December 8, 2020

About the School: Internationality 6 | Interviews with Graduates

-Looking at the fusion of cultures, and exploring the possibilities of weaving spaces- Rosa Tolnov Clausen

The Internationality segment of a series introducing Kawashima Textile School (KTS). Over four weeks starting from Part 4, we are bringing you interviews with graduates from all over the world who have various relationships with weaving. In this 6th part of the series, in addition to how she came to learn at KTS, what influenced her, how she uses the skills she learned, and what weaving means to her, we asked Rosa Tolnov Clausen about the idea of practicing a completely different approach to seeing weaving as a space, and her motive behind holding the workshop "Everything I Know About Kasuri," instead of weaving her own piece, which is what is usually done as the final project at KTS.

The Weaving Kiosk project. A series of nine temporary weaving spaces 2017-18 in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. Photo: Johannes Romppanen

Rosa Tolnov Clausen (Danish)
Textile designer and PhD student
Currently living in Sweden and Finland
Courses: Foundation Kasuri, Applied Kasuri I, II, III*
(October to December 2013)

*now part of Applied Kasuri II

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

I already knew about Kawashima Textile School. I cannot completely remember from where. But I was definitely aware that my friend Johanna was at KTS in the previous year and I knew that I also wanted to go. I saw a stay at KTS as a perfect opportunity to visit Japan and at the same time to get practical insight into the Kasuri technique. I had already been interested in Kasuri for a while and had made a research project about it during a school exchange to Aalto University in Finland in 2012. As a matter of a fact Finland has a Kasuri tradition as well, but in Finland it is called Flammé (Flame). Finnish weavers have used very simple Kasuri variations in different folkloristic costumes. But Flammé is to my knowledge not taught anywhere in Finland. Studying at KTS offered the possibility to go to Japan for a longer period of time and gain some insight in Japanese textile traditions and be introduced to practitioners in the field.

-How has your experience at KTS influenced you?

Being part of the environment at KTS and being in Kyoto was an incredibly stimulating experience for me, which I still draw on in my work.

I did a quite alternative project at KTS, which was about cultural exchange and aesthetic development, but departing from weaving. Basically I invited people in Kyoto for a pop-up Kasuri workshop called “Everything I know about Kasuri.” The idea was to use the Kasuri technique as a catalyst for cultural exchange. Arguing for the project, receiving the trust and support from the teachers at KTS and actually conducting the project in Kyoto, have definitely meant increased confidence in my ideas, which has affected most of my projects since.

Flammé textile sample from the collection of Dräktbyrån Brage, Helsinki.
Photo: Rosa Tolnov Clausen

-Was your decision to hold a workshop as a final project at KTS connected to your previous experience to create spaces and/or teach to share with people? Could you tell us your thoughts behind the idea of creating spaces?

When I came to KTS I had just graduated from the Master’s programme as textile designer from Kolding School of Design in Denmark. My graduation project in Denmark was a collaboration and co-design project with blind and visually impaired weavers. Through that project I became aware how the weaving space in addition to being a productive space, also holds other meanings for the people who weave, for example as a social space to be among others and as a physical, material and creative space in an increasingly digitalised world. It has been my interest since then to explore these additional meanings of the weaving space through my projects.

When I came to Japan and especially Kyoto, I was so fascinated by the presence of handcraft in urban space. When I walked around, I saw professional craftsmen sew, weave, hammer etc. as a completely natural part of a highly modern and digitalised urban landscape. It felt like the handmade and the digital could co-exist. Furthermore there were textile workshops open for participation around the different cities I visited. People were printing, knitting and weaving.

Lastly I had this almost physical feeling of aesthetic development taking place in and around me. I myself was inspired and influenced by the Japanese culture and fashion, and at the same time I could see many Japanese people and brands being inspired by the Nordic/Scandinavian culture. We interpret each other and the outcome are fusions, which are not completely Nordic or Japanese, but something new.

These were the impressions and the background that the “Everything I know about Kasuri” workshop grew out from. I wanted to create a textile workshop in urban space, which could serve as a moment of cultural meetings and exchange.

-Were there any points you were careful about,culturally,with aspects as a foreigner teaching another country’s tradition?

Yes, certainly I was very aware and very, very careful of not claiming to teach Japanese people about Japanese culture as a Dane, having only spent three months in Japan. That was why the workshop was called “Everything I know about Kasuri” and not “Everything there is to know about Kasuri.” I did not want to pretend to be an expert after only two months of education. Also, when I gave the introduction to the participants in the workshop I emphasized the Finnish history, which I knew better and which would maybe add something the participants did not know.

Everything I Know About Kasuri workshop in Kyoto in December 2013. 
Photo: Kohei Usuda

-Could you tell us more on how your confidence increased through your workshop experience,and how it has affected you afterwards?

Based on all these impressions that I describe above, I had a very strong intuition that a workshop would be the right project as a final project at KTS. But maybe because it was such a different approach from weaving my own work and/or maybe because of the risk of overstepping cultural borders in an inappropriate way, not all the teachers were completely convinced about my idea. I was asked to create a time plan of how this project could be realized. I did that and then I got an OK from the teachers and they helped me very much in the planning process and for example when I had to find supplies or make contact with somebody.

Teachers and students from KTS came by the workshop. All in all the experience of following a gut feeling, trusting it and working hard to realize a vision in a foreign context and then succeeding, I felt, gave me a lot of confidence both when it comes to trusting my ideas, but also when it comes to trusting that I am able to do what I set my mind to.

-Has your experience at KTS influenced you in your academic and professional career? If so,could you describe how?

I think mostly in the sense described above concerning self-confidence. Furthermore, though my first visit at KTS and in Japan, I developed many private and professional relationships that have helped me very much and made it much easier to come back to Japan both in 2015 and two times in 2017. In 2017 I was invited to host a series of workshops in 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa in 2017 in occasion of the celebration of 150 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Denmark and former KTS student Kanako Watanabe and Tokyo based photographer Kohei Usuda really supported me very much.

-What does weaving mean to you?

My relationship with weaving is constantly changing. When I started weaving I felt something fall in place. It was fun and I felt that I was good at it. Over time it has become my way of living and is part of everything I do in my profession. Today I mostly create spaces where other people can weave, rather than my own textiles, but I imagine that this will even change over the coming years.

Export/import workshop at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, in 2017.
Photo: Kohei Usuda

You can visit Rosa's website at

About the School: Internationality Series 1/2/3/4/5