This past weekend saw the culmination of collaboration known as the Tsuru Textiles Festival 2014. While not the first time I've visited the lovely city of Kurume, Kyushu, Japan, it was certainly the most extensive. If there's one thing I can say about the creators and crafters of Kurume Kasuri Textiles and the visitors to Gallery Earl Gray, it is that their enthusiasm is vivid and contagious.
The Kasuri making tradition dates from the Edo period (mid 18thC), and is an ikat dyeing technique utilized originally by farmers to make everyday clothes that remain comfortable in every season. For me, the most intriguing aspect of this group of creators - and what ultimately drew me to the collaboration - was their desire to mix the traditional with the contemporary. While many of the patterns are time-honored classics, the colors and the construction of the clothing embrace modern aesthetics in a natural, elegant, and beautiful manner.
A small bunch of pics and explanation below the jump.
For all the pics from the event, check out the TsuruFest Flickr album
I wish I'd had more time to work on the cut-paper/kasuri collaborative works. Even so, it was exciting and energizing to mix fabric and paper - two hand-crafted materials - in an original way. I was happily surprised by how well (and easily) they blended. I have to admit that I was a little worried that the strong patterns of the textiles might overpower the more delicate paper cuttings. The way that the cotton absorbs and reflects light is entirely different from paper, however, and it contributed a unique sense of depth to the artwork.
The first piece of art - more similar to my typical style, will make an appearance soon in its own post (though you might catch a glimpse of it in the photos below.
The second - also an experiment, was an Andon 「行灯」lantern. It had been some time since I dabbled with illuminated artwork. Initially, everything worked perfectly. I translated the traditional arrow fletching and other patterns to the paper, even reproducing the rough-edged blending of the dyes. Unfortunately, the arrow pattern was too delicate to survive the trip to the Gallery (as suspected might happen). Ah well. 50% of creation is failure. I have a couple ideas on how I can make the paper cuts stronger (acrylic plexiglass, combining the papers perpendicularly, different layering techniques), so this particular experiment is in early stages.
On Saturday, between introductions and conversations too numerous to count - and all thoroughly enjoyable - I gave a little demonstration of my cutting techniques, concentrating on the textile/paper collaborations.
Sunday was workshop day. I had a number of students, and I'm proud to say that each one of them did superb work. Like the demonstration, the goal was to combine drawings and designs I had laid out - there were five to choose from - with the kasuri fabrics.
The prize for most ambitious paper cutter is clearly deserved for this multi-layered crab. Even though we ran out of time, it's easy to see that this is going to be a most excellent crustacean.
So, special thanks go out to Tsuru-san and the rest of the incredible kasuri crafters for inviting me to join the festival - even though I knew almost nothing about the fabric one month ago. I've got a small pile of it in the studio, and hope to play with it more and more.