Humanity

This week, I’ve been struck with a wave of warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ingrid Dress all packed up with a little sprig of Lamma floral

Ingrid Dress all packed up with a little sprig of Lamma floral

INGRID dress in silk plisse, hand-dyed in Cutch

INGRID dress in silk plisse, hand-dyed in Cutch

The amount of generosity and unexpected support I’ve received since embarking on Su by Hand, has been phenomenal.

THANK YOU to all.

It’s led me to think it really is true that when we do what we love, that is also authentic and meaningful, it resonates with people and we attract good energy from the universe.

From friends who literally sent cash in the post (they are admittedly unconventional types) and entrusted me with her wedding dress, to strangers and friends once close whom I haven’t seen for yeeeears who surprised me with their orders from all corners of the world, to those who collaborated for free, lending their time and skills to imbue each Su by Hand piece with even more beauty and meaning, and friends who actively help spread the word, the list goes on. And we’ve only just started.

I never wanted to create a brand, as I never believed in making more stuff for consumption.

We have enough stuff and enough brands.

What I wanted to do, was really, to spread the idea of clothing as something more akin to craft, something precious that is not bought and thrown away within a few months. To create an emotive connection between ourselves and the clothes that we wear. To raise awareness of craft, the beauty of the handmade and diversity within fashion. To also give back to the consumer, items worthy of its price-tag. The prices for Su by Hand now are high because alot of attention is paid to ensure that each piece is 100% silk and made-to-order with amazing workmanship in a social enterprise where I know how clothes are made.

The next collection will have some ready-made pieces (still very small batch and limited to 5-10 pieces per style) with more accessible price points. I’d also love to get back on my marbling workshops to spread the love of making.

It is not easy for a designer to start a brand. Creating a ‘successful’ (questionable term depending on our definition of what success means) brand has more to do with marketing, promotions and generating hype than it does making beautiful products.

As ironic as it may sound, designers are often like artists. We are so committed to the product with such high expectations on how it should look/feel/mean, that we never get round to showing it out to the world. It is never good enough. We are also neurotic, stubborn individuals who believe in authenticity, that an image (be it on FB, IG and the illusionary world of social media..) exists because it was made by us. The IG accounts of ‘sustainable’ brands is starting to look like the glossy spread of a holiday magazine where a women sits around all day flipping interior deco mags, sipping coffee (or healthy fruit juice) and wearing straw hats.

I’d like to have more authentic images that explain the brand story and process, but it is often not easy (and counter-intuitive to creating) to take pictures when one is actively making things, alone. More work to be done on that one.

Fragments make one whole

It's been awhile since my last entry. We've had another marbling workshop since then at the Hive, this time with a clothing up-cycling theme. Again it was fully booked! No better way to spend a Saturday afternoon, what with all that warm, happy, creative buzz when you bring a whole bunch of people together, all passionate about textiles craft. Pictorial documentation of our happy day here!

IMG_1231.JPG

I've been working on a small personal collection of limited one-offs.

'Fragments make one whole' is the theme for this collection, inspired by a quote from Anais Nin. 

"There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic."

Somehow, that really struck a chord. The process is fragmented, like our experiences in life, but the teaching and final coming together, is illuminative. The way I envisage the collection is a patchwork of disparate, handcrafted elements, all coming together in their slightly fragmented rough-hewn, slightly imperfect way for a beauty that is ephemeral. 

This will be a capsule collection of classics utilising handcrafted fabrics, with marbling and shibori natural dyeing techniques, with some collaborative haute-couture embroidery! Very excited. The outcome should be precious. A sneak peek here with some pictures of the process...

Accordion-pleated shibori dyeing in madder root

Accordion-pleated shibori dyeing in madder root

Unravelling the shibori piece, always an exciting (sometimes fearful) moment!

Unravelling the shibori piece, always an exciting (sometimes fearful) moment!

On the marbling tray...

On the marbling tray...

IMG_1568.JPG

Chiara Vigo and Sea Silk!

31285704_10160390580355038_5771649066081452032_n.jpg

It was amazing to meet the charismatic Chiara Vigo, the last lady in the world who still harvests sea silk, in Hong Kong of all places! Thanks to Para Site gallery which flew her in, I had the chance to watch a documentary on her and feel sea silk (also known as byssus) fibres. This incredibly rare and seemingly weightless silk fibre is harvested from the solidified saliva of deep sea clams in the waters surrounding the Sardinian island of Sant'Antioco.

Her practise can best be described as a mixture of an ancient textile tradition and folklore, for much of her textile making process is accompanied by chants combining Sardinian dialect with Hebrew. Historically, byssus yarn was first mentioned on the Rosetta stone and said to have been found in the tombs of pharaohs.

_84550752_clothtop.jpg
th.jpeg

Using a hand spindle, Chiara demonstrated the spinning of byssus fibre into yarn and how soaking it in a special concoction gave it a golden gleam. All shells and impurities need to be extracted from the fibres which must then be desalinated for weeks..before it can be used. And since so little can be harvested each time, it took her 12 years just to make a tie! 

The hand spindle gave me a few ideas...another promising new toy, more possibilities for textile making..

Incredibly (especially when one lives in a highly monetised city such as HK..), byssus yarn is not for sale and Chiara sees herself as carrying on a long line of family tradition tasked with passing on this art for the benefit of humankind. She gave us all a tuff of byssus yarn for keepsake. There is now a crowd-funding drive to raise enough funds for the reopening of her studio/museum!

https://buonacausa.org/cause/chiaravigo

IMG_0957.jpg
IMG_0967.JPG
IMG_0968.jpg

Colour Studies

IMG_0534.JPG

There are some colours that are particularly hard to achieve with the Jacquard Marbling inks that I use. But tangerine, bronze, auburn and ochre are some of the colour stories that have been playing on my mind for awhile now.

Inspired to a large extent by the forest fire on Lamma last summer that turned the green fields golden brown, I wanted to play with these warm hues. Stencil marbling by blocking off parts of the paper was another new experiment.

IMG_0536.JPG
IMG_0518.jpg
IMG_0535.JPG

Marbling Workshop at the Harbour School, H.K

2018 seems to have started with a bang, with 3 months gone by in a whizz before I've had time to recap the events of the last few months! March concluded with a workshop as a guest instructor at the Harbour School H.K, working alongside some very talented young artists. What a joy it was to work on their massive workbench, in a very well-equipped art studio, set up for all the mess we were about to create. Proper drying racks that we filled up with trays after trays of artworks, all full of surprising colour stories. The beauty of marbling, is never knowing what comes out... 

harbourschool3.JPG
harbourschool5.JPG
harbourschool2.jpg
harbourschool4.JPG
harbour school1.jpg
harbourschool6.JPG

Batik and indigo dyeing workshop in Vietnam

And so 2017 ended with a last-minute trip I made to Hanoi, Vietnam for a batik and indigo dyeing workshop!

indigo workshop.jpg
IMG_7791.JPG

What better way there is to travel than with the objective of immersion in a local, textile craft.

The 2 days workshop in the high hills of Pa Co in the beautiful Mai Chau valley of Hoa Binh, 150km west of Hanoi, was a culturally immersive experience. Not least for the amazing fellow textile lovers that I met on this trip, what a bunch of passionate, inspiring, creative women! 

Check out the Textile Linker http://textilelinker.com/workshop/ website for more details of the craft-based workshops that they organise in Vietnam. Really glad that there are locals like Nguyen with a real love of the crafts who is also passionate and knowledgeable about sustainable development.