Photo: Lígia Lopes

KYOTO Design Lab Textiles Summer School 2019

What can you do with a fabric technique that has existed for over 300 years? In the Kyoto Design Lab Summer School, I was presented with a challenge to see how the Kyotango’ fabric Chirimen, a traditional woven silk, could be made relevant in today’s world. The once thriving fabric industry in Kyotango, Japan, had lost its relevance due to shifting market demands in the fashion industry. The head of the KYOTO Design Lab Professor Julia Cassim  organised the hands-on workshops ‘Smart Textiles’, led by researcher and media artist Mika Satomi, and ‘Textile Patterns’, led by textile designer Kangan Arora. The KYOTO Design Lab  allowed me the freedom to explore, test and create prototypes of products that highlighted the qualities of the Chirimen fabrics. 


Considering that Chirimen is known for its weaving technique, I naturally delved into experimenting with the weaving patterns of the punch-cards that are used for the weaving machines. The workshop gave me opportunity to use all their advanced machinery, printers, and expertise. I was intrigued by the material properties as it had so much variety in the fabric due to silk being a natural fibre. The fabric itself tells the story of its region. It shows how people have used this natural product and have expressed themselves in it for centuries. 


Similarly to my experience at the Kunstkollektivet 8B Summer residency, I was also inspired by the diversity of people that were part of the workshop. Working alongside them and brainstorming together enriched my learning process during the workshops and gave me new insights of fabrics and the societal impact of shifting product demands.