We're delighted to have secured support from Wales Arts International, the Arts Council of Wales and the British Council towards a textiles project curated by Ceri. It involves residencies in Wales and India and an exhibition.
Threads unfolds across 2017 and 2018. It focuses on the work of seven female artists and the contexts and narratives integral to their practices. Three artists from Wales travelled to rural Gujarat in November 2017 for a three week residency at Khamir. Here they shared studio time with local artisans, made field visits to some of the indigenous craft communities and took time to discover the historic town of Bhuj.
The region they explored is Kachchh, a remote area in western Gujarat and home to a dynamic breadth of nomadic and pastoral communities. The indigenous craft practices are multifarious and rich, they are knitted into the agricultural and multi-cultural heritage of the region. Weaving, dyeing, block printing and embroidery are just a handful of the crafts championed by skilled individuals. These rich traditions are alive and continue to develop, they are rooted in skills and aesthetics passed down through generations and over centuries.
Artisans from Kachchh will travel to Wales in April 2018 and be hosted by Carmarthen School of Art during a two week residency. The artisans will also visit Ruthin Craft Centre.
Everyone involved in the project is working towards a group exhibition of work by all the artists. This will be a Ruthin Craft Centre exhibition which is likely to tour on elsewhere.
Artists and artisans
Threads brings together a wonderful group of artists, from Wales:
Julia Griffiths Jones
Born in Bangor, North Wales in 1954 Julia grew up in Aberaeron, Ceredigion. She studied Textiles at Winchester School of Art and the Royal College of Art and, on graduating, won a British Council Scholarship to research Slovak culture. This was the beginning of Julia’s artistic connection between Wales and Eastern Europe. She now works mainly through the medium of steel and produces imagery in wire. This involves the translation of a drawn line on paper into a three-dimensional drawing in space. In 2014 Griffiths Jones was awarded a Creative Wales Ambassador Award for her project Room within a Room, an installation made in mild steel wire that was exhibited in two open air museums in Slovakia in 2015 and in a solo exhibition at Ruthin Craft Centre in 2016. Her work has been exhibited in leading galleries in Britain and Europe. In recent years this has included projects with The National Wool Museum and The Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, as well as Stories in the Making, a touring exhibition in Scotland and Wales. For most of her working life Julia has been involved in the teaching of art and is currently Senior Lecturer on the Surface Pattern Design Course at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea College of Art.
“The land has always been there in my mind, beginning with a childhood helping on the farm. The passing on of the land from one generation to the next represents continuity and instills a deep sense of belonging. I grew up, therefore in a place where history and tradition were relevant and my familiar landscape was connected by a network of mythic and cultural associations. The art of storytelling celebrated life in all its forms, thus fuelling a culture founded on narrative as opposed to a visual tradition, creating fabulous and complex imagery of the mind.…”
Eleri Mills lives and works in rural mid Wales where she was born and brought up. She has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad since the late 1970s, including at the Museums of Modern Art Kyoto and Tokyo, Museu Textil d'Indumentaria, Barcelona and the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas, Madrid; and at international expositions SOFA Chicago and Collect at the V&A and Saatchi Gallery with Ruthin Craft Centre. Eleri is represented by Thackeray Gallery in London and has work in national collections. These include the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh and the National Library of Wales. Eleri was awarded the Craft Gold Medal at the National Eisteddfod in 1987 and is a recipient of an Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Ambassador Award.
Laura Thomas is an award winning woven textile artist and designer specialising in producing striking textile artworks for contemporary spaces. Laura’s breadth of practice and multi-faceted approach has made her somewhat unusual in the woven textiles sphere. Whether site-specific art, exhibition work or interior textile design, underpinning all of Laura’s work is an inherent practical curiosity to exploit weave principles, celebrate the beauty of yarns and create striking aesthetics for this ancient craft.
Laura is well known for her Resonate body of work, whereby delicate textile constructions are cast in acrylic resin resulting in a surprising juxtaposition between the hard edged acrylic and loose threads or openly woven cloth. The creative rationale and inspiration for this body of work is multi-faceted. Firstly, as a woven textile artist and designer, Laura has always been deeply inspired by the unwoven warp threads on a loom. The aim of the ‘Loose Threads’ series is to capture the visual impact of the warp: its linear qualities and the optical mixing of pure colour in that moment in time before the warp is tensioned to begin weaving. Each artwork is completely unique: it is impossible to capture the exact same movement or overlapping of threads more than once.
