Friday, 18 April 2014

"Boro: Threads of Life" Exhibition at Somerset House

Last Tuesday I went to London with Sara and Sam to see the exhibition of Boro at Somerset House.
We were somewhat delayed by having a wonderful time playing in the fountains in the sunshine but eventually made it to the East Wing Galleries.

Photography was permitted and Sam was given a postcard of one textile to try and find - good thinking.
You can see in this photograph how the textiles were displayed.

I delayed writing this post as at least one friend is visiting the exhibition this week.  I wanted them to be able to make up their own mind, unclouded by preconceptions from my report.  I have say I was disappointed with "Boro:  Threads of Life".  Not with the textiles themselves, but with the manner in which they were exhibited.
There were a few items that were exhibited in the way I expected, as the original garments were made and used in Japan.  (Apologies for the strange tint to the photographs, it seems to be a result of the exhibition lighting).
Most textiles, however, were exhibited like this.  As if the exhibition was an art gallery.  The pieces were all of similar shape and size.  Several pieces appeared to have been mounted on new fabric and all the pieces had been smoothed over stretcher frames or similar.
Sara and I were both astonished at how flat and thin the boro was, so much so that I took a photograph of the edge of a piece that wasn't mounted in this style.
Nowhere could I find any information about the boro, no origin, age, description, nor on the way they had been mounted for exhibition.  Each item had only a number alongside it.  The book accompanying the exhibition was simply a collection of photographs of the items.  I feel the textiles must have been reduced in many cases to their outer layer, they certainly appeared to have had the guts ripped out of them.
Moving closer gave some texture but the overall impression was of a flat, almost lifeless, sea of blue.  Am I being too harsh in my disappointment?  Maybe I should have been inspired by the innovation of the exhibitors.
"They carry with them the evocation of family members, the presence of ancestors" it states in the exhibition guide.  It was exactly this that I felt was missing.  These historical textiles had somehow been reduced to gallery exhibits (with enormous price tags I later discovered) and their life and soul, their very integrity, had been removed along with the creases, filling and lumps and bumps.

I must state that I am not opposed to using old textiles in new ways, nor to individual expression and creativity but this exhibition contradicted itself in using the traditional words to talk about the boro while treating them in a way that disparaged all those words.  It was sad and we were glad to get back out into the sunshine and the fountains!  For another perspective on the exhibition and more pictures, including some good interior views of the galleries, you might like to pop over to Susan Briscoe's blog post here.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Holiday Snaps

I used to love the holidays when I was teaching as it was a much needed time to rest and recuperate, but I think I love them even more now as I get to spend loads of time with Sam during the school breaks.  We've just been at Kellah Farm near Hadrian's Wall for a week, Sam's choice of holiday destination.  We did all the things he wanted to do and had a great time.  Here are a few photos:
Sara and Sam riding on the swing boats at Beamish Open Air Museum.

With Connor (named after one of Sam's friends) the pet lamb.

Sara having her first ever ride on a horse and Sam very confidently showing her what to do!

Inspecting the bath house.

Organising the troops.

Having a not very disciplined moment for a Roman soldier.

Inspecting his flock after a day on duty on The Wall.

And I took a few "arty" shots but didn't manage much stitching - Sara and I were shattered at the end of each day, fit only for eating local fudge and watching DVDs!
I'm having a lazy weekend now as next week we're off to the Boro exhibition at Somerset House.  If you can't wait, Susan Briscoe blogged about it here.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Parcel Two - Boro Delight

"This is a vintage noragi vest from Hokuriki district. It is made of beautiful sakiori fabric. Sakiori is a traditional Japanese technique of rag weaving.The rag strips are cut finely and woven into a tweed-like fabric. In olden times people in northern district were poor, and people used their fabrics repaired and repaired, and finally make the fabrics to sakiori fabrics, and made noragi, interior fabrics and obi from sakiori fabrics.
This piece has especially beautiful (well worn) sakiori pattern. Textile is very very thick. And in the back near the neck, sashiko stitches are done. Its white pattern is exceptionally beautiful. Please check the fantastic sakiori and sashiko details with more photos.
It has a tear in the right chest, but as a whole it is in very good condition.
For the connoisseurs."

