NUNO exhibit at Japanese Friendship Garden reveals language of textiles
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The Japanese friendship gardens Enno Marie pavilion with its gently cascading waterfall provides the perfect sound scape for a visit to Nuno the language of textiles, exhibit K PBS arts reporter. Beth Amando speaks with Chad Patton, managing director of material things which created the exhibit and is the, your national distributor of Nuno textiles.
Speaker 2: (00:25)
So Chad, explain to us where we are
Speaker 3: (00:27)
Here. We're at the Japanese friendship garden in the en pavilion, which is in the lower garden. And this is where we were doing the Nuno exhibit. And
Speaker 2: (00:36)
Explain what Nuno
Speaker 3: (00:37)
Is. Nuno is a textile design company. It was started in 1983 by Jui. Who's the father of contemporary Japanese textiles and reco sudo, who continues as the director of Nuno. And it's small art production done in little family, looms all over Japan. A lot of them on Kar old ARD machines, these family run mills look like a garage with a rusty machine in the middle of it. And they're, um, they've really done a lot to revitalize the Japanese textile industry because many young people in these families didn't particularly want to continue the family business until they had some more exciting possibilities with Nuno.
Speaker 2: (01:25)
And what is this exhibit here?
Speaker 3: (01:27)
This one is basically Nuno is about 35 years old, and this is just an overview of the textiles and techniques they've developed over the last 35 years. Some of their most important textiles
Speaker 2: (01:39)
And some of your fabrics have been used in films that people are probably quite familiar with.
Speaker 3: (01:43)
Yes, we're used by a lot of Hollywood costume designers we've been used in movies, such as memoirs of AGIA. This one was used in actually in ghost, the shell, which was a recent Scarlet Johansen movie. This fabric is called coal and it's a monofilament, which is just a, basically one thread polyester. And it's tough. It's amazingly tough, but it's slippery. So when you seem it along the seam, the fabric can slip a little bit and you get a little bit of a gap. So after it's woven, it is actually waterproof and the waterproofing isn't to keep water off of it. It's to lock the, the weave together. And, um, this was used in ghost in the shell for the geisha costumes. It's a kind of has a shiny lacker like finish in, um, ghost in the shell. It was laser cut.
Speaker 2: (02:33)
People may not think of fabric as art because something that has a functional purpose in life is sometimes not considered art mm-hmm so explain why there should be an exhibit. It of fabrics.
Speaker 3: (02:45)
Well, it's complicated. Fabrics should be functional. Nu know's philosophy about fabric is that they do not design a fabric for a specific purpose. They, they believe that that should be left up to the person who buys it and that the person who buys it, how they use the fabric is part of the creative process. The creative process isn't ended until the fabric is used and that's Nona's philosophy. It it's just like is design art. Basically that's the, the dilemma. I personally think that design is art, but with design, you're thinking about purpose with art in its purest form. You're not thinking about purpose and that's the difference.
Speaker 2: (03:26)
And who are the people who are creating these fabrics for
Speaker 3: (03:29)
You? Everyone who works at Nuno is a designer. Everyone who works at Nuno is a designer they have about 17 of them. Raco pseudo is the guiding force. She's the lead designer. And everything ends up going through her. I would say she probably personally designs 70% of numerous fabric. The other 30% are by the other designers in the company, the company's 35 years old. And they've hired over that period. So you have designers who have been working for 20, 30 years. You have designers who are relatively new and, and young designers, and that keeps things fresh in the company.
Speaker 2: (04:00)
And what can people expect coming to this exhibit? It
Speaker 3: (04:03)
Is interesting because it's an overview and what it's showing is how the company has evolved and the changes, especially I find particularly interesting, the changes in technique and technology, including the fibers that are used when Nuno started, it was of all natural fibers, linen cotton, the colors were more muted. What you think of traditional Japanese fabrics. And it's evolved over the years, we're doing a, we do a lot of research into, um, materials technologies and developing new fabrics with new fibers, with chemical companies. And so you can see the evolution of textile design and it's nuo evolution, but it's also just how textile design on, on a whole has changed over the last 30 years. And I think nuo has been a driving force in those changes. Now
Speaker 2: (04:52)
A lot of exhibits are with things behind glass that you can't touch, but this exhibit looks like you can touch the fabrics. Is this true?
Speaker 3: (05:00)
Well, someone there's little signs every so often that says do not touch, but if a person was to happen to touch it, it wouldn't bother me. Basically. Yes, we, we set it up like this. So people could wonder through them because you do have to experience textiles. And so it, it, it, it, isn't a static kind of art. So not that we encourage everyone to put their hands all over it, but the, um, often in Nono exhibits, they do something called a touch panel wall. And actually there is one here, but we're because of COVID, we're not encouraging people to touch that too much either, but yes, fabrics are meant to be touched, and
Speaker 2: (05:38)
These are not behind glass. So you have a fabric where you've actually feathers in. So people can really see that
Speaker 3: (05:45)
Up close. Yes, that's important. This is one of Nuno, best known fabrics. It's called feather flues. And it's a Jaar double weave silk. And basically what happens is the Jaar fabric is woven on the ARD machine and it makes pockets before the pocket is sealed. They stop the ARD machine and put feathers in by hand between the two layers. They restart the machine and it seals the pocket. And so to weave this every six inches or so, you're stopping the, the loom, which actually is really rough on these old Jaco looms. So we've lost many factories who refuse to do it for us anymore, but, but that's, so if you look inside each of these, the inside the fabric, they're actually feathers sealed in pockets. And then actually another example, while we're here, a Nuna does a lot of, of embroidery and they use it's called a steering wheel embroidery machine.
