Sudo Reiko explores material’s possibilities at Japan House London

Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sud? Reiko

‘Some things disappear, some things have to disappear, but some things live on using different materials and technologies,’ says Sudo Reiko. The visionary Japanese textile designer’s work is anchored on exploring the possibilities of textile. Often fusing ancient and modern techniques, and involving unusual materials, her studio Nuno’s fabrics are almost always unexpected and imaginative. Now, Japan House London is hosting an exhibition dedicated to her work.

Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sud? Reiko

Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sudo Reiko (17 May ? 11 July 2021) is an immersive study of the artist and her studio’s creations. ‘Textile gives us the knowledge about our past, present and future,’ says Takahashi Mizuki. ‘I want to bring visitors to the journey of the textile through experiencing the production,’ adds the curator and executive director at the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile in Hong Kong, where a similar show was displayed two years ago.

Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sud? Reiko

Sudo’s fabrics tell infinite stories of time, place and people. She says in Japanese textile making, there is a tradition of handing down knowledge and knowhow through generations, and so the human factor, the people and their personalities, are central to the work at Nuno. Working with artisans around Japan, the studio also helps preserve skills passed on through generation.

Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sud? Reiko

Five large dynamic installations offer Japan House visitors a chance to see some of Nuno’s experimental processes in action. The Kibiso Crisscross fabric, for instance, takes the discarded protective outer layer of silk cocoons to make yarns from the tough remnants in tailored machines. Or, to celebrate of textile’s industrial process, discarded punch cards, which control the movements of the warp yarn on the programmable Jacquard weaving looms, are roughly stitched together for a screen that projects ethereal shadows onto a wall.

'Making Nuno, Japanese Textile Innovation from Sud? Reiko' at Japan House London explores the work of the visionary textile designer

There is a poetic energy to Sudo’s work that make her objects feel timeless. And her sustainable approach to product and production are extremely timely as consumers become more environmentally aware and expect greater accountability from brands they invest in.

‘I grew up in a small country town, where every spring and autumn we looked forward to the arrival of the travelling salesman and his bundle of kimono fabrics,’ recalls Sudo. ‘Hiding behind my mother, aunt and grandfather, I would watch spellbound as he presented these beautiful textiles, one after the other, on the tatami mats. That was probably when I first dreamt of one day becoming someone who makes beautiful fabrics.’

Images © Japan House London

Book review: Takenobu Igarashi A-Z explores 3D graphics of cult designer

Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z is edited by Sakura Komiyama and Haruki Mori and published by Thames & Hudson.

Takenobu Igarashi’s bold and brilliant three-dimensional letters introduced new ways of expressing symbols. The cult Japanese graphic artist created new forms of visual communication – design that has conceptually altered how we view the medium. A new book celebrates the work of this visionary creative. Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z is an exhaustive guide to his life’s work, his experiments with typography and his methodology. It features Igarashi’s celebrated prints as well as designs published for the first time, and archival plans, drawings and production drafts which reveal the process of thinking, creating and making.

To understand the world of Igarashi, though, is to step back in history and to Japan’s space and place in the story of design. Graphic design played a pivotal role in communicating modern Japan’s position on the world map following the defeat and devastation of World War Two. The success of events such as the 1964 Olympics Games and the 1970 Osaka Expo helped open doors for local designers and brands, who needed a unique visual expression to mark their place on the global market.

Japanese designers worked within the context of international movements, specifically modernism, but also brought to their work elements of tradition, of craft, colour application and poetic symbolism as well as references to local anime and manga. The 70s saw post-modernism enter the discussion with a new breed of graphic artists rebelling against modernism – eschewing the traditional grid pattern in favour of free forms and personal expression. It was within this scene where Igarashi began his personal typology experimentations.

Born in 1944, Igarashi’s visual world was dominated by American culture – the abundance of goods and the bold colourful graphics of Hershey chocolate bars and Lucky Strike cigarettes. He writes in the preface to the book: ‘the colourful American culture symbolised abundance and freedom. Immersing myself in the world of alphabets overlapped with dreaming of the future.’ He became fascinated by the Roman alphabet for it is ‘composed of basic geometric figures, it has a fascinatingly simple structure which makes even the most complex expression possible.’

© Takenobu Igarashi

Igarashi studied at the Tama Art University in the 1960s under the influential graphic designer Akio Kanda – his ‘Pure Graphics’ course introduced experimental methods for planar construction and spatial quality which set the foundation for his typographic practice. Later, while at UCLA, Igarashi met another mentor Mitsuru Kataoka, a pioneer of cutting-edge technology in design practice. In the US he explored the Roman alphabet further and became familiarised with Arabic numerals.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, at his independent studio in Tokyo, Igarashi set out to liberate lettering from the limits of communicative functionality. Working with the fundamental principles of graphics, he started to explore the possibilities of alphabets, using the axonometric method to draw three-dimensional letters. ‘My strong urge to free myself from conventional rules and to go beyond the drawing methods that were technically possible at that time opened up doors to a new world of creating form in infinite variations,’ he says.

© Takenobu Igarashi

Igarashi’s letters are like architecture – meticulously constructed buildings that appear three-dimensional – with the essential geometries of the alphabet, the circle, triangle and square, his building blocks. He writes: ‘The circle as a symbol of perfection is frequently used in composition for the formative nature of a circle’s centre point. The triangle serves directly as an expression of its powerful shape; and the square, with its capacity for space, is a typical framework for design.’ As he concludes in the preface to A-Z, ‘In the journey of making, there is no terminus.’

Takenobu Igarashi: A-Z is edited by Sakura Komiyama and Haruki Mori and published by Thames & Hudson. All images are strictly © Takenobu Igarashi

Book review: Redesigning Leadership

Redesigning Leadership is a gem of a book, and like a genuine gem is compact, short, succinct and a pleasure to read. Since it starts with a haiku I will attempt to sum up the book with my own feeble effort.

Wisdom in bursts
Succinct, real, obvious
As all insights should

Or as author John Maeda liked to communicate with his team on twitter

@mohsenmedic.. according to media savvy Maeda it is best to lead by listening hard  preferably face-to-face and an open mind.

Maeda’s book is full of advice and experience that seemed on first encounter perfectly obvious, until I reflected that almost all the leaders and managers that I have seen in my life ignore them. All but a handful, and these remain vivid not just in my memory but in that of virtually all the students or doctors that had studied or worked under them.

Redesigning Media by John Maeda published by MIT Press

When Maeda, a US born Japanese designer and computer scientist took over as the president of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design in 2008 he thought he knew how to lead. What makes him so successful as a leader was his ability to jettison all preconceived notions that did not work out in practice. In other words he was prepared to listen both to his surrounding and also to his own heart.

In this book he takes us in 80 pages through this experience. For Maeda linking and underpinning macro and micro management, art and design, leading and being led, are the same principles. His is a style of management that when faced with an employee that everyone disliked, instead of firing him he retains him because like a body an organisation ‘needs viruses … to survive and be strong’. My guess is that he also listened to the ‘virus’.

Here is a leader who tries to regularly see his team, preferably over a meal of pizzas: as he says ‘until you can serve pizza and drink over the Web, a social media portal to foster true collaboration will be so-so’.

Here is a president who emails all his students and staff individually when he can’t meet them face-to-face. Just the boss I always craved for and sometimes got.

Better to talk
eye to eye
than blog in stratosphere

Read it and re-read it if you aspire to be leader or boss that is both successful and is remembered with affection and the awe that comes from deep love.

Guest blogger Mohsen Shahmanesh

Redesigning Leadership by John Maeda is published by MIT Press. Visit the DT bookshop comprehensive selection of books on design.

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