Japan has the most majestic scenery. Up to about 70% of its land is mountainous and natural. So even though there are large populations in the flatter areas where the cities are…the rest is breathtaking. Seeing the natural scenery in Japan adds to our adventure because the Japanese, even citified people, have a constant reference to this. It’s always pretty life affirming that nature and commanding vistas seem to connect humans. Whoever we are we are united when we see these sights. We’re all enthralled with it – it is part of us. Read more
Posts from the ‘Japan Textile Tour’ Category
The Japan Textile Tour 2017 with Intentionally Different was another amazing adventure in Japan. Once again we travelled city and countryside, through very long mountain tunnels, alongside tremendous rivers and the mountains of changing autumn leaves. The itinerary and organisation of the tour allowed us to see many textile places in more remote areas and in a short time span.
The tour, after the workshop in Saori no Mori, went to Iga. This is a town famous for braiding (and Ninja). Our introduction was by master braider, Hideko Matsuda who is one of 14 takadai braiders in the town. At 70 years of age braiding fills her day and she sits on a high mounted platform on her knees to do the braiding with 60 weighted bobbins. It’s these small things that we can see in Japan that we might overlook. Within these small braids lies a lot of history and continuing craft practice, even when a braid has come from a factory setting. I gave each of the travellers a mardai card to enter this world in a small way, making a round braid while we were travelling. It’s hard to know when a hands-on offer is right. I was delighted that it was generally well received. With a hands on offer while travelling we can’t enter a more sophisticated or highly skilled experience because there are differing interests in the group and time constraints. It takes 12 years to be a designated braider and we just didn’t have the time on tour! Read more
Japan. Although I’ve been there many times it just reveals more of its many layers in small increments, bit by bit. It is so different and yet so familiar too. I spent a week at the Saori head office at Saori no Mori and still learnt more about their approach to weaving cloth. It is so enlightening and encouraging.
A couple of highlights, firstly meeting Terri from Saori Salt Spring after all these years, Laura from Saori Studio LA and Merrilee from Canada. Then a design class with Masako. She is the master designer behind the Saori clothing books and the way she takes your woven cloth and lets it speak about how it should be stitched into a garment is wonderful. It re-enforces the idea that we shouldn’t weave to create this or that particular garment or cloth but to just weave. Leave holes, weave extensions, criss cross and just enjoy the whole process. Keep going with it. Read more
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.
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.
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
How exciting is this. Cotton plants welcoming visitors to a cotton Kasuri weaving studio. This studio is in Okayama prefecture which seemed to reveal more cultural and textile riches as we journeyed into it.
Reaching it after a short walk through the narrow streets of the town we come to a place which signals ‘textile’ with the cotton plants. This small studio was abuzz with inspiration and the obvious heartfelt devotion and enthusiasm of the lead weaver Mrs Hinagawa. With the support and encouragement of their local area government, this craft centre also teaches the area’s revived Kasuri weaving. The mission of the group is to continue the revival of this type of Kasuri cotton weaving, teaching it and passing it on, creating local specialty products from the workshop and to enhance activity and vibrance in the town.
As we enter there is a manual cotton ginning process shown to us as the basis for the cloth production. The studio is full of looms in action with various styles and levels of complexity of Kasuri in progress. Some of the travellers got to weave on the looms which are also produced in the Perfecture. In this way we encountered much localism and pride in local traditions in Japan. A sense of meaning in retaining skills and processes and support for it. This is something that is difficult in Australia and although there are pockets of it, such as in Tasmania and some industries, it is generally weaker possibly connected to our particular social and political history which values different things. Even so, it is very encouraging to see anywhere and if it’s in my line of interest, even better.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.