Mutation / Compositions
Botanical dyes from chestnut, oak, indigo, weld, wild fennel, avocado, iron sulphate, aluminium sulphate, soda ash, vinegar, wool, second-hand cotton fabrics, paintings oil and pastels on cotton, unglazed ceramic, vegetal materials.
Works exhibited at Still within reach, 2023, Exhibition and public program with Bronwen Jones, Miriam Del Seppia and Masaki Komoto. Fanfare, Amsterdam, NL. More info at the bottom of the page.
Photos by Diego Diez.
Still within reach
A group exhibition with Bronwen Jones, Miriam Del Seppia, and Masaki Komoto
Fanfare, Amsterdam, NL
I first met Miriam at a residency I was doing in Rotterdam where I was mending clothes for the public in exchange for a conversation. I had been thinking about the intimate nature of textiles to hold our stories and memories and using garments as a bridge to form intimacy with strangers. The comfort of the garment between us enabled people to tell quite personal stories as I held and repaired the damage. I saw this expansive nature of textile as a way to build a network that was, from the beginning, based around care, support and intimacy; giving space to values that are important to how I want to live. By chance it was a few days after Miriam had moved to Rotterdam and a friend had suggested they meet at the finissage where we talked as I mended her friend’s sweater.
We met again a year later when Miriam reached out to me about a jumper she had hand knitted that had been eaten by moths over the summer. She had knitted it with wool she dyed using madder root which gave a warm red colour speckled with lighter pink patches where the dye had spread unevenly. She told me how it had become a tool for thinking through her practice and, with the jumper in both our hands, we shared a conversation about our practices and in finding meaning in processes without knowing the end result. I was touched by the way she talked about colour and the relation between her painting practice and explorations with botanical dyes; a form of researching how she is embedded and implicated within her environment. She had recently been working in the form of installations, bringing together elements at different stages of her own intervention; organic matter, dyed fabrics, spun and knitted yarns, paintings; a sort of ecosystem of her own curation. In this world the passing of time is present and visible; colours fade and yarns unravel – or they continue to grow, there is a sense that things are ongoing. Miriam continuously reestablishes her relationship with matter and processes of making; living with and learning from her material, she gives space to other-than-human bodies and shows the beauty and necessity of coexistence.
At this moment I was already thinking about organising an exhibition to bring together artists who were working with and thinking through textile handcraft. I was questioning my position between the worlds of art and craft, the hierarchy I perceived between these two disciplines and why practices and characteristics related to women and femininity were still regarded with lower value. I was trying to define which part of my work was the artwork (the object, the event, the forming of intimacy between myself and another) and whether the object alone could contain and reveal my wish to give space to empathy and intimacy between other bodies, materials, and surroundings.
I met Masaki initially in the form of his embroidered 2022 calendar displayed in a friend’s house. I was struck by the patience and precision of his hand and, later when seeing other works, by his dedication to crystallising an (often humorous) ephemeral sentence or announcement through such a slow and considered form of recording as embroidery. When we met in person he told me the importance of practice for him; to continuously improve his skills and explore the potential of his craft with respect to its past. We discussed the lower value that is often ascribed to craft practices and how the perception of the technique often limits people’s responses to the work, simply calling it cute or hobby art. He seems to almost enjoy these labels as they become ideas to subvert within his work. I think about how the making of textiles is often a systematic process (following a pattern, counting stitches); Masaki situates himself within this system and plays with the form while responding to the present day, often referencing the virtual world that feels inescapable and seems to seep into our everyday interactions. By utilising the language and aesthetic of technology he subverts the labels and associations we have with craft and needlework. He tells me that our lives are now so embedded in the virtual world that referencing it is almost like embroidering a flower was some centuries ago.
I attribute these almost chance encounters with Miriam and Masaki to the nature of textile to grow and form empathetic networks. In the structure of their making multiple threads are twisted, woven, or knotted together, and the slow nature of these gestures invite contemplation and a consciousness to our surrounding. The material is alive (coming from animal or plant fibres) and, as we work, its nuances appear and guide our process; as we wear it, it ages and wears alongside us. As the three of us have continued to get to know one another we have found comfort and resonance in a sharing of values and the choice to work at a slower pace that is attuned with the nature of the material and technique rather than the pressure to be constantly productive. In each of our practices I recognise a similar wish to situate ourselves within and empathise with our environment; whether that be the organic world of Miriam, the corporeal world of my work, or the technological world that Masaki responds to.
In this room we present a selection of works, some of which have grown alongside these thoughts and conversations. By placing them into this constellation, together we search for what is inherent within textile material and how we can craft new perceptions of this material that has held and warmed us, and, through its making, has continuously sustained and brought together communities.
(Text: Bronwen Jones)