Friday, 16 November 2012

Threads of Silk and Gold - the visit

My friend and fellow JE embroiderer Carol-Anne wrote a nice post about our visit to the Ashmolean in Oxford to visit the Exhibition. You can read it here.

I don't have the words to describe just how beautiful the pieces in this exhibition are, so I won't try. The standard of embroidery, the scale of the work, the beauty of the design are beyond wonderful.

This is the first exhibition of this quality of Japanese embroidery outside of Japan since the Meiji era and is a MUST for all students of textiles to visit.

Embroidered hanging scroll Hawk on a snowy pine branch.  Silk with embroidery in silk thread, paper and silk brocade mount, wooden roller - Mid-1890s
© Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum, Kyoto

Monday, 29 October 2012

A number of weeks ago Carol-Anne (one of my JE stitching friends) was contacted by the Ashmolean Museum about the exhibition below.  Following various meetings I am pleased and proud to say that we have been invited to take part in the study day on 9th of November.  So Carol-Anne and I will be giving a presentation on the techniques of Japanese Embroidery.  Having seem some of the photos of the pieces I can tell say that it will be well worth a visit, and Carol-Anne who has seen the real things says it defiantly is.  See you there?? Check out the details here.

Ashmolean Autumn Exhibition
Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles from Meiji Japan
9 November 2012–27 January 2013

This autumn, the Ashmolean Museum presents the first exhibition devoted to the art of Meiji textiles ever to be held outside Japan. Many of us are aware of the beauty of the traditional Japanese kimono; Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles from Meiji Japan will introduce the less well known but equally spectacular ornamental textiles that were made for the Western market during Japan’s Meiji era (1868–1912). This was the famous period of ‘Japonisme’, which saw the European Impressionist painters exploring themes and styles taken from Japanese art, and Victorian rooms filled with Japanese decorative arts and crafts.
Embroidered four-fold screen Peacock and peahen.  Probably by Nishimura Sōzaemon, Chisō Silk with embroidery in silk and metallic thread, wooden frame with lacquered decoration - 1900 to c. 1910
© Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum, Kyoto

The Meiji era was an extraordinarily rich artistic period. As well as prints, ceramics, lacquerware and metalwork, Japanese artists produced exquisite embroideries, sophisticated resist-dyed silk and velvet panels, grand tapestries, and appliqué work that entranced Western audiences with their innovative designs and brilliant craftsmanship. These textiles ranged in size from large-scale wall hangings and folding screens to small panels in western-style picture frames.
Embroidered hanging scroll Hawk on a snowy pine branch.  Silk with embroidery in silk thread, paper and silk brocade mount, wooden roller - Mid-1890s
© Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum, Kyoto

Ornamental textiles made in Kyoto became some of Japan’s best-known export items: no fashionable Victorian home was without its Japanese hangings; they were displayed to great acclaim at international exhibitions; and they were often presented as diplomatic gifts from the Japanese imperial household and government. The makers of Meiji textiles, seeking to modernize traditional modes of visual representation, aspired to create ‘paintings in silk thread’. Sometimes they replicated specific western pictures. More often, they collaborated with contemporary Japanese painters to create dazzling new images that more than ever before realised the aesthetic potential of silk thread as an artistic medium.
 Embroidered panel Young woman reading a book illuminated by orange light.  Silk with embroidery in silk thread, original
wood frame With label ‘S. Nishimura’ c. 1890–1900
© Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum, Kyoto

Threads of Silk and Gold comprises some 40 examples of the highest-quality Meiji textiles from the newly acquired collection of the Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto. Pieced together from around the world, this outstanding collection is one of the finest and most comprehensive of its type in existence. Also on display will be some superb pieces from the Ashmolean’s own collections.
Dr Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, said, “We are honoured to be the very first museum to exhibit this extraordinary collection to the public. The Ashmolean has a strong tradition of holding pioneering exhibitions of Japanese art from the Meiji era and we are delighted to extend this focus on Meiji art to ornamental textiles. Threads of Silk and Gold will mark another major milestone in the revival of interest in this still little-explored field of Japanese art.“

Exhibition: Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles from Meiji Japan
Dates: 9 November 2012–27 January 2013
Press View: Thursday 8 November 2012, 10am–12pm
Venue: Ashmolean Special Exhibition Galleries 57, 59 & 60
Tickets: £6/£4 concessions
Catalogue: The exhibition is accompanied by a major catalogue featuring essays by Dr Clare Pollard, Curator of Japanese Collections, Ashmolean Museum, and Dr Hiroko T McDermott, co-curator of the exhibition. RRP £25.
Events: A programme of events including a study day, lectures, workshops and family activities are programmed throughout the exhibition

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Gold Iris

 All finished, I really like how this one has turned out.  I've finished the little orchid fan as well, but it's too dark now to get good pictures so I'll save that one for another day. 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Four days in September

In my last post I'd completed White Blossoms and, for the first time since I started on my Japanese embroidery journey, I had nothing on a frame to stitch.  Well, the empty frames lasted four days. 

