Monday, November 24, 2014

Terraqueous - of Land and Water

Illustration: Helmer Jonas Osslund. 'Sommarlandskap från Nordingrå'

I came across the word terraqueous a couple of days ago and had no real idea what it meant, but like so much in the strange and enchanting world of the synchronous, once seen it appeared persistently for the next couple of days, online, offline, in daydreaming, in meditation, in walking, like a messenger banging on the door of my lifeline asking to be admitted. I never believe in dismissing omens or signs, and that everything comes across your path for a reason. Therefore, today's article is entirely devoted to the word terraqueous, make of that what you will.

So what does terraqueous actually mean? It literally means land and water, but its meaning can be conceptualised into the much more poetic ideal, that of the near magical composition of land and water, the coming together of the two most precious elements of life, those that have engendered countless cycles of birth, death, and rebirth, namely earth and water. 

Our planet is the product of this most symbolic of relationships, we live on and for a terraqueous globe, we are nothing without it, we cannot exist independent of its relationship, despite what some may think. We enter our present life as physically a percentage of earth and water, and when this life slides away, our physical remains will be the same percentage of earth and water. 

Illustration: Helmer Jonas Osslund. 'Sommarafton vid Faxälven' ('Summer Evening at Faxälven')

It is this inbuilt relationship, this symbolic harmony between land and water that is often reflected back from within us in the form of creative art. It is perhaps our homage to the good fortune that we find ourselves in when observing and understanding this most remarkable terraqueous globe, a blue and green planet, full of life, cast amongst the stars. 

It is through creative expression that we can put motion and form to this our most fundamental of relationships. We are physical manifestations of earth and water; we are a consciousness wrapped in a terraqueous composition. It is important to at least contemplate the notion that we may well be a natural conscious expression of the planet. Too many critics have relegated humanity to a series of negative roles, from that of a cancerous growth, to the engine of armegeddon, and whilst we have lost our way, we are not irredeemable. 

Despite the hurt and chaos we have, and continue to inflict upon the planet, it would not necessarily be a better place without us. We are not an outsider, an occupier, a species that came upon this blue/green planet from another place, we are natives, a species that is integral to the soul of the planet, we are native flora and fauna. That we are having a decidedly difficult adolescence, no one would really disagree, but to throw us out of our home because of it seems counter-productive. 

Illustration: Otto Hesselbom. 'Summer Night Study'

If we are to be the expression of the planets consciousness, wrapped up within our own collective human consciousness, then we had better start acting like it. The role that the creative arts play is one of the most vital and important of human expressions. Through all of the disciplines that make up this extraordinary outpouring of humanity we have been able to guide and give projection to the fundamental relationship that we have with our planet and it is the creative arts that will show the species the way forward. 

By expanding our appreciation of our own inbuilt creativity, both as a species and as an individual, we can help to reveal the complex understanding of our terraqueous globe and our role within it. We are, above all an outward and inward expression of the relationship that makes up a terraqueous planet, the most precious relationship of life, that between land and water.

Further reading links:

Monday, November 17, 2014

An Introduction to Issue 2 of Inspirational

Welcome to the first general introduction to issue 2 of the Inspirational project from The Textile Blog. As promised, this article will give some details as to the artists involved in this second issue, which includes the disciplines of ceramics, painting, 3D/basketry, glass, and textiles.

I am extremely grateful and thankful that the eight artists involved in this second issue of Inspirational have agreed to take part as enthusiastically as the original eight artists in issue 1. I personally feel privileged to include the artists and their work within the Inspirational project and know that they will add significantly to this new venture.

The eight artists featured in issue 2 are, India Flint, Sarah Purvey, Deidre Adams, Meredith Woolnough, Sue Hotchkis, Karen Gubitz, F. E. Clark, Jonathan Fuller. The list is purposely varied, bringing together a range of disciplines, personal perspectives, and geographical locations. What all hold in common of course is that they are all inspirational and aspirational artists that take their unique view of the world and pass that through to their work.

This particular article also reveals the cover of the second issue of Inspirational, which I am sure will become very familiar between now and the release date of issue 2. The cover features the work of the artist F. E. Clark and seems a perfect fit for the projection of the magazine and the project in general.

This second issue of Inspirational will be on sale from January 14, 2015. From now until then there will be regular updates and publicity for this second issue.

I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all of those out there who both bought and helped to promote the first issue of Inspirational, you know who you are! Without your selfless assistance and boundless enthusiasm, there would never have been an issue 2, and for that, I will always be grateful. Thank you!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Handcrafted in Ghana - Weaving the Contemporary and the Traditional

This article is dedicated to the work of Akosua Afriyie-Kumi who founded AAKS with the intention of introducing the planet to the weaving techniques produced by the women of Ghana, and through this engendering sustainable employment for those women. Handcrafted in Bolgatanga, in Ghana, AAKS creates woven bags that manage to incorporate the best in tradition whilst maintaining a contemporary feel for the world market.

I feel that it is best for Akosua and AAKS to tell their story in their own words. Therefore, their story follows:

"In a small village in the Northern region of Ghana, hamlets scatter over the savannah as far as your eyes can see. A group of local artisan weavers sit under a huge baobab tree laughing away, on close inspection you see plies of colourful raffia and in between the noise of chatter and laughter these women are hard at work. Their hands move so skilfully and with an innate knowledge tending to a craft that has been handed down by generations.

