Sunday 20 February 2022

Miniature indigo pieces in the Tansa exhibition

These three miniature textile pieces in the Tansa exhibition are all linked by their use of indigo. ‘Shindigo 23-01’ is the work of master indigo dyer Hiroyuki Shindo whose studio was one of the highlights of our textile research tour of Japan. He expresses the hope that the Tansa exhibition can be ‘a bridge tying the UK and Japan’ and an opportunity to discuss tradition, nature and environmental issues.

In ‘Compressed’ Linda Brassington references Japanese itajime resist dyeing which occurs between clamps, in lengths of cloth compressed into tightly folded packages. Protruding pins support the wrappings, while many sheets of washi paper are hidden between the folds where they act as a wick drawing up the dye. It is only when the wrappings are untied that the unseen spaces hidden between the clamps are revealed.

Kendall Clarke is a weaver who has studied the Japanese resist dyeing technique shibori. In ‘Formation’ she uses woven shibori to create a three-dimensional miniature sculpture, which is given texture and form by gathering the ‘pattern’ threads once the cloth is off the loom. The piece is completed by dyeing it in an indigo vat.

There’s still time to see the exhibition ‘Tansa – Japanese threads of influence’ which runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Miniature Tansa textiles with natural materials

This collection of miniature textiles from the Tansa exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre all incorporate natural materials. ‘Beckons to be known’ by Annette Mills was inspired by the exteriors of traditional wooden buildings in Kyoto. The vessel is made from willow bast and nettle to enclose a shadowed interior and is designed to be held in the hand and reflected upon in the same way as bowls in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Hermione Thomson was inspired by the tactility of old paper scrolls to produce ‘Mottainai: Making ends meet’. This reference to sustainability and the reuse of papers to produce a protective outer wrapping recalls the cloths traditionally used to encase quilted and patched Boro cloth.

‘Containing beauty’ is the title and theme of Sian Highwood’s miniature. Reflecting the Japanese expectation of finding beauty in the everyday this piece uses petals to form a three dimensional sculpture inspired by Oshibana, the Japanese art of pressed flowers.

Chiyoko Tanaka uses mud in her woven textiles to permeate the cloth enabling a transformation of time coherence into space. ‘Mud dyed cloth twig and white dots #6.7.7’ is part of her continuing practice to transform time into space and space into time.

The exhibition Tansa – Japanese threads of influence runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto 

Monday 14 February 2022

More miniature Tansa textiles


This time I’m looking at four of the miniature textile works from the Tansa exhibition expressed in spherical form. The image above is ‘Embedded’ by Dawn Thorne , a multi-layered open vessel containing a solid core of memories reflecting the intimate relationship between the acts of holding, engaging and exploring.

Jennifa Chowdhury also uses a spherical form enclosing a core in ‘Abhyantara’ to symbolise life, unity and diversity. Inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘Ma’, the space within which we exist, this work embodies the unoccupied space – energy filled with possibilities.

‘Fates’ by Gail Baxter @gailbaxterlace was inspired by the rows of o-mikuji, the predictions of fortunes for the coming year, at the Toyokawa Inari shrine in Tokyo. These rows of knotted papers are presented in a sphere to reference the balls and spherical jewels held by the Kitsune statues at this shrine.

‘The memory catcher’ by Paula Reason  is a hand embroidered pebble of recollections that connects the past to the present and takes its spherical form from Japanese Temari thread balls.

The exhibition Tansa – Japanese threads of influence runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Tansa – Japanese threads of influence exhibition of miniature works


This exhibition at the Crafts Study Centre includes miniature textiles made in response to a research trip to Japan organised by Professor Lesley Millar in 2019 for researchers with links to UCA. Each of the researchers and nine of the amazing Japanese artists the group visited during the trip have each made one exquisite miniature piece of work for the exhibition. It is impossible to single out individual pieces so I will talk about them all in a series of blog posts, for the purposes of which I have grouped them into themes which speak to me. Today I’m starting with four pieces that I consider to be lacelike. The image above is ‘Japan in colour’ by Evie Francis which incorporates the spectrum of colour seen throughout the trip, expressed in handweaving.

Jennifer Jones also uses hand weaving to express the relationship between fibre and structure in ‘Concord’ inspired by shibori techniques but using weaving to produce the effect of lightness and structure.

Susan Blandford was inspired by the shrubs supported by Yukitsuri frameworks in Kenrokuen Gardens to produce ‘Poco a poco Little by Little’ in crochet using gold and indigo dyed threads.

My own piece ‘inside:outside’ was also inspired by gardens and temples and the Japanese sensibility of ‘shin gyo so’ broadly expressed as the realistic, the impressionistic and the abstract. It is constructed from a flat piece of bobbin lace which is folded to form an abstract representation of a temple roof. This manipulation of the inside and outside mirrors the reflective nature of these spaces of peace showing that the inside and outside are interdependent and indistinguishable.

The exhibition runs until 26 March at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, and then travels to Gallery Gallery in Kyoto. I will be covering more of the exhibits over the next few weeks – watch this space!     

Wednesday 2 February 2022

The lace industry and fashion in the early 20th century

I’m writing a chapter for a textile book looking at how the demand for lace changed after the first world war. This image comes from a Samuel Peach catalogue of 1904 and shows a typical blouse of the time made of lace and net. James Laver in his History of Costume notes that at this time there was ‘a passion for lace in every part of the gown’. However by 1910 fashions changed, with the introduction of narrow skirts and drapery, and Laver says that the favourite trimming was no longer lace but buttons. Pat Earnshaw in Lace in fashion describes most of the early twentieth century lace collars as Irish crochet, handmade Maltese lace, or chemical guipure lace, with silk bobbinet being used for cravats. She notes that patterned machine laces were popular among those who could not afford ‘real’ lace. However ‘real’ lace was time consuming to make and at the 1910 Brussels International Exhibition the machine lace on display was so original and artistic that the prestige of handmade lace began to decline. From then until 1920 machine lace was popular for evening wear but, during the war, clothes in general were simpler and did not include lace. In 1919, after the war, silhouettes became tubular and little lace was used at all. Despite the attempts of institutions like the Bucks Lace Making Industry, in the English East Midlands, and others in continental Europe, which tried to maintain the hand lacemaking industry through charitable commissions, handmade lace production was no longer commercially viable. Machine lacemaking continued for a while but was to decline throughout the century.