1/16/17: Textiles

Our day began at Tatsumura Textiles. It was obvious that the textiles being produced there were highly unusual. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature was how dense and three-dimensional the weaving was. The fabrics were thick and weighty; many were displayed in frames as art pieces. They also contained large amounts of metallic thread, which allowed the same piece of fabric to change drastically depending upon the lighting. My favorite fabric was probably the “magic obi” that looked good with any kimono. Of course the obi itself never changed but different colors stood out depending upon the color of the kimono it was set against. Its novel presentation of colors allowed the obi to accomplish much more than most others possibly could.

I appreciated the time I had on the loom. After a few minutes of struggling I began producing a decent weave. Tatsumura-san emphasized that it was important to keep a rhythm and try to make each repetition consistent. This strongly reminded me of the meditation we did with Dairik, where the focus was on breathing. In both cases the idea was to fixate on one repetitive set of actions. I actually found the loom to be a more effective tool than traditional meditation for reaching such a state. With the loom there is constant feedback. You can hear, see, and feel if you aren’t focusing well. Looking at the piece I made it’s obvious where I lost my concentration; the edges are uneven and the fabric warps. Weaving unexpectedly turned out to be a powerful meditation tool for me.

In the pattern-making studio I found myself constantly thinking of ways to automate the process. Even basic photo editing software has quantization and pixelation features for projecting a painting onto a bitmap. After that, making an appropriate set of instructions for the loom would take a computer mere moments. Needless to say, this voice in my head was completely missing the point. The beauty of the textiles isn’t in their ability to produce a perfect compressed image in silk. It’s in their ability to convey deep meaning in a format with many limitations. The decisions necessary to maximize the impact of each square millimeter simply can’t be made by a computer. Admittedly, these differences can be minute. But they’re also what allow great pieces to be more than the sum of their parts. It’s here where the artist can coax and lead the viewers into using their imagination to fill out the experience. These virtual images are the real products, not the textiles. From this perspective it’s much clearer to me what’s lost in automation.


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