Sashiko Textiles

Exhibition: Sashiko Textiles
Venue: York Art Gallery
Rating: **

The first exhibition of this traditional Japanese craft in the UK comes to York Art Gallery courtesy of guest curator Michele Walker whose research has focused on sashiko textile work. The show features 100 sashiko garments and related objects. It provides an in depth look at the traditional methods of making and the spiritual connotations of the clothes worn throughout Japan’s farming and fishing areas.

Sashiko garments were made and adapted to the needs of workers and were the lowest hierarchy of clothing. Normally T-shaped, allowing for movement, the fabric was layered and sewed with a running stitch which followed the grain of the fabric. The embroidery, often symbolic, was thought to offer protection to the wearer as well as denote the wearers status.

Most of the items are being shown in the UK for the first time and the exhibition does prove both informative and well-researched, featuring rare everyday items almost worn down to tatters, textile company Nuno’s contemproray take on sashiko and designer Tokunaga Miyoko’s one-off fashion garments. However the context is sparse, a wider history in relation to Japan’s vibrant textile and clothing history would have provided a rich comparison. An appealing look at an often overlooked tradition but torn from circumstance.

Showing at York Art Gallery from 10 October until 24 January.

One comment

  1. Interesting to be able to see many of these items outside Japan and many will be familiar to anyone interested in mingei (folk arts). The overall impression given by the curator is that traditional sashiko has virutally died out, which is not the case at all. There is no work by any of Japan’s contemporary traditional sashiko makers other than innovative work where tradition is given a heavy contemporary art textile twist. More links to other aspects of Japanese textile history would be of benefit to visitors.