An exhibition of fine ceramics by Sandy Lockwood and Mary Taguchi's Mingei fabrics opened at Altenburg & Co on Sunday, titled ‘Stories of Cloth and Clay for the Everyday.’
Sandy Lockwood is a well know ceramic artist and has a studio in the southern highlands. She says “All my work is wood fired and salt glazed. Most of the clays I use are made from Australian raw materials which I blend and mix myself. I also use Southern Ice and Limoges porcelain. Each clay has particular qualities which, when combined with wood firing and salt, produce varied and intriguing surfaces that are an essential part of my work.“
Mary’s Mingei Studio moved to Braidwood last year. ‘Mingei’ refers to the crafts movement of the 1920s in Japan, which acknowledges the unconscious arts of anonymous craftsmen; simple, beautiful, functional wares for everyday use, made from clay, cotton, bast fibres, wood, metal and bamboo.
Together with a long academic involvement in Japanese language teaching methodology, Mary Taguchi has simultaneously had much involvement in the history and function of Japanese indigo-dyed cotton textiles of this movement.
Travelling extensively and regularly in Japan, Mary has established working relationships with traditional dyers, weavers and stencillers, all working in small family studios preserving the accumulated knowledge of generations of craftspeople. In particular, Mary has been instrumental in encouraging weavers towards a revival of old patterns.
The technique used for the weaving of these fabric is called ‘Sakioro’, meaning ‘torn woven, refers to woven fabric that is produced from worn out cloth and garments torn into fine strips and then woven into fabrics.
The history of Sakiori goes back to the traders of the 18th century and a shipping route called Kitamaesen or Northbound Line, operating from Osaka to Hokkaido.
Cotton, not being cultivated in Japan until the 1970s, was a precious commodity and unavailable to the people of the far north, Tohoku, where the climates is particularly harsh and cold. People in such areas had to subsist wearing clothes made of fabric hand woven from grasses, hemp, wisteria, elm, nettle and paper mulberry.
The only cottons available to these people were second hand cotton clothes and clothes transported from Osaka via the Japan Sea on barges of the Kitamaesen.
Bags of rags would arrive on these barges and be traded for commodities such as tea and seaweed. They would then be sold to the public who used every scrap of cloth. The most useful way was to unpick clothing, tear the pieces into fine 5mm strips, wind them into small balls. These strips would then form the welt for a warp of hemp.
Looms were backstrap floor looms, with the heddle tied to one foot. The outcome was a tough product that could be used for vests, obi belts, kotatsu warm table covers, aprons and carry bags.
Sakiori today is alive and well, especially with the conservation groups that exist for this purpose.
The warp is generally a strong indigo cotton and bot the weaving method and the loom are much the same. Dashes of red are often woven into the cloth, a reminder of brightening a former dark cold existence.
The work of this exhibition is organised by Mary Taguchi, twice visiting Sakiori weavers and working with them to collect indigo cottons to recycle, to weave, to make tableware. Some of these recycled cloths have come from Mary’s own collection – cloths that would have otherwise sat in boxes for a long, long time.
Additionally, there are very old Obi that Mary collects to make wonderful table runners, as displayed I the exhibition.
The exhibition is open until 10 October, 2016.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.