautiful purple coming from gromwell.

The delicate patterned silks also produce lovely shadows on the different layers.

And of course there are indigo kasane.

There are also samples of the plant materials used in dyeing on display.

And some of the tools and equipment used in dyeing.

I was also lucky enough to attend a talk by Sachio Yoshioka and a demonstration by his daughter Sarasa Yoshioka, the sixth generation of the dyeing family.

Sachio Yoshioka believes it is the duty of his workshop to continue producing beautiful bright colours from plants. “Study the old to discover the new” is his motto. He has produced a “dictionary” of 260 colours, all produced by layering plant dyes. The mordants he uses are all traditional too, including camellia ash, smoked plum, alum and iron.

His favourite colour is purple, the colour of nobility – it can take 8-9 days to get a satisfactory shade.

Sarasa Yoshioka demonstrated how they paint paper with dyes (in this case yellow kihada from the amur cork tree on top of indigo to produce green).

Their most famous use of this technique is using red pigment extracted from safflowers to paint paper that is used to make camellia flowers for a Buddhist ceremony at the Todaiji Temple in Nara. You can see this in one of the films above.

Extracting red pigment from safflower is an extraordinarily complex process – I’ve written about this before. And it takes 1.5kg of dried safflower petals to produce enough dye for a single sheet of red A3 paper!

Living Colours: Kasane – the Language of Japanese Colour Combinations runs at Japan House until 19 May 2019.

A room of one’s own

According to Virginia Woolf, “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”.

The same might be said of female artists, and I have finally achieved the second, if not the first! 😉

In theory, I have had my own workroom. When we first moved into the house 28 years ago, Ever Supportive Partner built a whole load of shelves in a room on the first floor, which instantly filled up with books.

When I became interested in textiles, my collection of fibres, materials and tools ended up in this room too. But because the shelves were full of books, there was nowhere for my stash to go, so it ended up in bags piled on the floor – and hence there was nowhere to work.

For the past few years I have worked largely on our dining room table, due to the fact that it is the largest one in the house. However, the room, which faces north-west, is rather dark, and every time we have friends round for supper or meetings I have to clear everything away (which in practice meant piling it up along the walls).

ESP was forever moaning about the mess, so last month we finally got round to installing more bookshelves in the dining room. This meant that we could move all the books downstairs, leaving the shelves upstairs free for my stuff.

New shelves in the dining room…
…soon filled up with books!

We now have a lovely clutter-free dining room (if you don’t count books!), and I have a fantastic space of my own where I can leave stuff out without having to put up with ESP’s grumbling.

Note there are still three shelves of books upstairs – all textile titles. And I spent a small fortune on plastic storage boxes – they’re not as attractive as baskets but they have the virtue of being see through and (hopefully) moth proof!

I still occasionally need to work downstairs when making longer pieces such as scarves. And I will continue to dye indigo outdoors (weather permitting).

But it makes such a difference having all my stuff together in one place, easily located (for now). And although this room is actually above the dining room, it gets more light because it’s higher up.

All that remains to be done is to hang some inspiring pieces on the walls – and then move on to the first of Virginia Woolf’s requirements. 😉

2 for 1 entry to Contemporary Textiles Fair 2019

Next weekend I’ll be back at one of my favourite events – the Contemporary Textiles Fair at the Landmark Centre in Teddington.

In a converted church you’ll find a particularly strong line-up, selling everything from conceptual stitched pieces to wonderful homeware and wearable art pieces. There are also some interesting workshops – I would have loved to do the sculptural spoons but sadly will have to mind my stall! There’s a full catalogue here of the exhibitors and events.

Normal admission price is £4, but if you show the following flyer on your phone at the door, you can get 2 for 1 entry!

2 for 1 flyer

One of the other exhibitors at the Contemporary Textiles Fair is Romor Designs, who is also taking part in the Japanese Textile and Craft Festival at Craft Central this weekend. To be honest, the event is smaller than the word “festival” might suggest, but the quality is very high.