The craft is the art of weaving. Using skills and techniques that are unique to this part of Ghana, the craftsmanship is the foundation of our brand. This is where AAKS handbags are made. The bags are woven incorporating the use of raffia and leather. It takes approximately one week to complete a handbag. This attests to our unwavering dedication to modern style and interpretations using traditional methods.

Made by hand each bag bears the fingerprints of the person who fashioned it and we add a signature tag to prove authenticity. We strive for beauty and individuality in each product and natural variations in texture and colour forms part of our designs.

While constantly experimenting with new materials all of our handbags are made using ecologically harvested raffia from family farmers in Ghana. We utilise as much of every raffia as possible and reserve scraps for smaller bags. The use of natural fibres and emphasis on handcraft techniques means each bag is unique. A sophisticated dyeing process is formulated in house to create exclusive seasonal colours.

Each season we aim to deliver new fabrications and technique that underscore our commitment to quality and craftsmanship with a quintessential natural and eclectic relaxed chic."

Akosua Afriyie-Kumi is a native Ghanaian who graduated from Kingston University London with a BA(Hons) Fashion degree. From designer to co-owner of a fashion brand and now creative director of her own brand AAKS, Akosua, now based in Ghana, finds herself travelling to and through-out Europe and Africa, particularly Cape Town, Marrakesh, London, Bolgatanga, and Accra, working with artisans, experiencing the diverse culture of our planet, and discovering new inspirations for the AAKS brand.

I would like to thank Akosua for agreeing to be featured in this article and for kindly supplying text and photographs, all of which are of course copyrighted to her and AAKS.

The website of AAKS, where products from Akosua's range, as well as photos featuring the steps that go into weaving the collection, can be found here.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Flower - in Nature, in Creativity, in Life

Illustration: Ceramic mosaic work from the Radiash College, Isfahan, Iran.

There are so many aspects of nature that have enthralled and intrigued human artists and designers across the countless generations of our species existence. From animal to plant, from earth to sky, from sweeping vistas to minute speck, all have intrigued and all have been used across the many disciplines that make up the creative arts.

The flower is possibly one of the external expressions of nature that has been used more than many others. It is not hard to see why, the flower comes in so many shapes, sizes, colours, tones, textures, no two species are the same, and no two individual flowers of the same species are the same. There is always variety within and without a single flower and that has probably adding significantly to its intrigue and use as a motif and central focus for the creative arts.

Portrayals of flowers, whether they are painted, hewn, sewn, written about, danced, photographed, or even displayed in their own right, are central to what many see as nature. In fact, to many in our contemporary world, portrayals of flowers are perhaps one of the few extensions of the natural world that are seen, or interpreted as being in any form 'natural'. 

Illustration: Rhododendron in flower, by John Hopper, 2014.

We live in a world now where large swathes of humanity have corralled themselves into near city-states, and although some have the privilege of recreational city parks and gardens, many around the world do not. It is this institutionalised divorce from the natural world that is storing up so many of our present and future problems. Individuals that feel no affinity with the real natural world, have nothing invested in its maintenance. If nature is never seen or recognised within the urban setting except perhaps in a minor role, why would it be given any significance in the lives of those who never feel that they have a meaningful relationship with it? Yet through this painful divorce from nature, this dysfunctional relationship that we are perpetuating with the planet, countless images of the flower persists, why?

Why does the portrayal of the flower in all its multiple expressions still captivate us, if only as the printed pattern on dress fabric, the climbing flower of a wallpaper design, or portrayal of a blossom on a ceramic mug? Even though many will never see the expression of nature in its raw state, are we still aware of our indebtedness to the natural world, or are we aware on some level that we have an intrinsic understanding with nature, one that we have had from the beginning of our species and beyond? 

Does this understanding somehow lie buried just beneath the recent layers of urbanity? After all, we are who we are because of the natural world, we are not who we are because of our buildings and our subways. We have spent four million years communing and understanding the natural world, and a couple of hundred years, in many cases even less, living our urban lifestyles. That is not to say that urban living is evil, it just has to be put in perspective. 

Illustration: 'Chrysanthemum' textile design by William Morris, 1877.

Our urban cities should perhaps not be as all-encompassing to our lives as we have made them. Perhaps we need to shift our perspectives, to understand where our food comes from before it is packaged, to understand what trees grow like as forests, rather than as spaced out and singular in pots in shopping centres. Perhaps we need to understand that flowers can actually grow together, rather than separated into designated colour bands as they so often appear in towns and cities. To this extent, perhaps we should start bringing the natural world into the city as a reality counter to what has been the norm until now. In some cases across the planet this is happening and it makes an extraordinary difference, but in many cases it still isn't happening.

Above all, perhaps we need to understand our relationship with nature before it becomes so far removed from our lives that we only acknowledge the existence of nature in miniature, that we miss entirely the tidal waves of the consequences of our actions. By believing that we have controlled and contained nature, as it often appears to be in our city parks, we spin ourselves a grand illusion.

However, by the creative arts continually emphasising and re-emphasising the role that nature has and still should play in our lives, a tenuous link can be maintained. It may only be an image of a flower to many, but it is much more than that. The image of the flower is one of the great external expressions not only of nature as a physical presence, but as a symbolic and spiritual presence. The flower is part of the expression that is the cycle of life, a cycle that we should always be aware is at the centre of everything, not at its periphery, no matter how much we would wish it to be. Get that wrong and the whole substance of who we are begins to unravel.

Further reading links: