Blog Archives - Cultural Tech-Fusion Fabrics

Cultural Tech-Fusion Fabrics

 
 
Last week I visited the Al-Huda Bookstore and Hijab Corner in Santa Clara to photograph their rich textiles and garments. The store graciously permitted me to photograph.

Women wearing hijabs and flowing long abayas are part of our textile landscape  in Santa Clara County. At my son and daughter's school in Cupertino I am often admiring the lovely  scarf and dress ensembles of the Muslim moms. I have yet to ask one if I can photograph her, though. While I find it only a little awkward asking a Chinese or an Indian mom to photograph her in her ethnic clothing, I find it much more difficult to approach a Muslim mom and ask to photograph her clothing. I think this has much to do with the fact that their clothing is rooted in the desire to be modest.

So, I was grateful to have the opportunity to photograph up close the garments in Hijab Corner. I will also be photographing Middle Eastern Muslim women on the streets as part of this project (I have a few images of one in a Korean market in Sunnyvale). I feel it is important to document the living textiles, the garments people wear about in their daily lives. But this was a good start for me.
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One of many styles of hijabs I saw at the store.
I had never thought of the flat pattern designs of the hijab, nor did I know there were so many versions of this head wear.  The above is a simple flat pattern design. Some of the others were more more complex and used a variety of materials in one hijab.
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textile detail
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A long elegant hijab
The gold embroidered headband is a separate piece.
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Calvin Klein pattern
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Hijab with an airy open pattern
Above: I wish I could have seen this one on someone. I liked the contrast between the white open dot fabric and the solid black fabric.
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Hijab packaging label
Having spent the early part of my career as a graphic designer, I am very interested in packaging. The graphics on hijab packaging need to appeal to women as they are the  purchasers of this garment. So it is interesting to see these two depictions of women on hijab packaging.
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Hijab packaging label
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A Jilbab. A women's overcoat.
Most of these garments above are made in Pakistan and Jordan. The embroidery is really interesting.  Feeling the weight of the fabric, I couldn't help thinking that it would be quite hot wearing these here in the summer, let alone in the heat of the Middle East.
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Above: I never knew that this product existed.  In Cupertino I have seen white arm  sleeves on Chinese women who want to protect themselves  from the sun, but these arm sleeves serve to protect the arms from public view.  I don't believe I have seen anyone wearing these.
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Men's shirt. Lovely embroidery contrasts nicely with the stripe pattern
 
Below is a sample pattern banner which might be used in press release info for the public collaborative textile project with the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles.
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I have three jeans to mend. A few days ago I mended one of my daughter's using scraps of denim and sashiko stitching.
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Below: My grandma sewed these mu mus below. I used to wear these myself when I was in high school. I photographed them recently at my parents' house. The stitch work strengthens the fabric and is very decorative. It is not sashiko, but it is traditional Japanese stitch work. I do not know what it is called. I recognize the star like pattern from other Japanese soft goods like pillows.  The linking stitch work I have seen on other worker garments. I just found this posting on Japanese darning on Hand Embroidery Network and think such darning is the origins of this decorative yoke. I also found this article showing Japanese stitching and darning.
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I have been working with Rasteriods Design in San Jose on creating the logo for the ZERO1 textile project with The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. Rasteriods came up with the microsite name "Fusionwear SV" for the project. They also created a series of type studies with the name. Pulling from these studies I created this concept below which incorporated a few more graphical elements. It is hard to see here, but I added a dotted line path into the text which alludes to stitching, to topography lines and to paths. I pulled "wear" down and had it link to the "O" in fusion to create a focal point. I added a dot over the "i" to counter balance the dot in the "O".  Anyway, we will see tomorrow what the museum thinks of our studies.
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Below is a quick study I did for how we might pull visual elements from logo into site map design. The green dots on the branching green stalk would show links upon roll over.
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OPPORTUNITY AND CHALLENGE:
Creating a public participatory component to the ZERO1 NEA funded textile project is an exciting challenge. Assuming we get a lot of image submissions to the Flickr Group pool we create, how will I pull inspiration from these and form coherent patterns on textiles? That is the key question.  It could be a horrid jumble  if I do not start visualizing now an over arching structure to the design. The whole project could soar or fail spectacularly!

I am fortunate to have great sounding boards in the artists friends and family around me. Diana Agrabrite of the Euphrat Museum recently spent a few hours reviewing my Creative Work Fund application and the ZERO1 textile project concepts.  She challenge me to think of where cultural blending is and is not happening in the community and challenged me to find ways of expressing that in the textile design of the Creative Work Fund project application. Today I spent an hour talking with my sister, designer Lisa Whitsitt, brainstorming on the structuring of the ZERO1 textile project. I am so grateful for Diana's and Lisa's expert advise.

