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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Exhibitions at 10th International Shibori Symposium

The 10th International Shibori Symposium (10iss) in Oaxaca in November was spread over several venues. Most were in the centre of town, but the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CASA), about 45 minutes’ drive from the centre, was the location for many of the workshops and exhibitions.

This post will feature the exhibitions in and around CASA – be warned that there are lots of photos!

CASA is a former cotton mill that was converted into a stunning arts centre by local artist Francisco Toledo in 2000. Its hilltop location gives amazing views, and it has two exhibition halls and smaller rooms for running workshops.

Centro de las Artes de San Agustin Centro de las Artes de San Agustin

There are also some interesting sculptural plants!

san-agustin-view-2 san-agustin-view-3

Indigo Earth: Shibori Kimono, Past and Present

This exhibition, curated by Yoshiko Nakamura and Consortium Arimatsu Narumi, featured a selection of historical and modern Japanese indigo-dyed kimono from Arimatsu and Narumi in Japan.

Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono

Optica and Haptica

This exhibition showcased 12 pieces of clothing designed by Mexican designer Carla Fernandez, highlighting connections between the Mexican and Japanese traditions of ikat (known as jaspe in Mexican and kasuri in Japan).

The contemporary garments were wonderful, combining Japanese silhouettes and designs with traditional Mexican rebozo patterns.

Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment

Contemporary Art of Shibori and Ikat

The main exhibition hall at CASA was given over to a wide range of contemporary shibori artworks and wearables, curated by Yoshiko Wada and Trine Ellitsgaard.

And here I must apologise profusely to artists whose work I photographed but whose names I failed to record. I did photograph the name labels but because of the low lighting many of them came out blurred and unreadable. I have credited artists whose names are legible or whom I remembered, but if your work is featured without a credit, do let me know and I will remedy it as soon as possible!

Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer
Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer

san-agustin-2

Hiroyuki Shindo
Hiroyuki Shindo
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery

san-agustin-7 san-agustin-8

Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3
Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3

san-agustin-11

Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Jorie Johnson
Jorie Johnson

Paper Jewellery

A short walk downhill from CASA is the papermaking cooperative Arte Papel Vista Hermosa, also founded by Francisco Toledo. Its members use bark, plants, flowers, cotton, hemp, silk, linen and pieces of shiny mica in their products. As well as seeing the artisans at work, visitors can have a go at making paper themselves.

Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Arte Papel Vista Hermosa

For this exhibition they worked with artist Kiff Slemmons to produce some stunningly intricate paper jewellery. And yes – I did end up buying a piece! 🙂

Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa

 

Silk paper

Right at the beginning of last academic year at Morley College, we were shown how to make “paper” by lightly spraying gummy silk waste with water and then ironing it between baking parchment. I remember thinking that it was an interesting technique but with so many other things to explore I never got round to having a go.

silk paper by sarah lawrenceI was reminded of it when I found this book in a discount bookshop. The author, Sarah Lawrence, was British (she sadly passed away last year) but the price on the back is in dollars, so it must be a US edition. The cover is different, but there seem to be a couple of similarly titled books also by Sarah Lawrence available in the UK and published at the same time, and I’m assuming the content is similar.

The book starts with the ironing method, combining it with layers of sinamay or knitting, or using it as a base for embossing, moulding and die cutting. It also explains how to make paper with degummed silk by soaking it in a mediium like PVA, or by stitching through layers using water-soluble film to create 3D vessels .

Finally, there’s a very inspiring section on using silk carrier rods and cocoons.

Of course, I immediately began to wonder how I could combine these techniques with my beloved felting and shibori. Felting should be fairly straightforward – adding silk is an easy way to create more texture and colour.

But would silk paper fall apart if I put it in an indigo vat? Is it strong enough to stitch or bind? I may have to find out.

More shibori paper

I’ve been doing some more experiments with shibori paper. This time I used a much heavier paper. I’m not exactly sure what weight it is, but it’s thick enough not to buckle when it gets wet.

First I tried wrapping pleated fabric on top. The example below was cotton poplin. It wasn’t very successful, partly because the length of the fabric meant I had to make the pleats quite large to fit it on the pole.  (You can see that it worked better on the left-hand side, where the pleats were narrower with more space between them.) I also thought that the weave might have been too close to allow much indigo to reach the paper beneath.

So next I tried a finer cotton muslin, with narrower pleats. This was more successful

Then I wondered whether I needed to use fabric at all – whether I could dip the paper directly into the indigo vat. So I went back to binding, dipping and rebinding with paper only.

I found that even with quite a concentrated vat, the first couple of layers are very pale, and it’s difficult to brush of the foam (hana) without rubbing off the indigo. But with repeated dipping, I achieved quite satisfactory results.

Finally, here’s a tiny stitched sample (on fabric) that was inspired by the markings on a whale shark. Could be the start of a (much) bigger project!

Shibori paper

I’ve blogged previously about the marks left on masking tape when it’s used as a resist for shibori dyeing.

When I was at Cally’s summer school, I sometimes taped bits of paper onto the arashi tubes to prevent old indigo stains from marking the clean fabric. When removing the fabric after dyeing, I was again struck by the patterns left on the paper and tape, some of which I collected for my sketchbook:

So I taped a whole sheet of paper to an arashi pole before securing the fabric on top, wrapping and dipping. I used indigo vats of two different concentrations, and added extra wrapping between dips. I didn’t scrunch the fabric.

