Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with the Artist: me!! Part 1

Hi! I thought I'd interview myself today (yes, the lazy way out for a subject). I will say up front that my Etsy shop, BeadsOnHand, is on "vacation", meaning that it's currently empty. Although there are other kumihimo pieces on Etsy, my silk necklaces are more complex. I am not saying my work is better than others, just different. So, on to the interview.

Briefly, kumihimo literally means "bringing together". Kumihimo braiding may have been done in the earliest Japanese eras, 8000-400 B.C. but fibers wouldn't have survived in the damp climate. There is evidence of braids from 300-500 A.D. burial mounds where are found ceremonial clothes adorned with braids. Yes, Japanese samurai warriors used braids to tie on their armor plates, but braids were also used in daily life and religious ceremonies.

What made you choose a fiber art? I started knitting when I was 7 and made sweaters for my Barbie doll (the only time I ever played with dolls). I sew, knit, crochet, and quilt. The wonderful array of fibers in yarns and weaving constantly amaze me.

When and why did I start braiding? For some reason that I can't remember I decided I wanted to try this new technique after seeing a kumihimo gallery at Braidershand. Unfortunately there was very little information on the net about 6 years ago showing how to braid. Finally, I found a site with very simple instructions. I made my first braid using a disk cut out of a cereal box! Six years later you can find many sites with kumihimo galleries showcasing work from accomplished artists around the world. I have used books from two of these artists: Jacqui Carey and Rodrick Owen.

My then-husband made me this wonderful maru dai. The maru dai is the traditional braiding stool; mine is slightly taller than the regular 16". To braid you would kneel (or sit on a chair with the maru dai on a small box, for those of us who can't kneel hours on end).

Why do I prefer to use silk? Well, it's the traditional fiber used. But it is also very comfortable to wear against bare skin even in hot weather. And silk is a very strong material. Here's a photo of my home made tama (bobbin for holding the silk) and the silk. Since a set of 8 "real" bobbins is about $100 I covered some prescription bottles with polymer clay. I can vary the weight by adding or removing pennies in the bottle. Weight is very important to braiding, and that would be a whole other discussion.

How long did it take me to be comfortable braiding, and reasonably proficient? Well, 6 years later I have made every mistake in the book! All SATeam artists have spent hours, days, months, and years learning their craft. Kumihimo is the same: you are teaching your hands to braid and your eye to combine colors, shape and form.

Did you need to learn anything else? Yes!! Years ago there were no clasps availabe for braid ends. So, while attending a jewelry show I met a wonderful woman who worked with copper, Penny Cox. This was the first time I had met someone who worked with copper professionally. She inspired me to try my hand with it. (I think I'll do a second part of this interview next week.)

Can you show examples of your work? Both of these necklaces were posted on the Starving Jewelry Artists forum. The first is a combination of my love affair with glass leaf beads and different braids using the same colors:

And a close up view:

And a close up of the clasp, in copper of course:

Finally, another necklace and detail of the braids:

So, Part 2 next week. I can hardly wait!!


Islandgirl said...

I took one look at Kumihimo set up ...pre foam disks and decided that it was too big to add to my collection of tools... now anyone can do it with a little patience.. however I find finishing the ends to be the challenge! Love your pieces!

Bonnie said...

Sue thank you for featuring yourself and your wonderful braiding. Would you consider doing a WIP for us. I would love to see the process and all of the decisions you must have to make to go into the braid and final necklace design.

mcstoneworks said...

Fantastic, Sue. I really enjoyed reading this. Your work is stunning. I love those copper end caps.

Jeanne said...

Wow Sue, your braiding has many elements with all the different components used and your final pieces look like braids within braids. That must take some planning. I've been thinking of trying my hand at kumihimo, my LBS has a regular class on it, but it's "on the list" for me, I'll get to it someday. In the meantime I will enjoy your tempting creations.

Cat said...

So interesting, thanks!

AMDesignsbyAngela said...

Wow Sue, I had no idea that there were such specialized traditional tools associated with Kumihimo. Your self-interview was really interesting...thanks for the insights...looking forward to part 2!

Cassie said...

Sue, thanks for sharing! I've tried kumihimo and it looked NOTHING like yours... you do some beautiful work! Can't wait for part two!

BeadSire said...

I bought a kumihimo disk a couple of months ago and need to look at materials and suppliers, I just want to learn basic braiding. Bonnie's suggestion is great - I'd love to see a WIP as well.