My sister suggested that I create a cleantheme tying all the textiles together.She referred me to a great project called Medical Herbman Cafe.  The project is a simple concept, it is easily explained and all components are seamlessly integrated and planned clearly from the beginning.

Since I was already visualizing abstracting topography elements (bird's eye view of Bay salt ponds) as a overlying structure on one of the textiles referencing both cultural blending and isolation, she suggested that I used land mapping as the super structure bringing all the imagery together into a coherent framework.

Perhaps each of the five textiles represents a different environment zone... mirroring tangible space for a place, Silicon Valley, with no real physical boundaries:
1. Fertile land burred under concrete
2.The Bay
3. Sky
4. Mountains
5. Low bay lands

 I can work with the visual vocabulary of topography maps, timelines and maps of all sorts. This approach references back to the idea of data collection and the art of visually making sense of data. How do the images and stories that the public contribute fit into the the land? What is the interplay between the people and the land and how is the interplay expressed in patterns?

INFORMATION GRAPHICS is a specialize field of design that represents raw data into some sort of visual order. Visual order and rhythm is what I am aiming for with my textiles. The textiles need to tell a story within a meaningful structured design. There is much inspiration to be taken from information design and perhaps much to be adapted for textile design.  Smashing Magazine has good info in information graphic mapping of information. The best site I have found for visual information is Visual Complexity. I have learned a lot from this site. I am trying to figure out how to get Synesketch on my website. It is a fascinating tool that visually represent mood expressed in written text. As the site states it is the "Web's first free open-source textual emotion recognition and visualization engine."
I can easily imagine the resulting patterns as digital embroidery motifs. For my ZERO1 textile project I will ask participants to submit statements on how they feel about Silicon Valley and then I will copy statements into application to generate images and then hopefully get the designs recreated in digital embroidery.

In my web hunting I found this great site, Aharef,  (Web pages as graphs ) which has an applet that turns websites into graphics based upon the tagging, coding, links, etc. Below, I tested out how the applet visualized my websites: this site and my artist site and my artist blog. Here are the images. The images don't capture how the blooms emerge from one dot and the following nodes unfold on the stems. It is a beautiful tool to watch in action.
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This website
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my artist website
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my artist blog started a few years back
 
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Study for sashiko textile reflecting on San Jose history and culture
Sashiko stitching has fascinated me since I was a child. I saw it on old plantation work clothes hanging in relatives closest, on patched quilts and on purses and on Christmas ornaments. I knew that the origins of this now decorative stitch was in practicality;  its function stemmed from the need to repair and reinforce cotton and hemp work clothes.

I suspect that the Japanese agricultural workers in Santa Clara also used sashiko stitching in their work clothes. It will be interesting to research this. A few years back I learned that the current San Jose airport was once a cauliflower field. Japanese  Americans were the primary laborers.

In 1940 a bond passed to fund the airport construction. In 1942 Executive Order 9066 let to the removal of Japanese Americans from Santa Clara County. After Internment, many San Jose Japanese Americans returned to Japantown. Today, San Jose's Japantown  is the only California Japantown which returned to its exact prewar location.

In this digital sketch above, the bounding line between the blue and while background represents the this time of transition in 1940 and 1942. The circular shapes on the loop tracking back to the cauliflower represents the Japanese returning to  San Jose to create a Japantown on its original location. I would like to create a sashiko piece reflecting this history. I took images of young cauliflower as reference for this a few years back and have been stewing on this project. Recreating in sashiko stitching the fractal like patterns of the plant would reflect on culture, the past agricultural economy and the technology industries which replaced it.
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 I took a sashiko workshop  in the fall on this  technique and then taught a workshop at The San Francisco Asian Art Museum (through Serentripity Learning Vacations) incorporating this stitch work. Some images from these initial studies and projects are on on my artist blog.

 Several decades ago my grandma gave me a signed copy of Barbara Kawakami's book,  Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885-1941 which documents the work clothes that were improvised from various fabrics and various cultural influences.  Some of these garments used sashiko stitching. Mrs. Kawakami's entire Japanese plantation textile collection is now at The Japanese American History Museum in Los Angeles.

Today I found this 2010 exhibit information online on Japanese Sashiko Textiles at The York Art Gallery. Their online gallery of sashiko work clothes is stunning and I will be reading all the accompanying information at the site. I also found this Japanese sashiko artist, Aya Studios on Flickr. She has documented old sashiko stitch work and has lovely creations of her own.
Below is an image of my sample purse for The Asian Art Museum workshop as well as Illustrator sashiko stitching templates. Using transfer paper, the participants traced the designs onto their fabric (Filipino noodle flour bag).
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