Speaker 3: (06:41)
And what a steering wheel embroidery machine does, it allows the operator to operate everything with, with his feet and then do the intricate patterns with a steering wheel. So you can do much more intricate patterns. There's only a few of these machines in the world, some of the fabrics what's, they're very beautiful, but they're subtle. And you do have to see them up close. A lot of the, the wovens. Also, you're looking a lot at texture and how it's woven and the, and the pattern of the weave. And you can only see that up close. Talk a little bit
Speaker 2: (07:08)
About how you got involved with NNO because you are an American who went over there and stayed for quite a while. I
Speaker 3: (07:15)
Lived in Japan, about 30 years, I went to high school, college, and most, a lot of my career in Japan. I was creative director of an ad agency in Japan and Nuna was in my neighborhood in Tokyo. And, um, a very close friend of mine was, was actually dating reco the head designer. Well, they're no longer together, but I stayed friends with reco and we've been close friends for about 30 years and was talking about eventually returning to San Diego, cuz I'm from here. And reco said to me, well, why don't you handle Nuno overseas? And I had never thought about doing anything like that. And that about 20 years ago, we, uh, started exploring that. And we've, we've been doing that for about 20 years. All right. Well,
Speaker 2: (07:57)
I wanna thank you very much for talking are welcome.
Speaker 1: (08:02)
That was Beth Amando speaking with Chad Patton Nuno. The language of textiles runs through February at the Japanese friendship gardens Enno Marie pavilion to see the fabrics discussed, go to Beths cinema junkie firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaker 4: (08:37)
Speaker 5: (09:10)
See fabrics where "nature and tradition are woven with technology."
The Japanese Friendship Garden offers a lovely retreat from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Walking back through the serene garden and koi pools you will eventually end at the Inamori Pavilion where gently cascading water will provide the perfect soundscape for a visit to the new NUNO: The Language of Textiles exhibit.
As the wind blows through the pavilion, the elegant, draped fabrics gently billow like ghostly forms. The fabrics represent a showcase of designs from NUNO, a Japanese company run by Reiko Sudo that combines the old and the new.
NUNO, which is Japanese for fabric (布), started in 1984 and has, according to its website, "worked with weavers and dyers in Japan, combining old practices with new technologies to create textiles that are original, distinctive, and fresh." It uses independent spinners, dyers and mills in villages throughout Japan to create what it describes as textiles where “nature and tradition are woven with technology.”
Chad Patton, managing director of Material Things, the international distributor of NUNO, said the exhibit shows the evolution of textile design.
"And it's NUNO's evolution," he said. "But it's also just how textile design, on a whole has changed over the last 30 years. And I think NUNO has been a driving force in those changes."
Those changes not only involve creating new technologies to make fabrics incorporating paper, feathers, or tape, but also working to reduce industrial waste and keep certain textile-making traditions alive.
"There are only two silk weaving towns left in Japan, and they're trying to revitalize the silk industry in Japan. So they asked Reiko Sudo to go to the factory and come up with some way of revitalizing it," Patton said. "Well, she went, and they expected her to come up with new designs. But instead, she looked over in the corner of the factory and there was this big pile of kind of dirty white stuff. And she said, 'What's that?' And he said, 'That's kibiso, the outside of the silk, the very outside layer of the silk cocoon. And it has short fibers, too short to spin.' So it was basically thrown away. And she said, 'Why don't we spin this?' And they said, 'That's impossible.' So she got some of the old women in the village who retired from the silk weaving mills to hand spin it at home."
You can now see examples of how that fiber is worked into textiles.
Visitors can see up close the dramatic results of different techniques of textile production. You can even get a close-up view of the fabric used for the spectacular kimono worn by the Geisha in the U.S. "Ghost in the Shell" movie.
Since fabric serves a very functional purpose you may not think of it as art but for Patton, the creative process begins with designing the fabric and continues with the buyer.
"How they use the fabric is part of the creative process," he said. "The creative process isn't ended until the fabric is used. And that's NUNO's philosophy. I personally think that design is art, but with design, you're thinking about purpose. With art in its purest form, you're not thinking about purpose, and that's the difference."
NUNO: The Language of Textiles will impress you with the entire process of creating fabric. The exhibit runs through Feb. 27 at the Japanese Friendship Garden’s Inamori Pavilion.