On the Japan textile tour we met many weavers of different cloth. This particular business in Kyoto was well established and were famed for their ‘cloth of light’. This cloth was filled with light which could be clearly seen when a flash light was directed at the cloth. Very beautiful indeed and the photos I have below don’t do them justice at all. Their weavers also wove with metal which was adhered to paper somehow.
Several generations of weavers have established the company products and Koho Tatsumura is well known for his work. His son Amane Tatsumura guided us through the studio and we were able to see many of the manual jacquard looms which are still used. These are used with specific punchcards to lift sheds for the patterning. You can closely see the initial development of computers with the punchcards being a foundation for binary code. I am old enough to remember the computer rooms housing punch cards and their operators, so punchcards are always a thing of great fascination for me, especially in weaving.
In the video you can see the weaver’s skill and watch his very delicate hand actions when preparing the metal threads for the weaving. Our touch and hold of objects in our craft is so mesmerizing to watch. Just slight actions make alot of difference in weaving and all other manual skills.
Another workshop in the weekend inspired fresh ideas in the studio. It’s like ‘there’s nothing new’- but there is, at least to me. Ruth and Anna came equipped with their own yarn ways and ready to re-purpose jewellery in their work. Diane wove a bag textile enhancing the jute textures throughout the cloth featuring pops of colours, and Sue began with a ‘ yarn dance’ for the wall but then seemed to be working towards wearable cloth as the weaving process and rhythm took over.
Just what our cloth is for is often separated from the actual weaving process in the Saori free style and sometimes accidental, serendipitous approach we take. We can’t help planning, but as we are ‘planning’ as we weave it can force us to let go of the strong desire to control the outcome. Read more
Seems silly but this is what yarn people do. We travel around to see this! Yarn in all its forms, even just lying around huddled in a simple basket (yet another form of enticing interlacing in itself). This was part of the magic at one of our workshops. Looks rather like my bunch of left over threads near my looms, but still – I photographed it with enthusiasm.
My brother once said that if he had knew about the wonders of volcanos he would have been the smartest kid at his school. Meaning… school didn’t trigger that stirring of passion about something. He had to wait until volcanos and their fascination came to him. It’s the same with weaving for me. It’s been a way of seeing the world and learning about the world around me. And as we are all involved in cloth in some from birth to death, it’s a good one for learning about culture and societies.
Ferry hopping to Naoshima Art Island
Along the way the thirst for cloth reveals other delights especially the natural world and this is what I like about Australia and anywhere I go. On our Japan tour we included all of the art projects at Naoshima Art Island in the Seto Inland Sea. Just getting there is a lovely adventure into a vastly different world to mine. As an Australian I am continually challenged by the people factor in other countries. The inland sea and ferry looked a little like the ferry to Bruny Island in Tasmania in some ways. There you have a feeling of being in a very natural and unpopulated environment. You don’t expect to see any industry, cities or infrastructure. The idea is just out of my understanding! In contrast, Naoshima Island has a small population of 3500 and although there are plenty of natural areas in the inland sea there’s also a lot of activity, industry, ships and towns. On the tour we travelled by ferry, plane, bus, train and foot but I think ferry hopping to islands is the most exhilarating. Islands have a mystique. Next I’d really like to discover more about the whole beautiful area in Seto, the inland sea. Read more
I wasn’t sure what I would learn at Saori no Mori on this stay. But, as usual, it exceeded my expectations. The small things here and there at every turn join up into one big joy of ‘what is cloth?’ and what is our role in bringing it to life.
This cloth here is bending the idea of width. It doesn’t have to stay the same thoughout the woven length but can ‘bend’ in and out, then back again. When you get weaving you eventually feel just how much yarn needs to be in the shed to prevent edges being uneven or pulling in. This amount varies greatly depending on what you are weaving with. For example, in tapestry and weft covered frame loom weaving it is quite pronounced. In cloth weaving it is less so. It’s nice when you get it and it just flows. Not that I’m worried about edges particularly but skill in this just happens as you experience and learn more.
Now take that amount of perfect weft amount for your next row and add a bit more…perhaps by making the angle of the yarn higher or the arc higher, just a bit. Weave a bit more like that then add just a bit more again. Continue as you need to increase the width of the fabric, then reverse the process to return gradually to the normal width. You can measure to prove the process if you’re inclined.
Well that really gets some life into the cloth.
The second photo is Hiromi’s top with a little ruffle. This is a mini ruffle added at the edge of the cloth while weaving. Just adding a handful of threads to the edge and weaving it with a much looser tension created a very different styling to the wider warp ruffles. Another little Saori touch.
I am crazy about the Australian bush landscape. And when I go to another country I’m also crazy about their rural and ‘bush’ landscape. Of course they don’t call it bush, it is forest. In Japan this forest is mountainous and beautiful. We came across cypress pines and bamboo and ancient places where temples were. Japan chooses to have up to 70% of its land forested, and although much would be difficult to build on it is largely a choice.
