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.