I have a number of JEC pieces in my stash, but they are quite large pieces and after White Blossoms and Autumn Shell Box I didn't want to start another large piece.  So I spent the four days reviewing the smaller designs and ideas which ready to go and ended up with two small pieces on frames. 

This is the blue iris design I embroidered last year for my Godmother.  At the time I did think about stitching more in other colour variations.  In fact, I'd got some fabric from my tutor precisely with this design in mind.  It's a creamy white kimono fabric with a gold thread, this give flecks of gold on the surface, it's a bit like the fabric JEC use for their fractal pieces or the Hoitsu scroll pieces.
So I dug out the fabric and transferred the design using chaco paper. 
 My original idea was to embroider it as I did the blue version, flat silk in one colour.  I started this using self padding under the main petal but decided that the contrast wasn't enough. So I decided to go for a white a gold version, following the same idea as for Black Heart, using the same colours for the flower as in the fabric. I used JEC #341 and #1 soft gold.  The standard #1 gold was too harsh. 
The main technique is random realistic, going from 2F, 1.5F+#1G, 1F+2G, 2G.  Most of the flower was embroidered while I was at the Stitching Show in Manchester.  And it has worked very well. 
My first working of the bud used four strands of #1G for the final layer but it was too thick and started too far up the bud, so the following day I took it out and re-worked it. The bud on the right is the final version.
The smaller petals were embroidered with #1G HH, some of them were padded with 2F.  
This colour combination has produced a very elegant design.  Sadly there is only a limited amount of this fabric, my tutor has only one bolt.  I feel a phone call coming on to reserve another piece to do another chrysanthemum - Gold Heart!
Yet again I've run out of one of the colours before I finished, so am waiting for the green silk to arrive to finish the leaves. 
The other design is a small fan with orchids. For some reason I didn't take many pictures of this one in progress so only have one to share with you.  This is the most beautiful colour of fabric (from my stash this time).  It doesn't come out on the photo, if you have the JEC colour chart it's like #637/638. It came from Ichiroya,  it's for making a raincoat, so has a very, very smooth and shiny surface which makes it shower proof. The water just rolls off. It's very closely woven but very soft, so ok to embroider onto, but it wouldn't support too much weight.  
It has been embroidered with either 2F or 1.5F and one section of twisted thread for a flower calyx.  I've used JEC #674 for the orchids.  This is a very bright pink but it works well on the dark plum background. 

Next up a black and red iris on the same fabric at Black Heart.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

White Blossoms and empty frames

After a hectic few weeks which have included long stitching sessions, no stitching at all, a death, and the arrival of new life, life is pausing for thought.  Although the death of my Aunt was expected and came at the end of a long life was still sad but instead of putting me off stitching it made me want to focus on nothing more than the frame so as not to think about anything else, so I made lots of progress on White Blossoms.
As I've worked on this piece over the last two years it has annoyed, frustrated, and fascinated me.  The concept of using just two colours has been interesting and there are some techniques I will certainly use again. 
I'd got a bit stuck on this piece truth be told and hadn't worked on it for a while.  I just wanted it finished and off the frame.  The two marathon stitching sessions following my Aunt's death got me over the hiatus and into liking this piece again.  A parting gift perhaps.  
Last week our family numbers increased with the arrival of my cousin's triplets.  He and his wife have waited a long time for their arrival and I'm very pleased that they finally have the family that they have waited for for so long. 

