Explore the Ancient Art of Kumihimo, a Traditional Japanese Braiding Technique
The ancient Japanese art of kumihimo encompasses 1,300 years of braiding and cord-making history. Translating to “gathered threads,” the weaving technique has been practiced for centuries, with the completed creations used for binding historical samurai armor and creating ties for modern kimonos. Many kumihimo are made of hand-dyed silk interlaced using special looms as demonstrated in a short film released by Japan House London.
Accompanying the Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding exhibition, the video captures the meditative and methodical process of the labor-intensive art form. One weaver seated at a takadai loom manually passes bobbins through the upper and lower threads and then uses a bamboo tool, or hera, to hit and tighten the braid. Later, a craftsperson is shown at the round murudai, which involves passing the strands from front to back in a rhythmic sequence.
Watch the video above for a glimpse into the process, and if you’re in London, see Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding, which features installations, looms, and dozens of examples of the braids, through June 11.
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A Centuries-Old Decorative Tradition Inspires Michelle Robinson’s Vibrant Weavings
“Colour is my first passion,” says Sydney-based artist Michelle Robinson, who weaves textured fibers in vibrant hues into lively wall-hangings and accessories. The artist draws on more than twenty years of experience in the soft furnishings and upholstery industry, which instilled a deep appreciation for textiles. She began working with the medium as a way to further explore her love for decor and shares that the process “allows me to continuously play with all the colour combinations that wizz through my brain—and hopefully pass on some of the energy to others that colour can evoke.”
After weaving for four years, Robinson signed up for a masterclass in passementerie, the 16th and 17th century European decorative art—derived from passement, an archaic French word for “lace”—that centers on ornate trimmings like edging and tassels for clothing and furniture. Led by U.K.-based artist Elizabeth Ashdown, the class was an opportunity to learn traditional methods from a practitioner who is committed to keeping the craft alive. Robinson shares that she “was immediately besotted with the possibilities for this historic and beautiful technique and was reminded of all the beautiful braids I worked with in my decorating days.” Her pieces reference the ornamental plaits and trims of furniture and garments.
Robinson creates wall hangings and accessories like bookmarks on frame looms, employing traditional techniques to produce geometric works that have a contemporary feel. Recently, she has been exploring how to scale up the medium, examining how the different threads behave within the structure and retain a sense of nostalgia and playfulness. She explains:
I find myself constantly experimenting and learning new techniques, using primarily all-natural fibres. I also love adding repurposed items like knitting needles and re-spun fibres and finishing weavings with hand sewn details. It’s the details that draw you into an artwork that appeal to me.
Robinson often makes pieces available for sale on Etsy, and you can find more of her work on Instagram.
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Nathalie Miebach Weaves Data and Anecdotes into Expansive Sculptures to Raise Awareness of the Climate Crisis
For Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach, art is a way to translate scientific data into a visual language of patterns and relationships. In 2007, when she first began to make works that explored weather and climate change, she wanted to better understand the science. “Each piece began with a specific question I had and then the sculpture would attempt to answer it. Over time, I began to be more interested not in how weather instruments record weather, but how we as a species respond to it,” she tells Colossal. “That’s when I began to look at extreme weather events such as floods, storms, and fires.”
Basketweaving plays a central role in Miebach’s practice as it both physically and metaphorically weaves together materials and information. The type of data she collects is both statistical and anecdotal, combining scientific inquiry with personal experiences. “Harvey’s Twitter SOS,” for example, translates 2017 data maps about Hurricane Harvey published by The New York Times. “The inner quilt is made up of shapes that map out income distribution in Houston and uses the city’s highway system as a visual anchor. Various types of information related to Harvey are stitched onto the quilt, including Twitter messages that were sent out during the storm,” she says. Each piece contains numerous pathways, repetitions, and connections, redolent of Rube Goldberg machines in which cause and effect play a central role.
During the past three years, the artist’s work also collates Covid-19 data alongside climate information. “Spinning Towards a New Normal,” on view currently at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, translates Covid-19 infection, death, and vaccination rates for Germany, Italy, and Spain into the form of a spinning top with a plumb bob, representing the struggle of communities and economies to find stability. “We are not invincible, and neither is this planet,” she warns. “For the first time in human history, we have all experienced how vulnerable we can be as a species. The recent work I have been doing is trying to look at these broader environmental changes we are now seeing through this lens of vulnerability.”
You can see Miebach’s work in All Hands On: Basketry at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin through May 25, 2023, and Climate Action, Inspiring Change at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, through June 25, 2023. Explore more of her work on her website and follow updates on Instagram.
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Art Craft Design
Deceptively Flat Weavings by Artist Susie Taylor Interlace Threads into Playful and Nostalgic Patterns
Patterns we might typically associate with childhood—the plaid vinyl lawn chairs of family barbecues, thick pink, brown, and white stripes of Neapolitan ice cream, and the simple ruled markings on notebook paper—become vibrant woven tapestries in the hands of artist Susie Taylor. Nostalgic in aesthetic and vivid in color palette, the Bay Area artist and textile designer interlaces cotton and linen threads to create flat weaves that appear almost three-dimensional in complexity, with the mathematically-inclined motifs and subtle shifts in color embedded within the pieces themselves.
The fiber compositions draw on the traditions of Bauhaus and Black Mountain College through a boldly playful lens and “include basic shapes like blocks and stripes to address pattern, symmetry and color interaction and the notion that ordered systems can still flirt with chance, interruption, and improvisation,” the artist says.
Taylor’s works are on view through October 27 as part of Origin Stories at Johansson Projects in Oakland. Explore more of her intricate designs on her site.
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‘Wild Textiles’ Is a Practical Guide for Turning Foraged Materials into Fiber-Based Works
From gathering and retting stinging nettle to stitching leaves into delicately layered quilts, Wild Textiles: Grown, Foraged, Found is a trove of tips and projects involving organic fibers. The forthcoming book by artist Alice Fox is a practical guide to working with nature’s materials at all steps of the process: she offers advice on growing plants and harvesting others, how to transform the raw matter into cord or thread, and examples of artworks that incorporate the repurposed textiles. Published by Batsford, the volume covers both rural and urban findings, in addition to pieces by artists like Hillary Waters Fayle and Penny Maltby. Wild Textiles is available for pre-order on Bookshop.
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An Elaborately Designed Book on Weaving Opens to Reveal a Fully Functional Loom
The swish of a shuttle moving from left to right as it carries threads through the warp might be described as a “xui” sound. A Taiwanese onomatopoeia, the auditory word is also the title of Cai Wei Qun’s elaborately constructed book on the craft, which opens to reveal a trove of history, techniques and tricks, and an entire loom tucked between its covers.
The clever design is fully functional and able to produce tiny tapestries based on the patterns and practices described, making the book an immersive and accessible manual. “Traditional weaving tools are large and have complicated processes,” Wei Qun tells Colossal. “It is commonly difficult to experience. So we hope, by experiencing simple weaving processes, one can initiate ‘interest’ during the process (and) thoroughly understand the culture of weaving.”
Wei Qun was recently awarded a Red Dot Design Award for the conceptual project, and you can find much more on the designer’s website and Instagram. (via Yanko Design)
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