Master Indigo dyer Hiroyuki Shindo
It is into and within this landscape that we visited two incredible and internationally acclaimed textile masters.The first was at Miyama. A more picturesque village I have never seen. Here the atelier and Indigo Museum of Hiroyuki Shindo is nestled in houses made from tall, textured and moss covered thatch. Some have described Mr Shindo as one of the most seminal textile artists of today. He is utterly dedicated to his craft and bridges and unifies the past and present with his work. We were very fortunate indeed to have the artist himself explain his processes. He continues to invent new ways of creating shibori cloth in indigo and his inventions are creative tools for preparing long lengths of cloth for the indigo dyebath vats.The floor of the indigo studio was once a farmhouse kitchen now devoted to the ceramic vats. To introduce fermentation he mixes composted leaves with lye, wheat bran, slaked lime and sake.It is a unpredictable process which he manages through long experience.
A mangle stained with indigo
The end product left over from the bath is always natural and can be returned to the earth with no residue or issue at all. This is an important aim of his work as this type of dyeing requires patience and skill and isn’t focused on big production. It treads lightly, requiring work and sensitivity, but delivers great beauty.
The next artist was Jun Tomita. Co-author of Japanese Ikat Weaving and a master of contemporary kasuri. Very much a favourite artist of mine! He also lived in an amazing landscape with a studio converted from a glasshouse to provide good light nestled in a bamboo and Cypress forest.
Jun Tomita’s studio
Nature propels the imagination and energy for creative work, in my humble option. And this studio was filled with that ideal. Commission work and kasuri/ikat work in progress was everywhere. Tomita’s wife Mayo Horinouchi, is also a weaver and artist and was weaving double cloth on a loom when we got there.
Jun Tomita spent some time at the Jam Factory in Adelaide early in his career (1976-78) and also studied at West Surrey College of Art and Design in the UK and worked with Peter Collingwood. Today he continues to weave commissioned wool rugs and I see his work in wool with an influence of that period.
These were important visits for me and the guests on the tour. Japanese textile artist studios like these are set up in ways that are much closer to how we work in Australia. The looms can be similar and the set up reflects our tools but importantly, build on that to show us how to work well with finer yarns and dye processes. They also hold traditions for storing and transferring warps which isn’t as well known in the general British and European traditions. Read more
“What did you see, what did you do?” Where to start…
Probably the best way of describing Japan is the feeling of culture shock when you arrive back in your own country! After about an hour the feeling subsides as you start to slot into the semi disorganisation, and the lack of many things here. Many more people are employed in Japan so service and assistance is deemed important. Unemployment is very low. As an example, here we prioritise machines and the productivity (less humans in work) that they provide regardless of its implications society wise, for example the Sydney Opal transport card. In Japan you can still buy bus tickets on a bus with actual money, even in the large cities. So people can travel around quite easily. Even visitors!
Kenzo Jo working his magic on the loom
Mesmerized by weaving
The first day of the Textile tour was a day workshop at Saori no Mori. We had a small crew from Australia and New Zealand and not all were weavers previously. What a great start to the many things we would see and people we would meet. Kenzo Jo introduced the workshop by showing everyone how to wind a bobbin and get weaving in his energetic and creative, inventive style. Each time I meet Kenzo the more I am moved to recognise his incredibly inventive and inspiring nature. He is always thinking of improvements and inventions which help make us more daring and inventive too. You can see he won’t really let you just sit there without prompting some challenge in what you are doing. Like taking the whole warp of the back beam while weaving and inserting an intermediary clipping rod to make the tension
messed up uneven. It is all quite remarkable really.
The somen slider
Lunch was deliciously challenging too. We had to catch the somen noodles going down a bamboo slider. A great meal for the hotter weather we were having. We are proposing to run the tour again in 2017 in mid November. If you would like to register your interest please contact me or the tour agent Intentionally Different.
Ellen on the loom
I’ve had lots of studio visitors over the last couple of months. Aside from planned weekend workshops I’m experimenting with the viability of day sessions now and again. Individual tuition is always available as many people want to know more about how to warp and use the loom for their own work. But it’s always nice to have a buzzing studio with everyone sharing their ‘discoveries’ and weaving together.
You’ll see lots of work ‘on loom’ but there is a feeling of elation and surprise when the cloth is cut down. But this is only the first in a set of steps to make the cloth and the finishing process really gets it all together.
Nikita translucent cloth design
Megan’s rich color cloth
Filming cloth making
I know all of my posts are about cloth and this one won’t be any different. I’ve written before about my luck in the humans coming to my studio, and what I learn from them. Here Mark is filming the weaving process and I’m grateful to him for sharing his expertise and skills.
Here you’ll see two videos which show how a weaver works when they come to the studio. Although it is a time lapse it shows the very organic nature of how we work with the warp threads and how we just ‘paint’ or way to the creation of cloth.
Sometimes photographing textiles is more fun than weaving them! In the second video you’ll also see some white paper sitting underneath the reed within the beater. This helps if the black warp threads are playing tricks on the eyes and makes some types of weaving difficult. I also put white paper on the floor which helps sometimes too.