Rob Jones of Romor Designs is one of the two main participants, and he has a splendid display of indigo shibori, sashiko and katagami work.

romor designs shibori romor designs shibori

The other main demonstrator is Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio. Saori weaving was founded in 1968 by Misao Jo, a Japanese weaver, and is more about free expression than perfect regularity.

saori weaving demo

One of Misao’s sons created the saori loom, which comes with a prebuilt warp, so setting up takes around 20 minutes rather than the best part of a day. Even more ingenious (to me), you can remove a work in progress from the loom to let someone else use it, and then replace it afterwards to carry on weaving. Thus the looms are perfect for studios where people can rent a loom for a couple of hours and then come back next week.

Janine had some lovely examples of her work, which often incorporates strips of fabric or ribbon as well as yarn.

saori weaving saori weaving saori weaving

There is also a handful of other exhibits, including the following.

Indigo block printed garments by Harumi Ikegame
Katazome stencil work by Sarah Desmarais
Dorozome (mud dyeing) by Yukihito Kanai
Kakishibui (persimmon dye) by Iris de Voogd
Kintsugi inspired work by Ross Belton

The Japanese Textile and Craft Festival is at Craft Central, 397-411 Westferry Road, London E14 3AE. It’s open today and tomorrow, 12-5pm.

Made 2019 at Morley Gallery

The current exhibition at Morley Gallery, Made 2019, features work by textiles and jewellery students at Morley College. The theme is based on cultural patterns and form inspired by Oceania.

Thanks to the basketry course I did last term with Stella Harding I was able to submit an entry to the exhibition. My piece, “Vision of Jawun”, was inspired by the bicornual baskets known as jawun made by the rainforest people in northeast Queensland in Australia.

Jawun were used to collect and carry food and also as sieves to leach out toxic substances. Typically made from lawyer cane, the baskets were sometimes painted when used for trading or as gifts.

random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn
random weave paper vessel dyed with eucalyptus
Image: Owen Llewellyn

My interpretation of a jawun is a random weave piece made with paper yarn; the lower part was dyed with eucalyptus, a plant indigenous to Australia.

The private view last Wednesday was absolutely heaving with people by the time I arrived, and it took me a while to locate my piece. To my surprise, rather than being on a plinth it was hung on a nail at around hip height. Because the gallery was so crowded I could see that the vessel was in danger of being damaged – within just a couple of minutes of my arrival one visitor had stepped back against it, while another one hit it with her bag as she squeezed past. 😦

I’m afraid at this stage I got a bit prima donna-ish and removed the piece from the wall. When I gave it to the gallery manager and explained why, she was very nice and understanding about it. And when I went back to the gallery today to look at the exhibition with more breathing space, it had been placed on a plinth, thank goodness.

There were a couple of pieces from other basketry students.

This random weave piece by Barbara Billings was a comment on pollution in the oceans and how rubbish floats on top of the mess hiding below the surface.

Alyson Burberry, A Green Bag of Rubbish

“A Green Bag of Rubbish” by Alyson Burberry was made with found objects, shower sponges and rope, and was also based on Aboriginal hunting bags.

Cherry Taylor, Ceremonial Objects

Deserved winner of the Sarah Campbell Prize was Cherry Taylor for her found objects wrapped with raffia dyed with procion dyes and inks.

Sarah McEvoy, Cailleach and Brighde

I liked Sarah McEvoy’s knitted figure embellished with seeds and crystal, inspired by dolls that Japanese farmers hang outside windows to bring good weather or prevent rain.

The Japanese influence was strong overall. This kimono-style jacket by Sarah Wilson was made using shibori, sashiko and boro techniques from material sourced in second-hand shops.

Line Le Fevre, Noren Inspired

Hung to resemble a traditional kimono, Line Le Fevre’s four hand-dyed panels were printed with discharge and dye paste.

Bukki Adeyemo, Up in Arms

Bukki Adeyemo’s “Up in Arms” used recycled materials stained with rust to represent the potential impact of rising sea levels on  many of the Pacific Islands due to climate change.

Sarah Sikorski, screen printed cotton

Sarah Sikorski’s screen printed cotton was inspired by tapa bark cloth from Tonga, which portrays historic or cultural events – in this case the overuse and irresponsible disposal of plastic objects.

Finally – look away now if you are easily offended. 😉 Karen Byrne’s piece was a response to the dilukai sculptures of young women with splayed legs carved over the doorways of chiefs’ houses in Micronesia.

Karen Byrne, Dilukai

Made 2019 runs at Morley Gallery until 26 March.

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.