Thoughts on my Theme Book…
As I near the end of my three years in Japan, it is fitting for my theme book to be centred round some aspect of life in Japan. I have been soaking up so much of the Arts and Culture of Japan and have collected a huge amount of photos; postcards; sketches; brochures; papers; textiles; books etc and have visited galleries; exhibitions private Japanese homes; textile studios plus attended workshops on textile techniques. Now it is time to narrow all this information down into a theme which will lead me to a ‘Piece of my own’. I have several ideas, each which does indeed fill me with excitement.
My first thought was to concentrate on Japanese Textiles, a subject which I immerse myself in at every opportunity. I already have a mass of information, photos, collected textiles and books as well as my own samples produced during courses in Shibori; Katazome; Kumihimo; Sashiko and Indigo dyeing. I have visited textile studios; exhibitions of Japanese textiles artists and galleries. Japanese Textiles covers a huge area, however, so I was concerned that I was going to be overwhelmed by materials and wondered how all this could be narrowed down to lead me towards my finished piece.
The Way of Tea
I then had the idea of concentrating on an important part of Japanese cultural heritage, ‘The Way of Tea’. I have attended a number of Tea Ceremonies and am fascinated by the complexity yet aesthetic simplicity of the ceremony. The Tea Ceremony encompasses Calligraphy; Ceramics; Ikebana; Haiku; Kimono; Tea Ceremony Textiles; Tea utensils, yet the underlying aesthetic is the one of ‘Wabi Sabi’ – based upon simple naturalness and reverence.
Now ‘Wabi Sabi’ is a subject which has also intrigued me since before I came out to Japan. There was a documentary in UK before I left ‘In Search of Wabi Sabi’, with Marcel Theroux travelling around Japan trying to understand this untranslatable term. The recording can be found on YouTube and I do recommend it! In my time in Japan I have also been in search of its meaning and feel I am a little nearer than I was. Could this be a theme for my final piece?
Japanese Folk Craft Movement
My search for ‘Wabi Sabi’ also led me to the Japanese Folk Craft movement and the work of Soetsu Yanagi, Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada. I have visited the Folk Craft Museum in Tokyo and Hamada’s Museum in Mashiko (The Pottery Town’). Another very interesting area and includes Textiles – perhaps my theme could be ‘Japanese Folk Textiles’?
Japanese Folk Textiles
The theme ‘Japanese Folk Textiles’ would encompass an obsession I have with Boro – which I have been researching. It would also include the very interesting concept of ‘Mottainai’ – a Japanese version of ‘Waste not , want not’, when referring to clothing. When cotton was very expensive and good fabric was hard to come by the Japanese were extremely creative in recycling their textiles over and over again. Hence the ‘Boro’ textiles which have become collectors pieces now with the corresponding high cost. I spend hours at local market searching out Boro – but have only bought one piece so far! The more I think about it – this could be my theme – it would also encompass the work I have been doing with katazome stencilling; silk reeling; and other traditional Japanese textile techniques. I have the idea of producing a boro-inspired Tea Ceremony Bag as my Final Piece, incorporating pieces of indigo-dyed linen (recycled from vintage linen kimonos), each piece dyed using a different technique and tied with a silk kumihimo (Japanese braid). I could use a number of Japanese–inspired motifs and produce something beautiful, yet practical – which would fit in with the ideals of the Folk Craft movement as well as the ‘Wabi sabi’ aesthetic.
I know I can respond to this theme with ‘excitement and involvement’ – I already have!!!
I look forward to my tutor’s feedback on my ideas…