March 7, 2017

Amie Andrews

Natural dyeing in the Beginners course

It was likely inevitable that I would grow to love and appreciate textiles in the way I do now—given the eclectic mix and plentiful supply of fabrics which surrounded me from a very young age—as my mother pieced and appliquéd unique and beautiful patchwork quilts at home. This passion for textiles passed from mother to daughter and ultimately led me to pursue studies with a focus on the arts, in the field of fine arts and thereafter textile design and printing.

Whilst absorbed in the study of textiles I came across the remarkable work of Sheila Hicks and Annie Albers and it left me eager to learn more of the art and craft of weaving.

I began weaving on the most basic of pin looms and it’s simplicity had me hooked in an instant. I wove simply with myriad threads and found the process no matter it’s method magic. What followed? A brief introduction to table loom weaving and an enduring passion and obsession for tapestry weaving thereafter.

Having chanced upon a reference to the Kawashima Textile School in VÄV magazine—a terrific resource—my curiosity got the better of me and with the encouragement and support of family and friends I applied. One year later and I could hardly believe I was travelling to the wondrous Japan.

I had never travelled before and to do so on my own, well, the experience was overwhelming in the best way imaginable. I was the foreigner (Gaijin) who talked too loudly, laughed often, dropped anything and everything and blew my nose—regularly—in the company of others. I understood very little of the Japanese language but it did not prevent me, nor local students, staff and the wider public from conversing, albeit with a cheeky grin and much laughter.

We were a group of seven women undertaking the international beginners course in the Spring of 2016 and we were in excellent company with teachers (sensei), staff and fellow students alike all incredibly warm, welcoming and good humoured. To learn the art and craft of weaving in the company of such wonderful creatives made the experience all the more enjoyable.

Learning was well paced with great emphasis placed on comprehension of the fundamentals and encouragement from the outset to strive for one’s best. Weaving would require a great deal of patience and concentration and we were gently cautioned that a mistake at any stage, when preparing for and when weaving, will inevitably cause a fair amount of grief later on. Suffice to say the process of dyeing and weaving appeared straightforward in the hands of our competent teachers and yet took a fair amount of due diligence to get right. Mistakes were made but overcome with the help and assistance of patient and forgiving teachers (sensei) and aides.

I feel immensely grateful to have been able to have attended the Kawashima Textile School in Kyoto and truly fortunate to have been able to learn the fundamentals of dyeing and weaving under the expert tutorship of the dedicated craftswomen and craftsmen of the Kawashima Textile School. The work done here is beyond measure.

Experiences—both solitary and shared—friendships forged and recollections of my time in Japan will remain with me for a lifetime and will be remembered with great fondness.

Dormitory and cafeteria
A choir of frogs outside my dormitory window were keen for me to rise early each morning but I would have done so regardless given how eager I was to start each day. Little time was spent in my dormitory room as I was either too busy weaving, eating delicious food in the cafeteria, making a fool of myself with students and staff alike or exploring Ichihara and further afield.

To stay within the dormitory in the company of the students and staff was a wonderful experience and one I would have been sorry to have missed. Sampling treats and snacks of all varieties and playing card games with the good humored students—it was great fun!

I was keen to experience the traditional bath or "daiyokujou" on day one of my stay but only managed to submerge one foot, which turned a shade of crimson instantaneously, before thinking better of it, for the first night at least. My second attempt saw me knee deep—that’s both knees—but only for a matter of seconds. Third time worked a charm and I was in up to my neck and frightfully still, if not a little numb. I emerged from the steaming onsen red and white all over with a grin from ear to ear. I looked forward to the onsen thereafter and I am longing for it now I am back at home.

Amie Andrews (Australia)


Amie studied in the Beginners Course in spring 2016.