There’s a few words in Japanese that I miss when speaking English. There’s just no words to replace them in English that have quite the same feel or roll off the tongue in the same way. For example, yappari (just as I expected) sasuga (that’s so typical) naruhodo (it all makes sense now) or bimyo (vague, hard to categorize).
It really shouldn’t be so surprising that Japanese is full of words like these that refer to complexity, vagueness, subtlety and difficulty because, you know, Japanese society is like that! Nearly everyday I am confused by complexities (wait, how do you open this triangular onigiri package with numbered instructions?), bamboozled by subtleties (a limited express train is not the same as an express nor a local-express…they all end in “kyu”, of course) and irritated by vagueness! (“Yes this is the Arts Faculty Office and yes, I’m the person you are supposed to make enquiries to but…” But? But what?!)

It really is complex… Onigiri opening step-by-step by Sake Puppets

I’ve just one semester of study left in Japan now and I am starting to think about the future. As well as trying to figure out the equation of “art+x=able to eat”, I’ve been thinking about where I fit into the field of textiles and what it means to me to make textiles.

But the thing is, textiles as a field is just so BIMYO!

“Textiles” is such a broad and all-encompassing description as to be rendered almost useless. It’s not just handiwork, it’s not just art, it’s not just traditional crafts, it’s not just design, it’s not just fashion, it’s not just industrial fabric production… it’s a confusing diagram of all of these things.

Oh textiles, you’re so unsure of yourself and confusing….

“Textiles” crosses the borders of a bunch of different fields and it becomes hard to define where you fit within it all. It’s not that you need to slot perfectly into one ‘section’ or another but I’m coming to realise its important to know what you make and why you do it in order to stay focused and get where you want to go explain to attractively high-paying grants what you do and why you need their money!

Since coming to Kyoto Seika University, I’ve been studying textile dyeing inside the Graduate School of Arts and I think that has made me frame myself as a “textiles artist”. When I was at ANU, in the Australian textiles spheres, I think I saw it more as a pursuit of design or craft. Seeing how Textile dyeing can be art too has been great but the prospect of graduating from `ART` is daunting.

I was speaking to my Professor earlier this year about the possibility of selling one of my works and she made a comment that went something like

Our job as Artists is to show people something. If that truly resonates with someone so much that they want to have that in their home to enjoy then that’s great but our main aim is to express something we feel.”

Obviously my professor sees herself as falling into the Art category of textiles and as such, guides her students in that direction. I left that conversation kind of depressed, thinking, “well if my job is only showing people something, how am I supposed to make money to buy the materials to make the next work to just show to more people?!” She also suggested that it’s sad to sell your work; to part with your creations. I couldn’t see why my “art” ought to be so exclusive and it seemed like arrogance to me to assume that one day I would have a retrospective exhibition in which I would want access to my entire back catalogue of stuff.

Soon after that an article was circulating on social media about the fact that you can’t expect to make a living from art. It was saying that young people now assume they can turn their art education into a living only because of a myth perpetuated by their forerunners that says it’s possible. When in fact, this is, and has never been the case, so better stop expecting to. Also, in the very act of trying to make your art your income source, you render it no longer art but just a commodity. Okay, So then what?! If I am to make art my passion, then I should just resign myself now to living in poverty and eating cabbage soup a la Charlie & The Chocolate Factory?

I’ve written before about the weird relationship between Art and Textiles and I think I’m still trying to figure that out. Sure, Textiles is a big, active and innovative field in Australia but I think the concept of “textiles as art”, especially “dyed textiles as art” whilst established in Japan still hasn’t got there in Australia. I hope I can help push boundaries that will make dyeing part of the art world, and for now I think that means negotiating genres.

But. The world of Art is also somewhere I’m hesitant to get sucked into.
I’m saying, for now that I do want to make textile ART (not design or craft or fashion): pieces that are to be displayed and appreciated; pieces that have a story, maybe even a message; pieces that might even be hung in the National Gallery one day (haha, really?!).  That would make me an ARTIST.  By definition, ARTISTS participate in the art world loops of galleries, exhibitions, grants, museums, artists talks, artist statements…I both want to be a part of that and I don’t.

I want to keep my head above the quagmire of the fake art-talk and long winded art statements. I’ve never liked that part of Art. It felt like what I really learnt at art school in Australia was how to skillfully use a broad range of materials…AND how to talk “art-talk”; how to use words like ‘nuance’ and ‘juxtaposition’ and ‘transience’ and ‘allusions’. Even all in one sentence!Put on Arty voice, ahem,

“My work is about juxtaposing the ideas of transience and permanence, in all their nuances and alluding to the transcendental nature of our existence.” Oh god, it rolls off the tongue too easily.

I don’t know how easily you can be in the Art world but “not of it” but I do want to be an honest, genuine, relate-able person who doesn’t try and hide behind art-talk or mingles only in art circles and lurks around opening-night cheese platters. Sure artists might all be faking it until they make it but why do we have to fake it with the same old regurgitated art-speak? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be a bit more REAL and just say what we do and not hide behind lofty words?

I make dyed textiles. I love parrots, I think they are beautiful and have incredible colours, behaviors and histories. Dyeing fabric is a process I enjoy and I hope viewers will enjoy the energy, colours and nature in my work too.

There. Not so hard is it? (not a juxtaposition or nuance in sight)

Here’s to being down-to-earth Artists.