Author: Rebecca Cross

In celebration of the fourth annual New York Textile Month, members of the Textile Society of America will author Object of the Day for the month of September. A non-profit professional organization of scholars, educators, and artists in the field of textiles, TSA provides an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide.

Japanese artist Junichi Arai (1932-2017) is a giant in textile innovation, and founder of the NUNO corporation, a research facility devoted to structural and surface textile design. Arai designs singular fabrics through a wide range of experimental techniques. He creates exciting textural surfaces through shrinkage, by weaving with metallic, wool and other threads. His transformation of cloth into aleatory surfaces (like on this object) and pleats, which are featured in the fashion designs of Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, include the sublimation of dyes through heat and printing presses. While his original creations maintain a clear connection with traditional shibori techniques of binding and compressing fabrics, he pushes at the limits of textile design possibilities, and in the process, creates beautiful and always astonishing compositions in texture and color.

In this piece, a large piece of dyed, plain weave polyester has been selectively disturbed through hand puckering, covered with a sheet of pigment-infused paper, and placed through a printer, which through additional heat and compression, apply the color onto the flattened pleats. The result is magical: a textured, randomly pleated surface that reveals the original color of the cloth beneath and within the newly applied color. Although this technique has been widely applied in the fashion industry since his invention, Arai’s touch is ever present in these results. Here, his transformed cloth, when wrapped around the body – as it would be with this scarf – subtly performs color gradients and shadow variations that suggest a third dimension, in perfect resonance with the form and movement of the human body.

Artist Rebecca Cross lives in Oberlin, Ohio, and teaches at Kent State University (Kent) and Praxis Fiber Workshop (Cleveland). Her biomorphic work in textile sculpture, drawing and installation, focuses on memory, beauty and species sustainability.

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