Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Katagami – the Craft of the Japanese Stencil

April 12, 2017

Ise-Katagami is the Japanese craft of making paper stencils for dyeing textiles. The prefix Ise is used so not confuse the name with a city in the Akita prefecture in Northern Japan. I found out the difference whilst attending the opening yesterday of a unique exhibition curated by Dr Alice Humphries for ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).

This gem for textile enthusiasts and researchers alike, ULITA is found in a converted chapel just outside the main Leeds University campus but attached (usefully) to the University Business School. I say usefully because the Archive was able to use the adjacent facilities for a brief lecture given by Dr Humphries as part of the opening event.

katagami ex 3

My only experience of this approach to pattern design is through reading about ikat resist dyeing in Jack Lenor Larsen’s The Dyer’s Art where stencilling sadly only gets the briefest of mentions. Next stop, and prior to visiting ULITA, was Google Arts & Culture, who provide a stunning on-line introduction, a collaboration between Ritsumeikan University and Kyoto Women’s University. This introduction, focusing on a permanent collection at Textilemuseum St Gallen, puts the ULITA show in some perspective. It shows what’s missing – for example some video footage about the actual craft itself (readily available I discover on YouTube), and a proper display of the tools. But as a small-scale introduction, using the very limited exhibition space available, it will be, I think, most valuable for the inquisitive textile enthusiast and enquiring student alike. Take away the application of stencilling for resist patterns and we have a technique and pattern culture that has much relevance for today’s burgeoning interest in ‘paper-based art’.



Here and Now @ the National Centre for Craft and Design

December 17, 2016

Tapestry is a curious form of artistic expression. It is constructed textile whose origins lie in a dim and distant past and whose present continues to evolve. Once a valued accompaniment to personal wealth and courtly prestige it adorned both public and private spaces, a backdrop of Arcadian scenes or a visual record of historic events displayed at a scale that was at one with the architectural wall: it covered the grimness and often greyness of stone with colour and shape.

As most of us live our lives on smaller scales and with the incessant movement and colour on the flat screen that has migrated to our walls from the box in the corner, the art of tapestry has moved into the art gallery. This contemporary space that has overtaken our public buildings and our places of worship, as places we visit in meditative quiet and make a slow procession from one marvel of making to another.


A whole exhibition of the art of contemporary tapestry demands an effective and spacious environment, one that can at best provide a mix of daylight and artificial light. Because of the size of individual pieces, rarely less than 100 x 100 cm, to look and take in the full effect there has to be distance: to stand back without distraction of other work. In this respect the curation of Here & Now, an exhibition of contemporary tapestry at the National Centre for Craft & Design was entirely successful. Eight countries, twenty-one artists and twenty-six tapestries was more than enough to occupy several slow hours of careful viewing.


Thread is a Thought (by Cos Ahmet)

November 24, 2016

My practice cannot be defined by a sole discipline. This statement is not only that of artist Cos Ahmet but comes close to what the recent winner of the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture Helen Marten suggests about her work. It’s a combination of collage, printmaking and textiles, and by what he’s showing at this years Knitting and Stitching Shows it is pretty much all 3-dimensional. He may be a member of the British Tapestry Group and recipient of the Theo Moorman grant, but his work is (to quote another tapestry artist in a different place Jilly Edwards) decidedly not ‘woolly pictures on the wall’.


I spent a good half an hour engaging with his work at the Dublin end of the K&S Show. It was a half hour of sketching his intriguing textile sculptures, half an hour deciphering a collection of work that is like nothing I had encountered before. Making a sketch, however rough, is, for me, the best way to engage with looking.


Findings – an exhibition by Alice Fox

October 6, 2016

Difficult to know exactly when the seed was sown, the idea mooted, just when the vision came before imagination’s eye. Like many artists beginning the journey towards a major exhibition Alice Fox was not forthcoming even to her friends as to what Findings might entail – ‘a lot of small things covering the walls’ was all she would say. To focus a body of work towards an end, a public presentation, is certainly something every art student experiences in preparing that ‘final show’. But for those carrying the certainty of a future career that final show is surely the first show, and of many to come. A theme is usually required to satisfy the examiners, and to make the tutor’s task a little easier as work progresses from first thoughts to a conclusive statement. Here, we have a theme: Findings.

show-2 The title Findings emerged at least eighteen months ago as a convenient, and now it seems, entirely appropriate label on which to hang a materially diverse body of work. It actually references a book of essays by the poet Kathleen Jamie, who, with the appearance of her book, became a necessary part of a largely male club of  ‘new nature writers’. It did not quite have the academic authority of Robert Macfarlane (Landmarks) or the observational brilliance of Mark Coker (Crow Country), or quirky autobiography of the late Roger Deakin (Wildwood). It had something else –  that spilled a woman’s particular kind of intensity of looking on to the page. Jamie’s Findings is about a life living the day-to-day of wife, husband, children, house and home, and job, all woven between those precious moments taken when time becomes available to notice and be in nature. Her opening essay about watching peregrines near her home is overflowing with that buzz of newly becoming a birder, someone who opens herself to the wonder of a living, miraculous thing – that flies ecstatically, sees almost beyond our imagining, lives chaotically, wholly, in and by nature.