Cocooned by Floating Textiles

Nuno, founded in 1984, is a Tokyo based textile design and production studio. Since 1987 Reiko Sudo has been its artistic director and under her leadership it has become one of the most respected studios in the world.

Entering Nuno Japanese Textiles is like being cocooned by a forest of floating textiles. The premise and design of the exhibition is simple, allowing the works to speak for themselves. There are 67 lengths of fabric in the gallery, each hanging as if on coat hangers – an instant connection is made between cloth and body. For every fabric there is a corresponding sample for visitors to touch and examine, alongside further information about their components and production. These samples are an important reflection of the tactile nature of Nuno’s practice and satisfy the visitor’s desire to touch the exhibits. For the professional weaver they offer the opportunity to see techniques up close.

Nuno Japanese Textiles
Nuno Japanese Textiles

Nuno is not limited by one technique or material. The studio’s team is constantly experimenting, combining traditional techniques and materials with cutting edge technology. Polygami, a complex polyester pleated textile exemplifies such innovation. Initially we might assume it was shaped after weaving, but it is actually the result of a patented Nuno process in which the pleats are woven into the cloth during its production.

Led by Sudo, the studio is equally concerned with sustainability and exploring the life-cycle of textiles. Kibiso Futsu Crisscross is woven from cotton and silk. Kibiso fibres come from the outermost layer of silk cocoons; until 2008 they were discarded as being too tough to spin into thread. However, new methods mean that it can now be reduced to 1/10 thickness, presenting new opportunities for this ‘waste’ material. Another waste product, fabric remnants, have been used in the patchwork series. In Nuno Tataki these scraps of fabric have been needle-punched on an organdy base.

The apparent delicacy of many of the textiles belies the sturdy nature of their construction. A perfect example can be found in Threadstay. The cloth is constructed from Merino bouclé warps and weft, needle-punched together. It has a delicate appearance, is light in weight and is interspersed with holes that allow light to flow through. Despite its appearance, when Threadstay is handled it proves to be highly resilient and strong.

The exhibition was organised by Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales for The Japanese Season in Wales – Japanese Style: Sustaining Design, which ran from 1 April – 24 June 2012. It is accompanied by a full colour catalogue with an essay by Lesley Millar, Professor of Textile Culture at the University for the Creative Arts. Though the exhibition works well as a celebration of Nuno and Reiko Sudo’s outstanding contribution to the textile industry, it would benefit from further information about the application of such textiles. Who bought or commissioned them and what were they used for? These questions remain unanswered.

Review by Francesca Baseby

Nuno Japanese Textiles
Until 24 November 2012
South Gallery, Dovecot, 10 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LT
Open Monday to Saturday 10.30am – 5.30pm

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