Fresh Perspectives on an Ancient Technique: Curator’s Introduction

Follow the tracks of the ancient caravans and nomadic peoples through history and you will find braids — fiber interlaced on the bias to make strong bands, belts, and cords needed for everyday life. Using natural fibers of different shades, wonderful patterns emerged. When traders came to a natural stopping point like the Island of Japan, various stands to make the braids were invented and perfected making possible more and more complex braids using dozens of bobbins of many colors in multiple layers. The Japanese word for making these complex braids is Kumihimo.

While there is no census, and there are many braiders and ways to braid, maybe only 100 or so people in Japan work at the advanced levels of Kumihimo joined by even a smaller number across the world. In the making, there is a great sense of connection with the past and pleasure in rediscovering and perfecting the traditional patterns using the special silk made in Japan only for that work.

But for some, Kumihimo is also a path for innovation and personal expression. It becomes not just a technique but an art medium. We celebrate this group in this show with the work of six artists. They all use the Kumihimo braiding techniques, they all are innovators, and all have a unique voice.

This first-for-the-US show combines work from countries of four continents…Australia, Japan, the UK, and the US. Viewing the work, you will have a unique opportunity to listen in on the conversation between individuals and cultures as seen through these works.

Some follow an engineering approach….inventing new braid structures to create never-seen-before patterns and effects. Others follow a more evolutionary approach, experimenting with the process in conjunction with other fiber techniques to see what will emerge as a piece grows. While the traditional silk is still in evidence, all experiment with different materials and fibers including paper, monofilament, and wire. Some still want functionality in their work and so have gone in the direction of fashion applications, true wearable art. Others have left functionality and focus on art expression. But no matter the direction of exploration, these works all exude the joy and delight of discovery.

Please join the conversation.