Recent public art commissions for The Beaney House of Knowledge in Canterbury, Cynon Valley Hospital in Mountain Ash and the new Fairmont Hotel in Mecca have necessitated collaboration with Innovative Glass Products in Clydach to develop the Resonate aesthetic into glass lamination to make wall panels and windows suitable for high traffic areas. The latest commission was to create the glass for a large canopy in Llanelli town centre. Taking inspiration from the towns’ famous industrial heritage, carbon fibre yarn, alongside steel and copper meshes were laminated into glass panels to dramatic effect.
Another ongoing body of work is the Jacquard Sketch series. These are pictorial woven artworks, which combine the seemingly disparate themes: graphic and organic. Inspiration is drawn from the landscape of her home county of Pembrokeshire and from the world of visual communications with its slick, ordered and controlled aesthetics. Laura’s original charcoal drawings and photographs of the Pembrokeshire landscape are translated into complex weave structures and woven into a very fine cotton and silk cloth on a digital jacquard loom, with a dramatic contrasting stripe of bold colour on the bottom edge of the final stretched artwork. The final woven artwork has a fluidity of line, an unexpected character for a woven cloth
Laura has received many awards for her practice including a Creative Wales Ambassador Award from the Arts Council of Wales. In 2011 Laura was a finalist in the Inspire Wales Awards in recognition for her practice, education work and involvement with organisations such as the Makers Guild in Wales to raise the profile of craft. In 2008 Laura won the Applied Arts prize in the Welsh Artist of the Year competition for a Loose Threads sculpture and the Wesley Barrell Craft Award for Textiles. She has work in several public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Wool Museum, the Powerhouse Museum in Australia and the Crafts Study Centre.
Born and brought up in Pembrokeshire, Laura studied woven textiles in the University of Central England and The Royal College of Art. She was one of the founding Fellows of The Ann Sutton Foundation, a weave design research centre in Sussex. Since completing her Fellowship in 2003, Laura has established her textile art and design studio in South Wales, divides her time between public and private art commissions, exhibition work, curation, technical research and freelance design consultancy. Laura is also a lecturer on the BA Textiles course at Carmarthen School of Art, Coleg Sir Gâr.
Louise’s practice is fundamentally rooted in textiles. Weave and light, their qualities and interaction, fascinate and influence her designs. Louise’s educative and professional experiences have fused a resoluteness of practice and focus that carry a deep understanding of materials. Louise takes an experimental approach to design, trialling and observing until her understanding and manipulation of function, materials and effect are absolute.
Graduating in 2008, Louise took her training and skills to India where she worked for jacquard weave companies in Bangalore and Mumbai. This intensive industry experience, its context and culture, spurred her design ideas and ideals. A residency in the Shetland Islands, investigating hand weaving, grew a profound interest for Louise in basketry and, vitally, in natural fibres. Undertaking an MA at University of the Arts in London consolidated Louise’s passion for hand making and for hand weaving. Significantly, it became habitual for Louise to hold her developing works to the window in order to perceive texture and form. Light became a strong influence.
Louise works using her body. Each piece is measured, weighed, embraced, shaped, folded, grown as per the span of her hand, length of her arms, weight of her torso, strength of her hold, vigour of her touch. This intimate evolution of her pieces ingrains a quality to her work that endures beyond the course of design and manufacture. Hand-making each piece affords an organic sensibility to what is a finely researched, honed and accomplished process.
And from Kachchh, in their own words:
Rajiben Murji joined Khamir in 2009, to work with the weaving studio. Rajiben lives in Avadhanagar, a new settlement created for people in and around Bhuj following the earthquake of 2001. She originally belongs to Sumrasar, which is a village north of Bhuj city, but post her marriage she moved with her husband's family.
Rajiben represents courage and empowerment to many women of her village today. She was married at the age of 17 but, after having 3 children, her husband suddenly passed away. This shattered her life. It was her sister who gave shelter to her family and a senior weaver of their village who helped Rajiben get back her grounding and start living a normal life. The skill that helped Rajiben the most was weaving. As a young girl she used to see a loom lying in their home. It was never used, as her father had given up weaving and had started working as a labourer in the nearby farms. This is exactly the job that she and her sisters started doing when they were able enough to work and earn for the family. But Rajiben was not interested in working in the farm and asked her father to teach her to weave. Her father treated all his daughters like sons and so taught her weaving, which she had enjoyed very much but had given it up once she was married.
