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A design journey across time and five nations‘Itajime gasuri’: A design journey across time and five nations. A design journey of twenty years and five nations starting in Japan to Thailand then back again. This paper discuses a journey of the textile patterning technique itajime gasuri. How it evolved from an ancient craft/dyeing practice through digital intervention to a process reinvention, one that retains some of the qualities of original process but creates fabric designs suitable for the 21st century consumption. Across the World, the ancient fabric patterning technique of ‘board clamping’, has been constantly reinvented, but over the last few centuries its traditional use has declined to almost extinction. Known by different names depending upon the country of origin, the most common today is the Japanese term Itajime, but an older word Kyokechi is sometimes used and a variation Itajime gasuri, invented in 1837 is a patterning technique for yarn provided an ‘ikat’ effect design. But to the authors knowledge, by 1996, the technique, Itajime and Itajime gasuri are no longer employed commercially with the exception of the Japanese craftsman, Norio Koyama, who was the only remaining craftsperson in Japan to employ the traditional process of Itajime gasuri and Itajime in a commercial manner. In 1996, Norio Koyama made a gift of eight boards to the author, this much-prized gift has ensured that the knowledge of such an ancient technique continued to be developed as part of practice- based research into the 21st Century. As digital technologies evolved, these new technologies were investigated to find new methods of creating boards or reproducing the original fabrics produced that retained the qualities of original pieces but could be replicated. Initially through digital copies of the original designs; the exploration of CAD/CAM production techniques for new boards to finally a collaboration with ‘Turnbull Prints’ in Thailand, who collaborated in digitizing an original dyed Itajime fabric and digitally printing a warp which when woven produced a new hybrid fabric that reflects the qualities of the original Itajime gasuri technique. The excitement occurs when a process initially invented in 1837 to copy and increase production of the labor-intensive textile resist dyeing technique Ikat can be once again employed to create designs that if digitally printed onto a warp will, once woven, produce a ‘Ikat’ effect: A complete cycle of creativity and innovation created and over 20 years later, a piece of this fabric was returned as a gift to Norio Koyama in Japan to complete the collaboration cycle and say Thank you.
Itajime: digital interventionThe lesser known Shibori technique of clamped resists of Itajime or Kyokechi as it is more commonly known by in Japan and Jiaxie within China, has been perfected over time and reinvented throughout its long history. Clamped resists have been discovered worldwide but it is unsure as to where the technique first originated, the history of the technique is an enigma as examples have been found in China, Japan, India, Central Asia and southern Europe. Research into the technique’s origins indicate within Chinese records that Jiaxie was produced between the Qin Dynasty (778-206 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 263) but today, however, production through this resist method of patterning is nearly extinct despite efforts by the Chinese Government in the 21st century to help preserve this ancient folk craft practice from vanishing all together. In Japan examples exist that date from the 8th century but subsequent examples are scarce until a re-appearance of the technique in the 1800 but by the later 20th century to the author’s knowledge, a single designer was employing the process then. Nowadays, in the textile/craft sector, there are examples where such a patterning technique is successfully being re-employed through the integration of CAD/CAM into the process. Advances in laser cutting, CNC Woodworking, 3D, and digital design manipulation and printing, create an interesting opportunity for its revival again. Digitally controlled machines that engrave an image in a hard surface with exact precision replace the woodcarvers’ skill originally needed for creating the matching wooden plates/blocks, whereas the process of colouration and patterning of the fabric returns to the skill of the Dyer/Craftsperson. Digital printing can reproduce the randomness and the soft-edged, but precise motifs that have a ghostly image as described by Larson in the ‘The Dyers Art, ikat, batik, plangi’ (1976) which embeds a degree of imperfection in the resulting print. It is a case of technology meets haptic to inventing a unique form of patterning to create unique fabrics. The juxtaposition where precision digital cutting, forming, and printing, and the hand process of dyeing unite.
Shibori: digital interventionDigital Copy: The Uniting of Hand and Technology. Today there is an ever-increasing demand for printed fabrics to exhibit an ethnic twist or provide the impression of being hand produced. Some of the reasons for this may be due to a merging of cultures, through increased travel and advances in communications but there is also a growing trend in the importance of identity, place and individualism that has created a renewed interest in craft, one-off and hand produced products. An increasing desire for the unique and traditional: In-praise of the ‘hand’; ‘flaw’; ‘accident’ has potentially resulted in a growth of digital representations of traditional designs, many originating through painterly, dyed or hand printed techniques that produce marks upon or within the cloth that act as indicators of the technique employed and as such exhibit irregularity with the occasional fault implying the influence of the ‘hand’ in its production. The digitisation of traditionally patterned materials that are seemingly too expensive to still be produced by hand has enabled such design styles to enter into the marketplace. But this re-production, copying process of traditional designs using the new technologies of the time is historic, having taken place within Europe since the C18th with the birth of textile printing manufacture, so what makes digitisation of the process any different from a traditional copy? Hopefully successful digitisation of a design helps retain some of the qualities of ‘Slow’ production allowing reproduction of one-off pieces to be successfully digitally printed, even re-coloured. But many questions still remain: ‘Can digital copy with extensive CAD re-working retain the quality of ‘hand’ and ‘accident’ and continue to deliver the magical qualities, depth of colour and uniqueness that hand dyed and printed textiles exhibit?’ or ‘Can ‘hand’ and ‘technology’ unite together in creating a new, unique form of digital copy in the future?