November 24, 2020

About the School: Internationality 4 | Interviews with Graduates

 -From being an industrial designer to a student at KTS, then at a postgraduate school in the UK-    Tiffany Loy

The Internationality segment of a series introducing Kawashima Textile School (KTS). KTS is widely known throughout the weaving community overseas as a school where people can learn handweaving. Since the opening of the school, its doors were open internationally, and the reputation as being a school in Kyoto where one can acquire reliable handweaving skills spread gradually by word of mouth from the participants. Over four weeks starting from Part 4, we will bring you interviews with graduates from all over the world who have various relationships with weaving, where we ask about how they came to learn at KTS, what influenced them, how they use the skills they have learned, and what weaving means to them.

The Weaverly Way (2020)
The site-specific installation employs a weaver's approach to conceptualising and building sculpture.

The piece was produced in collaboration with British heritage silk mill Gainsborough Weaving, and presented at London Craft Week 2020.

Photo: Ed Reeve

Tiffany Loy (Singaporean)
Independent designer, artist
Currently living in Singapore
Courses: Beginners, Foundation Kasuri, Applied Kasuri I, II, III* 
(May to July 2015)

*now part of Applied Kasuri II

-Could you tell us why you chose to study at KTS?

I was working with textiles as an industrial designer, when my interest for textiles grew. I wanted to take a step further and learn how textiles are constructed so I searched online for short weaving courses. Eventually I found Kawashima Textile School’s website and was impressed by the work of its graduating students, so I applied. Also, I wanted to be immersed in another culture while learning this new skill.

-How has your experience at KTS influenced you?

At the start of the course I had thought of it as a study-holiday, a fruitful 3-month getaway. The knowledge of textile construction was to be helpful for my textile-based projects in the future. I had no intention to continue weaving when I returned to Singapore, considering the amount of equipment it required. However, at the end of Applied Kauri Course III, which was coursework-based, I was confident that I could manage my own weaving projects, and was excited to take these skills further. It felt like a real pity to stop weaving at the end of the trip. I then decided to set up a mini weave studio back in Singapore and show the local design community my woven work.

Pastiche (2018) 
"Pastiche was a piece of handwoven fabric employing nassen gasuri technique. It was used as the covering for a beanbag. The 1-off piece was created for furniture brand Zanotta, as part of their 50-year anniversary celebration of their Sacco beanbag design."

-How do you use the skills learnt at KTS in your career, life, etc?

Through the courses within a 10-week period, I had gained a solid foundation of weaving and dyeing techniques which enabled further self-directed learning later on. I still refer to the notes I had taken then, when I compare methods of working. I continued to practice and expand on the skills I learnt, and incorporated them into my design projects. Shortly after my return to Singapore, I exhibited some woven tapestries at a local exhibition, and met the first client who engaged me to create woven designs for his brand. I was optimistic about my pursuit in weaving as a profession. 3 years after the course at KTS, I felt I was prepared for another learning adventure. There are no textile mills or institutions in Singapore, so to gain more technical knowledge and skills, like design for jacquard weaving, I had to go overseas again. This time I managed to secure a scholarship from DesignSingapore Council to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Taking a masters course meant that I was meeting other students who had learnt weaving elsewhere, and it was interesting to observe the differences in our approaches in weaving. Having strong foundation skills acquired at KTS allowed me to be more experimental while at RCA, since I was familiar with each step, and how changes affect overall results.

-What does weaving mean to you?

As I had received earlier training in product design before learning how to weave, I was always very aware of the differences in approaches and applications. When weaving, I feel compelled to look very closely at the project, sometimes through a counting glass, but I must also zoom out and look at the fabric as a whole surface, and object. Toggling between the 2 points of view is something I find very unique about the weaving process; there are 2 different modes of seeing. Also, weaving as a skill is by no means restricted to fabrics. To me it is a way of building, of assembling lines to form surfaces and volumes. Looking at it in this abstract way, we can apply skills related to weaving to other forms of art and design, like sculpture, or architecture.

Lines in Space (2019) 
"Lines in Space was a project completed at RCA. It's about reducing the fabric surface to minimal lines, and exploring leno weave structures."

You can visit Tiffany's website Tiffany Loy or follow her on instagram at @tffnyly

Tiffany's "Student Voice" article from 2016, with photos of her work in the KTS Graduate Exhibition.

About the School: Internationality Series 1/2/3

November 20, 2020

Visiting the Graduates: Handwoven Cloth "atelier KUSHGUL" Yasuko Terada

Once a year in the Professional Course at KTS, we hold a class led by a graduate who works in weaving. Yasuko Terada, who graduated in 2001, created her original brand "atelier KUSHGUL," and makes handwoven cloth. We visited her studio as a field trip. She talked about her relationship with handweaving, and the steps she has taken, while showing us her graduation work she made as a student, the first garment she made, weaving samples, and many products, in a space with a gallery attached to a studio.

◆ The two years at KTS where her own "sense" was found

Terada-san has a lifestyle that people who want to work in handweaving would long for, but the first thing she said was "I managed to continue handweaving while struggling, which leads me here." She became interested in soft fiber materials existing nearby, such as clothes, as she studied Architecture in her first year, and Design from her second year, at her University. She entered KTS after encountering a sculptural fiber art piece at a KTS Graduate Exhibition, and felt a shock that "directly appealed to the senses of my whole body." She says the two years at the school was "a time I faced my own senses to my heart's content," by immersing herself in weaving. The "senses" she found through that experience are "still the foundation for making cloth."

