Sunday, 23 January 2011

Workshop in Europe

The University of Liechtenstein's Architecture and Economics departments give their undergraduate and graduate students a chance to participate in a week-long course not related to their fields of study once a year. (Liechtenstein is a small Principality sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. The Prince lives with his family in a castle above the main town.) There were ten other guest workshop leaders. A shoe maker, toy designer, a ceramist , furniture designer, print maker/archiver, and other very talented cool designers from other European countries taught. I was short on concept and words and we basically got straight to work indigo dying. The students were all exceptionally creative and it was pure pleasure to see what great ideas they came up with. Scarves, work-belts and book covers were obligatory and then they brought in their old clothes to dye with indigo. It was simply a wonderful time. I want to thank the students and other workshop leaders and the University folks for a very memorable time.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Katagami in St Gallen

I was in St Gallen, Switzerland last week and visited the textile museum there. St Gallen was a textile production center in Europe and like most other textile producing areas the industry has been 100% gutted because of imports from countries where labor is a fraction of the cost. Out of nostalgia or some sense of historic duty a museum is created. I've visited a few over the years in the Alp countries. Usually somewhat depressing this one wasn't much different. Rooms of heartbreaking beautiful old textiles. Lace and clever printing techniques etc. and then the obligatory area for contemporary works. Seeing the traditional clothing and other textiles of aristocrats and farmers and textiles from other parts of the world. I can't help but feel we dress so poorly in the 21st century. (As I sit typing fully outfitted in mass made 'Made in Laborcheaperia'.)

I had heard that the textile library at the museum had the best collection of Edo period Japanese katazome patterns in the world. For 40 Swiss Francs you can use the library and the librarian is generous and lets you photograph. They had several thousand samples and it was possible to get through about a thousand of them in a few hours. Here are a few that caught our imagination.

You can purchase antique linen at markets in Vienna and in Swiss towns. Barbara and I are thinking about having an exhibition using Japanese indigo stencil techniques on antique Alps linen in some potentially treacherous fashion. It will hard to navigate through the steep mountain ridges of design to avoid falling into the Woodstock or the Kleenex Box-Cover gorges on either side while avoiding the sheer cliffs of humorless-culture-hybrid-textile-art.