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Weaving impermanence

There are so many inspiring books around for designers and weavers and Patterns and Layering: Japanese Spatial Culture
is just one.  I think  understanding  the thinking and processes in Japanese textile making and Saori in particular requires at least a very basic understanding of Japanese cultural thinking. So this book really interested me.

Culture as a way of understanding your social environment is developed as you grow up, leaving a knowing as an adult that you can’t really describe…until you encounter people who see things differently. Then what you thought was self evident isn’t at all.

This book is a collection of essays and it is worth every cent even if only for the first one Patterns, Japanese Spatial Culture, Nature and Generative design by Salvator-John A. Liotta. When reading it I have Saori and other weave textile design in mind rather than architecture but they are intimately connected, to me, as ways of building design and function through philosophy and humanness, relationships and energies using a range of materials and media.   The book highlights Japanese aesthetics such as irregularity/asymmetry (fukinsei – ふきんせい), simplicity (kanso – かんそ) and nature (shizen – しぜん).  Aspects which relate strongly to Saori weaving philosophy. I quote some of the ideas about the differences between the ‘west’ and ideas from the ”east’ (or the north if you are in Oz).

Where the West has expressed ideas related to eternal life, permanency, and immutability, the East declared its preference for the transience of existence, for the decentralized pluralism, and impermanence of time.”


“…the idea that beauty lies in its own disappearance and impermanence has never really occurred to Western culture.”

The idea of weaving for impermanence is an interesting one.  To deliberately create impermanence seems a foreign and illogical objective. I hear the Three little pigs in the background as the first story advising against it. However, impermanence doesn’t mean bad quality or poor durability. It means capturing transience and beauty within natural degradation and change. Imagine accepting weathering, ageing, repair and wear as an ongoing aim of textile design. Then developing a design for deliberate delicate and incremental ageing.

When I was in Japan wandering through the amazing temples in Kyoto I was totally humbled and awe struck by the way the beautiful wooden floors were repaired so skillfully with wood pieces which seemed to renew the structure as repair but also a commitment to the form and the materials used. This was something I had never seen before. And certainly not in such a prestigious and magnificent building. In Australia it would have been replaced with colourbond and the timber sent to the tip! 🙁

Floor in a temple in Kyoto. See the repairs in the wood


You can browse the book here.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. I do wish you lived closer, or vice versa. I’d be interested in having a peek at your book, but it sounds a wee bit too sophisticated for me…

    January 25, 2013
  2. Very thought provoking Kaz. Your comment “to deliberately create impermanence” really resonated for me. It is intriguing that our western mindset assumes (desires?) permanence – when in fact permanence is an illusion. I must get to read this book and looking forward even more to my trip to Japan later in the year.

    January 26, 2013
  3. and the trees in gardens that get repaired too. i so wish i could live by those aesthetics, but unfortunately city life in europe and it’s prevailing mememe culture is not conductive.

    January 30, 2013
  4. Thank you Heather and Meg! Neki, I had forgotten about the beautiful trees when getting too old were propped up.

    January 30, 2013
  5. Lyn #

    This teaching of creating impermanent beauty reminds me of the amazing Tibetian sand mandalas. I can still remember the powerful impact it had on me after watching one being created, the time, intricacy,beauty….then after a beautiful ceremony the monks took brooms & swept it away…. I agree it is a very foreign concept to westeners but a very wise teaching. Your weaving , site and teaching is beautiful. Do you have pieces for sale currently?

    January 31, 2013
  6. the beauty of transience
    and the transience of beauty…
    none of us are going to last forever
    so much more important to enjoy being in the present
    than always worrying about archival quality

    on the other hand, the repairing and mending which build layers of story into/onto objects and buildings
    can be delightful

    March 4, 2013

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