BAY AREA REFLECTIONS

mdagscompilation2 I am delighted to share my article featured on World Shibori Network reflecting on my recent visit with Bay Area colleagues celebrating the art of textiles & community!  Please enjoy the below content as well as take the time to explore my contribution in it’s entirety, along with collection of images I captured at each destination, directly on World Shibori Network.

Reflections on the Bay Area: Meeting Yoshiko’s community

With hopes to honor the vibrancy of the San Francisco Fiber Art community, I will briefly outline my recent experience visiting the Bay Area and gather my reflections by beginning with a quote:

“Tug on anything at all and find it connected to everything in the universe.” -John Muir

As a new member of World Shibori Network and longtime fan of Yoshiko Wada, I humbly reached out to request if by chance there were an opportunity to meet our founder, Yoshiko Wada, as well as fellow WSN members during my Bay Area trip. Her welcoming and personal reply was simply the beginning to what became layers of inspiration to unfold throughout the week while exchanging itineraries and planning encounters.

We first met at the De Young for the NEW Textile Arts Council event, Holly McQuillan: Zero-waste fashion design, a fascinating lecture on design sustainability, which Yoshiko thoughtfully directed my attention to, knowing my interests and that I was already set on seeing the stunning displays in Royal Hawaiian Featherwork: Nā Hulu Ali‘i. Following the lecture, Yoshiko took time to create introductions amongst fellow WSN members and personally re-connect with event speaker Lynda Grose (cofounder of ESPRIT’s e-collection), while we had the opportunity to engage with Holly directly and view sample patterns from the Make/Use research-through-design project.

From there, Yoshiko and I walked along the edges of the Japanese Tea Garden as she described the breadth of the San Francisco Bay Area Fiber Art Community and the evolution of the World Shibori Network. She shared a vast expanse of local and global knowledge, past and present, during this casual moment, yet with such depth and precision while sharing her enthusiasm for her colleagues—further solidifying how Jack Larsen’s thoughts on Yoshiko, expressed in his foreword for “Memory on Cloth,” continue to ring true to this day.

Among the local artists, whom Yoshiko suggested I connect with to experience the best of the bay, were Ana Lisa Hedstrom (WSN member since its inception), Jean Cacicedo, Angelina DeAntonis of Ocelot, Ellen Hauptli, Carol Lee Shanks, Marcia Donahue, Matt Dick and Kay Sekimachi. While my trip only allowed time to visit with a few of her notable colleagues, it was clear that meeting with Yoshiko was akin to the concept in the John Muir quote, especially as relationships throughout the week continued to grow, interconnect, and gain momentum, while each artist shared an individual story.

Over the span of just a few days, given the caliber of the individuals I met and the quality of the spaces I visited, I can wholeheartedly applaud the distinctly inclusive and supportive mindset I found across the Bay Area. Whether I was chatting with locals in one of the museums, galleries or boutiques, or in an artist’s studio, there was a level of focus, continuity, and like-mindedness. This affirmed what I have always found: among textile artists, there is a deep respect not only for technique, but also for honoring the teacher/student relationship as well as the process of development on the artist’s path. This reflects a respect for process that, when carried through a community of artists or through one’s career, can cultivate shared understanding, aesthetic, collaboration and discovery.

This level of mindfulness and appreciation for the intricacies of the artistic path was apparent at each destination across San Francisco, at various times highlighting parallels with our textile community in Philadelphia. Whether talking with Yoshiko about the Fabric Workshop Museum, or speaking with Kay Sekimachi about the work of Michael Olszweski, or chatting about Galbraith & Paul block prints in the Heath Ceramics Showroom, there was an exciting synergy and pattern to the connections. At times, surprising overlaps took place, such as visiting the Experiments in Environment: Halprin Workshops exhibit at the California Historical Society, and learning that the works were next to travel to Penn Museum to return to the permanent collection—only to later discover that there will be an upcoming Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin exhibition at the Fabric Workshop Museum this Spring.

At various turns there was an emphasis on collaboration, especially while speaking one-on-one with Matt Dick, a force in the field of uniform design, indigo and alternative lifestyle branding, and founder of Small Trade Company. Matt’s path, beginning as an intern for Yoshiko while studying at CCA, is as dynamic as his studio space situated within the Heath Collective, an impressive multi-maker factory. Yet another space demonstrating the city’s focus on local artists as well as environmental issues was the Yerba Buena Arts Center. Two exhibits in particular, the “Works in Progress South of the Market,” showcased in the artist in residency work space, as well as “Golden Prospects” installed upstairs, inspired a range of discourse.

Returning to the theme of honoring the teacher and one’s craft, one Bay Area artist in particular, Kay Sekimachi, a legend in the contemporary art field, embodies creative grace within the process of her artistic path. It was a true honor to have the opportunity to visit with such a dedicated weaver as she gracefully shared a preview of works for her upcoming Spring exhibition at the De Young Museum. Her solo exhibit promises to be a breathtaking showcase featuring an expansive collection of work throughout her career. Select works from the exhibit will be displayed in flat file drawers, revealing an array of techniques that Kay has mastered over time—even her earliest of weavings, while she studied with Trude Guermonprez, will be on view. In the beauty of her sunlit studio, my window of time with Kay encompassed an experience of pure inspiration which I will treasure for years to come.

A few more favorite moments of the trip were popping into the Tail of the Yak Boutique; walking through Marcia Donahue’s Magical Sculpture Gardens and perusing her collection of Kuba cloth; meeting Carol Lee Shank and viewing her wonderful clothing collection as the sun set outside her studio window; and listening to Yoshiko share Choshi dye recipe details with Cynthia Dakopolos, WSN member and natural dyer, at the WSN headquarters. Of course, each of these Bay Area encounters took place with the backdrop of the mountains, the scent of blooming flowers, crisp blue skies, and heartwarming temperatures.

For me, as a shibori practitioner, the experience of meeting Yoshiko, the author of our technique and legend in the global textile community, was, to say the least, a pinnacle moment. I would venture to say that Yoshiko Wada’s practice of cultivating community is in itself a unique form of Shibori. Yoshiko has seamlessly folded and gathered decades of extraordinary research and genuine relationships with carefully crafted skill, creating beautiful patterns seen throughout not only the Bay Area and the U.S., but globally as well. I feel fortunate to have met Yoshiko, and I am grateful to her for revealing to me the ‘folds’ of her Bay Area Fiber Art community.

Contributed by World Shibori Network Member:
Melissa D’Agostino