Above are the details from the Ichiroya - Kimono Flea Market website where I saw this vest and, although I am no "connoisseur", I knew I had to have it.
It arrived in the post yesterday, 

along with an apron I took a liking to and a gift of a lovely piece of kimono silk. Ichiroya are great to deal with and the descriptions and photographs of items on the website mean you know what you are buying.

The vest combines so much of what I love about vintage Japanese textiles.  The woven "sakiori" 

fabric, the sashiko stitching, the indigo dye of course, the concept of "boro" and also wabi sabi.  Here are my thoughts, I would appreciate your views.

The vest is old, and fragile in places.  I want to wear it once in a while and I want it to continue to have a life, not just become a treasure I store away in my sewing room.  It has evolved over time and I think it can continue to do so.
Can I do some work on it without stripping it of its integrity?
There are two areas I would like to pay attention to, the tear in the right side of the front (shown in the first photograph) and the stitching down the sides.

am thinking of patching the front using some vintage indigo fabric, hopefully patching from inside if it is possible.  I would then use a simple sashiko stitch to hold it all together.
I would like to extend the stitching up each side of the vest, using the same stitch and in a cream cotton sashiko thread.
I feel that doing these things would prevent further damage to the vest.
However, should one repair such a beautiful item?
I really would appreciate your opinions and suggestions.

Japanese-speakers out there.... what exactly is on my apron?  Ichiroya say it advertises fish sausages. Are these anything like fish fingers?  I love the zipped pocket detail on the apron which I didn't notice initially!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Global Piecers' Hearts

It was a good day for post yesterday so I shall write two posts!!

I received two exciting parcels from overseas, one from Japan and one from Australia.

The parcel from Australia was from my Global Piecer friend, Sal.  I knew it would contain a heart block, the final one in the swap, and so I looked forward to deciding how to arrange all the hearts I have received.  But Sal is a pretty generous gal and so the parcel contained not just the heart block (which was fabulous) but loads of other goodies:  fabric, beads, soap, chocolate bunnies (I imagine Sam will help me with those) and a lovely cosmetic purse that Sal made for me.  I love swaps, they're fun to put together, buying and making things you hope your partner will love, and they're fantastic to get.

This swap was for a heart block, of any design or technique.  The block was to be 6.5" in one direction and a multiple of this in the other.  We all indicated our preferred colour palette, mine being:
I would like traditional dusky pinks and dark reds for my heart blocks please, I'm thinking full blown English roses :-)

Having a break coming up soon I wanted to have some hand stitching to take with me.  I started to layout all those heart blocks and, amazingly, I have managed to assemble and layer a wall hanging today and now I have lots of lovely hand quilting to do.  While I am stitching I will be thinking of you lovely Global Piecing ladies, you're great.

Another Finish

My beach huts quillow is finished, here is a picture of it all folded into the pillow bag. Clever eh?
The pattern was by Anya Townrow and the fabrics were by Makower, all called "Coast"
I called my quilt "Tranquility Restored" in recognition of the terrible damage done by the storms and sea surge at the end of last year and the way the mess has been tidied up and repairs are started. People are even rebuilding on the sites of destroyed properties, such optimism in the forecasts of this being a "once in a century" event. The sea is so calm it is as if nothing happened. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

An Idea

A little inspiration for a cold and wet Sunday afternoon.  This is an image of a Roman mosaic found in Malta,  how wonderful it would be as a quilt.  One day, maybe.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Little Finish

