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.


  1. Beautiful stencils - thanks for sharing this information. I hope to visit this museum some day!

  2. It is difficult to recognize boundaries. A lot of antique furniture was stripped of its patina in a desire for a "clean" look, or worse yet, painted over to match current "style".

    What a marvelous opportunity to view such beautiful artifacts.

  3. I just arrived at your blog via Jean at One Small Stitch. I am a long time Japanophile and textile artist so have very much enjoyed reading your posts. Beautiful!

  4. Beautiful stencils