The final task on White Blossoms was to put in the flat gold.  I'd left this for last having been warned it could be quite fiddly and I didn't want to do it any damage while working on the rest of the piece.
The flat gold consists of very fine sections of paper with gold leaf on both sides, each end is still attached to the main section of paper as you can see below.  
Each section is cut as it is used, the rest stays attached to the ends and wrapped in paper to keep it safe. It is real gold leaf and is very expensive, you don't want to loose any.  I used it in half lengths.
This is a single section of the flat gold, for scale the black lines are 1mm apart!!!
Using a #11 needle to stitch with you can see from the picture below the flat gold goes through the eye without distorting the paper.  I found the gold quite wiry and easier to manipulate than I thought.  Slow and sure being the trick.
Starting with one of the small circles I took a deep breath and put needle to silk.  There is no way of knotting flat gold, the ends have to be left loose and you have to try not to pull them through when stitching.  I worked from one end to the other then cut off the gold and did the next line.  I'd put a few sections in leaving the loose ends on the wrong side of the fabric but after pulling sections out by accident a new tack was called for.  I left the loose ends on the right side of the fabric and after finishing the area turned the frame over and gently pulled the loose ends to the back.  This worked well, and though it looks untidy in the picture below once the ends are at the back it is fine.  
It's an interesting variation on the tye dye technique and the flat gold is truly glorious, with the shimmer and shine that only comes from highly polished real gold. 
And so, White Blossoms is finished ... 
... and now I find myself in a situation which has not occurred since I started my Japanese embroidery journey eight years ago - I do not have another piece on a frame or immediately ready to move onto.  All my frames are empty and I really have no idea what I will work on next. 

Watch this space ...................................................   

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Books, boxes and maples

Well it's been a productive few weeks since my last post, I've got some nice new pictures to show and I've been thinking about the focus of this blog so a few changes to come.

When I started the blog it was a way of keeping track of my phase pieces and I mainly wrote about techniques and my journey up the phases.  Since I've started the next step of the journey and have been developing my own designs I've continued to post about techniques and the embroidery rather than the design journey.  I'm going to try and expand on the design journey, including details of ideas for designs and how I develop them into working designs, we'll see how it goes.

One of my lovely friends, Michiko, found this fabulous book all about another JE master.  When she was in Japan visiting family she brought back extra copies for us all - thank you Michiko.  If you can get hold of a copy it's well worth it.  The embroidery is incredible. I dislike the new use of the word awesome, it's a word that I think is overused for interesting things but that do not actually fill you with awe, that said, the embroidery in this book is truly AWESOME. 
Front cover.  I'm sorry to say I can't remember the English version of the masters name (I really need to write this stuff down) and all the details in the book are in Japanese, so I can't give you his name.
EDITED - the masters name is Kikuaki Ueda - thank you Kris (and her husband), who found this link with more information.

 Back cover 
It comes with a little booklet with lots of information (all in Japanese).  Michiko says this tells about his work and life.  The book is one of a series which has been produced to celebrate and publicise those Arts in Japan which are getting scarcer.  As far as I know it's only available in Japan, the website of the publisher is on the details below.  Get it if you can.
I've edited these images so if you click on them you'll get a larger version for reading.

The red tassel and pinks embroidery have been mounted on the tops of boxes and delivered to the Gallery at the Wharf where they are now for sale. 
I've started some new designs for smaller boxes.  These are great, they only take a few hours each to stitch so I can move on very quickly.  The top of the box is only 10x4 cm so the embroidery itself can't be very big.  I put two design on each colour of kimono silk and then stitched the pieces together so only had to frame up once.
This works very well, but you do have to match up silk of a similar weight so the tension on them all is the same.  Don't match obi and kimono silk together.
The designs are all very simple, this is a little daisy design. The original idea was to have a domed top to the flower and to cover this with lots of sagara nui (knots).  Once I started looking at fabrics I decided that the black I wanted to use for this wouldn't support that amount of padding.  My second thought was just to fill the shape with sagara, but something about this just disn't seem to gell, so I thought I'd do this like we sometimes do centres on chrysanthemums, fill in some of the background and then put knots over the top.  The yellow silk is JEC 308 and I've included a gold thread in the knots.
The petals are JEC 801, the top few petals are self padded. 
I'm very pleased with this one, it has turned out very well. 
Next a tassel worked in JEC 107 and 633. The top section has self padding but the rest doesn't.  No great design thoughts about this one, the design is a section of one of the very many pictures of tassells and cord designs I've got.  Colours were chosen just by what I had and what I thought would work on the purple silk.
Tassel lines are #4 silver, couched with grey couching. 
Knots and a bit of cord to finish off. 

Now I've had time to live with the Autumn Shell Box piece I've been looking again at the colours and how beautiful they are, so I cut another piece of the fabric and made up a smaller design containing just maple leaves.  I used the same basic pattern of leaves as on the original, but moved them round a bit, as on the original one of the dyed leaves on the fabric is incorporated into the design.  
The design was transferred using chaco paper and the same colours and techniques as on the original.  Some leaves are two tone, some solid colours. 
This all took a fraction of the time of the original.  Under 10 hours of embroidery in this one!! 
 Thank for for reading to the end of this very long post, more updates on the small designs and other new designs soon. 
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