Today Rajiben takes care of the Re-cycled Plastic Weaving project at Khamir. She has become a leader and a mentor for many young women in her village and around.
Rajiben has also introduced skills like split-ply braiding, incorporated crochet, embroidery and other hand skills into the re-cycled plastic project. She is continuously innovating and experimenting.
Siju Champa Kishore hails from a family of weavers where weaving has been the primary
livelihood skill. Her father Keshav Bhai Siju Kishore Dhanji, is one of the most senior and respected weavers in their village Avadhnagar, situated about 15 kms from the main Bhuj town of Kachchh. Originally, the family hails from Bhuj city, but shifted to Avadhnagar (a settlement constructed after the Kachchh earthquake in 2001) when the father notices that his four daughters were growing up in a different community space and wanted a more social structure for the family. Champa quit her school in 9th grade, when the family moved away from Bhuj, and after that could not find a suitable space to continue her education. It was around the same time that she noticed the family struggle economically, so, she decided to start working instead of trying to go to school. Her first job was at a factory that opened near her village which was into electrical fittings. It was not the kind of job she enjoyed but did it for a while out of no choice. Champa as a young girl had learnt a bit of martial arts in her school and enjoyed the freedom and dynamics of the sport, which also became the two main criteria for her to work and live.
Champa was very fond of weaving from her young age but was never encouraged by her parents into weaving because it is supposed to be a man's job, but Champa insisted to her father that he should teach her weaving. It was out of reluctance and force that the father started teaching Champa weaving even though he knew she will not manage to learn the same, but he was amazed when in just about eight days she had her basics right.
Today, it is two years and all Champa loves and enjoys is weaving. She is weaving independently and has her own traders and contacts for selling her products. She loves to experiment but not take too many risks because she is conscious about income and expense to the family.
Champa is always up for a challenge, and confident about herself, to an extent where even though she is living in a conservative society where women are not regarded highly, she is sure she wants to marry a weaver and that she will never give up weaving as a profession.
Zakiya Khatri is a young designer artisan of Kachchh and one amongst the very few women who have come out of their homes to make their home-skill into a profession. Zakiya belongs to a Khatri family. Khatris are traditional dyers and printers of Kachchh. Her father, late Ayub Musa Khatri, used to be a famous batik (wax-resist printing/dyeing) artisan. Her mother used to work on tying fabrics for a textile technique called Bandhani (tie-dyeing). Zakiya is a Bandhani artisan designer.
Bandhani, meaning ‘to tie,’ has always been done by women in traditional Khatri households. They worked with this technique because they got to earn an extra living for themselves but was carried out by them more like a hobby to earn some personal pocket money. Zakiya, as a young girl learnt the technique from her mother and used to spend most of her vacations doing tying herself. As she grew up, she was inspired by the work both her parents did and once she finished class 12 she decided to study design. She was unable to leave Kachchh however, even though she did get admission to a premium institute of design in Rajasthan. She then found an avenue to study design through the Artisan Design Course at Kalaraksha Vidyalaya in Kachchh and she spent another year studying Business Management for Artisans at Somaiya Kala Vidyalaya in Kachchh.
At the age of 21 she started her own brand called Bairaj at her home. In 2016, she married her classmate Adil Mustaq Khatri, who also hails from an artisan family. She moved to Bhuj and today they both manage their brand and business together.
Zakiya is very passionate about the craft sector, and wishes to use her skills and knowledge in crafts in various avenues and wants to explore the world through her brand.
We are delighted to be working with a partner organisation in Gujarat, Khamir. Khamir is a registered Society and Public Trust, jointly established by Kachchh Nav Nirman Abhiyan and the Nehru Foundation following the devastating earthquake in the region in 2001. Khamir is a platform for the craft, heritage and cultural ecology of the region. It supports rural crafts communities in the Kachchh region of Gujarat through identifying and developing sustainable markets. It works closely with individual artisans and with their communities to develop practice. Located just outside of Kachchh’s main urban centre Bhuj, Khamir is a purpose built campus comprising studios, workshops and accommodation.
Ruthin Craft Centre and Carmarthen School of Art at Coleg Sir Gâr, UWTSD are key partners in Wales. It is exciting to be working hand-in-hand with both organisations in realising different aspects of the project.