More Kimonos – drawing and embroidery

Since my last post I have been immersed in Kimonos. I have rediscovered my early fascination for these wonderful garments; wonderful to me because they are the perfect fusion of textile and clothing. Hang them on a stand or against a wall and they work as strongly shaped art pieces – wear them and they both reveal and conceal themselves and the wearer, the patterns undulating across the body in slow movements – hard to run in a kimono.

I have been searching through my records for my Japanese inspired embroidery slides. I had an exhibition on my return and showed embroideries, drawings and screen prints evolved from my hundreds of photographs and the day book drawings. Above is a neighbour’s child in her typical young girls’ red and white kimono. Japanese clothing has strict colour and pattern codes, they could not tell my age because I wore such a divergent range of clothes in different colours. I liked the way colours were described –  purples and deep blues are said to be Noble.

silk embroidered panel appliqued with traditional fabrics and my only successful attempt at shibori – the red ground of the kimono

However the fabrics I was attracted to were the brilliant silks in reds, pinks, yellows and gold, these glamorous fabrics were what I had come to see and tried to emulate..

This was hard as I had many techniques to master and I only had 5 weeks to assimilate the information…each Japanese textile apprentice takes 7 years to perfect their skill in one technique.

The only technique I came near to getting to grips with and which has stayed with me was silk embroidery in long and short stitch – see the Flora embroideries – and also I usually applique most of my embroideries together to make larger works out of different pieces of worked fabrics, this developed out of sheer necessity as I could never sustain any of the techniques to make more than a small sample.

However what the precise and perfectly placed stitches of Japanese embroidery enabled me to do was to stitch lively and nuanced versions of my drawings…and I am surprised now looking at this old work how my drawings did not change but my embroideries did. Check out the early sketch book drawing of the little girl in the red kimono at the top of the post and this later drawing for exhibition on my return. They are essentially drawn and coloured in the same way, crayoned first with defining pencilled lines, I still draw like this today and not surprisingly my handwriting is exactly the same.

Now look at the early canvas embroidery just prior to my visit. Here is my small scale, densely stitched canvas, enclosed space, rigid structures and very heavy stitching.

Yes it’s still solid stitching but look at the space and movement and white exposed ground on my first embroidery on my return, below and it is 4 times the size of the canvas embroidery…..

my scale, techniques and sense of space completely altered and suddenly nothing is centred… is flying around

Even on the large variable edition silk screen prints of kimono on stands, the Kabuki kites are whirling around

The next kimono post will get me back to the present ideas for the workshops at Heart Space Studios. But because of writing and researching for the blog, things have changed from what I first imagined I would teach …but that’s what ‘Re-Searching’ does for you – takes you further than your first thought into territories new and uncharted.

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