Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why I Use Old Fabrics

I like that the fabrics I choose for my work are limited. This makes me consider more carefully before drawing and cutting. The average size of a piece of silk in my collection is around 20cm x 20cm (some are much smaller), so I am working within a very limited scale. When it's gone, it's gone.

It's a good feeling to work with fabric that has a story. One piece I uncovered in my last purchase had a fold which had been stitched in typical kimono hand-stitching. What was interesting to me was that the fold had a hole worn into it, as if it had rubbed against something repeatedly. Instead of working I found myself dreaming about which part of the kimono it was from. (The hem I suppose only gets this much friction wear.) And then, who wore it? Where were they going? What did the kimono look like in its entirety? Anyone who knows anything about kimono fabrics, knows that two samples from the same kimono can look like two separate kimonos, so it is difficult to reconstruct the whole garment from such a tiny piece.

The pieces I find are from the 60s, 70s and 80s, a period of great modernisation and emancipation. Wearing kimono became much less of an everyday occurrence and worn only for special occasions: shichi go san (7,5,3 ceremony), coming of age (at age 20), graduations or weddings. Having worn full kimono on my own wedding day, it us fully understandable why western clothes overtook the traditional kimono in Japan. 

The three layers are: hadajuban (underwear made of simple cotton), nagajuban (under kimono visible at the sleeves and hem), the kimono itself, as well as a plethora of strings, collars, clips, boards and padded cushions. Not forgetting the grand finale, the obi (belt) which can be tied in hundreds of ways. And then there are the tabi (socks) and the zori (shoes), the kanzashi (hair ornaments) and obidome (obi brooch clip). Of course, everyday kimono is much simpler in design, fabric and accoutrements and can be tied (with a lot of practise) by yourself.

I love uncovering parts of fabric that are worn, or have tiny holes where someone once painstakingly hand stitched the silk. There are the occasional stains too, which is very common when silk is stored for a period of time. They don't scare me, in fact, quite the opposite. I imagine celebrations, sploshed sake, overflowing beer glasses, soy sauce, celebration food. A story of fun and happiness, positive energy and laughter all encapsulated in one pair of earrings, a necklace, ring or bracelet. Why would I want to make my work out of something new?

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