Here are the results on the fabric and the paper, side by side, with the fabric on the left and the paper on the right:

Obviously, the paper is paler, as the fabric on top acted as a resist. But it also has some interesting crinkle marks, which are quite mokune-like.

I think there is plenty of scope for more experiments here, with different fabrics and papers. However, if I want to make larger pieces in this way without pleating or scrunching the fabric, I definitely need some deeper vats and fatter pipes!

Friday favourites

I haven’t done Friday favourites for a while. But I’ve just joined Pinterest (aaargh – that’s another six hours a day gone!), and as I was pinning some of my favourite works I came across a group of artists working with paper. As I’ve recently made paper myself, I thought this would be a good theme for today’s selection.

Polly Verity makes amazing origami curved folds, each scored and folded from one sheet, with no cuts and no glue. I also love her work made from crumpled tissue paper, like the liver, stomach, colon and small intestine:

Isaac Salazar is an accountant who has never taken an art class. He uses old books that would otherwise be thrown away and creates words and images by folding and cutting the pages:

Finally, Bekx Stephens creates geometric sculptural pieces that seem to create waves of movement through repetition. I would love to learn some of these techniques to use on fabric with printing/dyeing:

Snowflakes and vanishing gold

Last Sunday was part 2 of the course on bonding paper and cloth. Having learnt the basic technique, it was time to start experimenting.

The idea of a contrast between transparency and opacity made me think of ice and snow, which is sometimes transparent and sometimes opaque. So I photocopied some images of ice and snow crystals and spent a happy afternoon creating paper snowflakes (I felt as if I was six years old again!). Most of the snowflakes I tore rather than cut, because I wanted the outlines to be slightly fuzzy rather than sharp.

However, I was a bit disappointed with the result (below).

First, I think the snowflake templates moved slightly when I put the screen down – maybe this is one of the occupational hazards of printing with an open screen. Also, I tried to graduate the colour of the background from light to dark, but I think it would look better if the background was a consistent hue. Finally, the snowflakes that were cut rather than torn look better, because the process of removing excess paper leaves a slightly fuzzy edge anyway.

So I did another one with a background of more uniform hue, which I think looks better. There are fewer snowflakes because I ran out (of templates and time!) – but I can see the direction I want to develop this, maybe with some overprinting with opaque white ink and touches of silver foiling.

Bonded paper and fabric before removing paper
After removing paper

Just time, then, for another experiment with some joss paper, or ghost money, that I bought from a Chinese supermarket.

The paper is very thin, so I hoped it would disintegrate in the same way as newspaper. I also wanted to see what happened to the metallic gold squares during the process.

The result wasn’t quite what I expected. I laid out the paper face up, with the gold touching the fabric, but once the paper is bonded, it’s quite difficult to see the gold through the fabric (it’s more obvious close up if you shine a direct light on it). However, the metallic shine is much more obvious on the reverse.

Below, you can see the front and back of a small experimental sample as well as a larger piece using the joss paper.

Joss paper sample - front
Joss paper sample - back
Joss paper hanging
Close-up of front
Close-up of back

Hopefully I won’t now be struck down by malevolent Chinese spirits who feel insulted by my using the paper in this way!

Bonding fabric and paper

I had a great day at Morley College yesterday learning a technique for bonding paper and cloth.

The technique is quite rough, so synthetic fabrics are better than delicate fabrics such as silk. The fabric also has to be as sheer as possible so that the paper can be seen clearly through it. And the paper has to be really low grade. Newspapers or colour photocopies are best – no glossy magazines.

We laid out a collage by cutting or tearing out bits of newspaper/colour photocopies, then pinned a piece of fabric over the top. Then we applied a matte medium through a silk screen. We didn’t prepare the screens ourselves but borrowed screens that were available in the studio.

Some screens were open – you can use paper templates or masking tape as an alternative to exposing the screen, or even paint the medium on using a brush (not sure how this works – I must ask next week).

After leaving the collage to dry thoroughly, we ironed it for 10 minutes to set the bonding thoroughly. Then we soaked it in water and rubbed off the excess paper. (This is why poor-grade paper is used, so that it disintegrates easily.)

Most people chose images for their collage, but I used a mixture of cuttings from Urdu, Hindi and Chinese publications, with occasional blocks of graphic colour, as you can see from the photos. It’s a difficult thing to photograph, owing to the mixture of transparent and opaque areas, so I’ve just shown some close-ups of various areas.

Some points to note:

  • Images that are printed by an inkjet printer tend to run and stain the fabric,  so colour photocopies are better than prints.
  • The more sheer the fabric the better – you’ll be looking at the paper through the fabric (though I guess there’s no reason why you can’t show it from the back).

I also learned that you can use open screens with paper templates – far quicker than coating it, waiting for it to dry and exposing it, given the problems we’ve had with the facilities! Of course, you won’t be able to make multiple copies this way.

And you can use heat transfer papers, foiling or further printing with opaque ink on top, as well as other embellishment such as stitch. Hopefully we’ll get to try some of this next week.