After graduation, she spent her days making, while working at a restaurant. The reason that she didn't get a job related to weaving was because she had wanted to become an artist from the beginning. "I thought that if I got a job and used my mind for weaving at work, I wouldn't be able to make my own artwork." Every month, while living a life where she somehow managed to make enough money for buying yarn, she set a goal. "I will leave my job when my hourly wage for weaving exceeds that of when I work." She started working at a job where she could work in shifts starting from 5 days a week, secured time to create at night after work, started to find her own rhythm, and moved into her current studio in 2010.

◆ Wanting to know the relationship between people and cloth, which is jostled, worn out, and thrown away in people's lives.

The foundation of Terada-san's sense which she found at KTS, is to "show expressions" with high twist yarn or different ways of weaving, and she says that leads to her products. She weaves and searches even now, still asking herself, "what is handweaving?" One of the students who tried on a hand woven vest, instantly smiled, saying "it's so soft." Terada-san explains, "By doing everything by hand, I can finish weaving the cloth without putting a strain on the yarn. A layer of air is created between the yarns, which makes it light and warm." The "expression" of the cloth of her bags, the three-dimensional effect of the umbrella fabric, shirts using Khadi (Indian hand-spun and handwoven cloth) , and scarves which are in high demand... "I want to know the relationship between people and cloth, which is jostled, worn out, and thrown away in people's lives." Terada-san pursues in earnest.

As a new initiative, she has also started to sew clothes. "In the last half-century we have become accustomed to buying ready-made clothes. But now, due to the influence of the Coronavirus, there are leftover clothes worldwide. I myself am tired of the excess of things, so I take care of every process, from weaving to sewing the clothes. The stance of making custom-made items according to each person's size, such as sleeve length, while thinking with the customer, and selling them one piece at a time, suits me well."

The kite string bag series. Wrinkles appear, and thickness and shrinkage change, from the combination of weaving structures. The main point is how much expression she can show from just using a smooth natural colored yarn.

◆ Weaving at an average of 70 cm an hour

At the studio, she showed us the 8 shaft Jack-type loom that she has been using for nearly 20 years, which she purchased at KTS after graduation. The students were surprised to see that this one loom produced various products, and finished them into fabrics with such soft textures. As a preparation for weaving, there is a step called "beaming," which is to wind the warp yarn onto the loom. Usually, this is done by two people, pulling on opposite ends, but Terada-san does this on her own. Everyone was amazed as they watched the difficult technique of stretching out her foot and turning the handle on the back beam, as she pulled the warp toward herself. "Winding neatly so the yarn doesn't break, while I keep the 90 cm wide warp at an even tension. This became possible after spending 10 years, 20 years with this loom."

A student asked about how fast she weaves. There were voices of astonishment to her reply of, "an average of 70 cm per hour." "3 hours for a 2.5 meter long large cashmere shawl. If I think about the cost of materials and such, it doesn't work as a product unless I finish weaving it within 4 hours." Terada-san has been handweaving steadily and pioneered a path for weaving that suits her. When I left my job, there were days when my stomach hurt from anxiety. But as I continued to be absorbed in it, new encounters and new plans would come in, and one thing would lead to another. Weaving takes time. I have continued to weave desperately, trying to make ends meet, but I am still moved by how I can make cloth with my own hands.

◆ A feeling that is necessary, precisely because it is analog

As advice to the students, she said, "Please face your own senses to your heart's content. I think that kind of time is necessary. You won't be able to know it if you are jostled in the senses of society. What I worked hard on when I was a student in Kawashima, leads to now. There are many things that I have accumulated, such as my sense of color and touch. Knowing yourself in this way will be useful in your life and will become the basis for whatever you do."

"Handweaving is very analog, but in a world where everything is becoming digitalized, it is a necessary feeling to remember that you are human. Making things, using your own body. I think there is certainly a role for Kawashima Textile School (that teaches handweaving)," she said clearly. It was a field trip where students learned about Terada-san, who opened the way, about continuing handweaving, and where they fully felt her strong will.

Terada-san's graduation work. The surface is imagined from elephant skin. A hard twist linen yarn is woven in, and wrinkles are created from the force of the yarn wanting to untwist. She learned the importance of pursuing texture when she was a student.

-What does weaving mean to you?
"The appeal of not having waste"

"I make fabric that will be used by someone. My theme is to search for the relationship between people and cloth. When I think about what cloth is, it is something that is absolutely essential for human beings. Nowadays garment making is mechanized, and people are swamped by clothing, but in the old days, making clothes from handwoven fabric worked as a livelihood. I weave every day thinking about what that means. A fabric that one person makes for another person, without a concept of profit. However, it's not wasted. There won't be overproduction. I try, as much as I can, to make fabric that doesn't turn into waste."

About Yasuko Terada
Website: atelier KUSHGUL
Instagram: @atelierKUSHGUL
Yasuko Terada graduated from Kyoto Institute of Technology, where she majored in Architecture and Design. She graduated the second year of the Professional Course at Kawashima Textile School in 2001, and started making handwoven products as "atelier KUSHGUL" in 2007. She spends her days weaving at her studio in "Mustard-3rd," a clothing store and gallery in Kyoto, since 2010.

November 19, 2020

Featured in Garland Magazine (Australia)

An interview with teacher Emma Omote about teaching Kasuri at KTS, by handweaver, artist, and former student Helen Ting is now in the Loop section on the Garland Magazine website.