This afternoon I have finished the boro book cover that I've posted about a few times. I am pleased with it and love all that it represents. I have added the length  of "kimono ribbon" that held our name cards when we travelled to various places during the Japanese Textile Study Tour in 2012.  The book inside is A4 size. 
The weather has turned chilly again after persuading us all that Spring had arrived. Good weather for sewing. 
Al and I have been looking after Sam for a few days. We are exhausted (there's a good reason why we have children while we are young) but have been having a great time. Here's Sam dressed in a onesie for the Sports Relief activities at school yesterday and he's showing off his odd socks which we all wore in support of World Down's Syndrome Day, also yesterday. 
I apologise to the writers of blogs I follow. I have not been receiving notifications from Bloglovin recently, nor have I been able to post comments from my phone when I've eventually read your posts. I will investigate but I am thinking of you all and enjoying your posts. 
Happy weekend. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Artists' Studios Spotted

These is a terrible photo, which I snapped through the coach window when I visited London at the weekend, but I wanted to make a quick record so that I could find out more once I got home, and now I want to share it with you.
The terrace, on Talgarth Road, West Kensington, is of purpose-built artists' studios, hence the large windows, which face northwards for the light.  They were designed by Frederick Wheeler in the Arts and Crafts style for James Fairless who was a publisher of classical prints.  Built in 1891, they were designed for bachelor artists and had a basement kitchen with a room for a housekeeper. The small, vertical windows on the upper floor are for the ease of bringing larges canvases in and out of the properties.  
There was an article in Country Life, which included an old drawing of the properties, which were originally known as St Paul's Studios.
One of the studios sold in 2012 for £1.3 million, leading to articles in the newspapers:
and estate agents are interested enough in the properties to do some research:  
Several estate agents' details came up in a web search and I found this photo on Rightmove, which, although the property listed is no longer for sale, shows several interior photographs too.
Further searching led me to this wonderful website, London Details, to which I shall be returning.  Travelling through London you spy so many incredible buildings, in such varied styles, and they all have their stories.  Talgarth Road is now a very busy, noisy and dusty route into central London, but the St Paul's Studios retain their elegance and their attractive features, they were Grade II listed in 1970, so the "special characteristics of the building" cannot be altered. 

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Boro in London
"This April Somerset House will host an exhibition on the Japanese textile tradition of boro. Translated to ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for items – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required and had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families repaired and recycled fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down to the next and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads. 

"As such boros are seen to have significant sociohistorical status by providing an insight into the modest lives of those that made them and a snapshot of the country’s impoverished past, but they can also be viewed as articles of great artistic value. Consciously or otherwise, the once humble objects can be considered works of art with their unique arrangements of shapes and beautiful hues of blues and browns, reminiscent of the paintings of Paul Klee or the combines of Robert Rauschenberg. In this context, Boro will showcase 40 historic boro pieces in a new light within Somerset House’s East Wing Galleries from a collection never before displayed and compiled over six years by antiquarians Gordon Reece and Philippe Boudin."

Gordon Reece opened a gallery in Knareborough and another in Mayfair and promoted the appreciation of non-European crafts.  The galleries closed in 2007.

Philippe Boudin is the director of the Mingei Arts Gallery in Paris.

I am planning to see this exhibition and will, of course, report back.  In the meantime, pop over to Susan Briscoe's blog where she has shared some of her own collection of boromono and a lot of information about these evocative textiles.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Beach Huts and the Seaside

I made good progress with my projects while I was away in Norfolk. I finished a block and a mug rug for the Global Piecers' swap, while I can't show you as I only posted them off to South Dakota today.  On the first day I also did the centre of my beach hut quilt:
I was pleased with how it went together as the last time I did an Attic Window block it was a bit of a mess. This time I was very much more accurate with where I stopped and started the stitching. 
On day two it was a fairly straightforward process to add the border fabric, with four more mitred seams. 
I now need to make the "quillow" part of the project and get quilting. 
It wasn't all stitching though. I was joined by Sara and Sam for the weekend and we were joined by the sunshine so headed to the beach.