“Understanding particular properties of particular plants during identification, harvest, processing, selection and finally making not only equips ourselves for making tasks in hand but also gives us a deeper connection to place and its complexity.”
The artist and basketmaker Tim Johnson has spent the past 25 years exploring the relationship between place and material, as this exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham makes clear.
Take the series of 42 little bags simply hung in three rows on the wall (and I would happily take them, every single one). It’s a fascinating display of sampling – the same technique with different materials, or the same materials with different techniques. Each one is absorbing in its details and range of possibilities.
His 2D Lines and Fragments series also incorporates found objects as well as earth pigments, dried herbs and fruit.
And his Curve series moves on with willow and earth pigments to develop the 3D form.
The Cortina works play with light and shadow – I particularly like the use of dried bean pods here.
Another one used yellow plastic coated wire.
My favourite pieces were the Keeping Time baskets.
I particularly loved the cross sections of the bulrushes when close up.
Tim lives just outside Barcelona with another basketmaker, Monica Guilera, and there were some collaborative pieces on show.
It was also interesting to see some of the sources of his inspiration, including a squashed lampshade found in the road. 🙂
Glassmaker extraordinaire Dale Chihuly is back at Kew Gardens. Aptly titled “Reflections on Nature”, his 32 artworks are scattered around the gardens, glasshouses and galleries.
So many of the pieces resemble exaggerated natural forms, they look entirely at home among the wonderful lush greenery of Kew.
Alongside his works in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is a fascinating film where he explains that his work is all about pushing the boundaries of what can be done with blowing glass. There is also some heart stopping footage of him tossing some of his glass pieces into a river!
Pictures in this case definitely speak louder than words.
My first exhibition with Prism, the international exhibiting group of textile artists, is fast approaching. The theme is “Fragility”, and you can get a glimpse of the various ways this has been interpreted on the Prism blog.
My piece, called “One in Five”, was inspired by the effect we humans are having on our fragile environment: scientists at Kew Gardens estimate that one in five plant species are in danger of extinction due to activities such as intensive farming, deforestation and construction.
I have made five stylised seeds combining felt and paper yarn, to represent the fragility of the environment in general as well as their own precarious existence.
The five seeds loosely represented are sycamore (maple in US), dandelion, bean pod, physalis and sweet chestnut.
The hardest part was working out the best way to display them, as in the London gallery we cannot suspend things from the ceiling. Luckily, I managed to find a windfall branch with an interesting shape and lots of lovely lichen. This can be mounted on the wall with the seeds hanging from it.
All photos of my work by Owen Llewellyn.
Fragility runs at Hoxton Arches, Arch 402, Cremer Street, London E2 8HD, from 29 May to 9 June. The private view is on Tuesday 28 May, 7-8.30pm, to which you are all warmly invited!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drawings of cellular structures, some with added embroidery, are also on display.
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!
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.
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.
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.
There is also a handful of other exhibits, including the following.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Deserved winner of the Sarah Campbell Prize was Cherry Taylor for her found objects wrapped with raffia dyed with procion dyes and inks.
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.
Hung to resemble a traditional kimono, Line Le Fevre’s four hand-dyed panels were printed with discharge and dye paste.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.