Junko Watanabe’s interactive textile designs reaching disabled children

Today, I would like to repost this report which recently appeared on NHK World (Japan) about Junko Watanabe and her cloth books. Not to be confused with the famous fashion designer Junya Watanabe, Junka has been using textile design in a way which reaches the youngest members of our society. Children with disabilities or difficulties have seen benefits from cloth books over the last 30 years.

Watanabe’s work reminded me of my “cut & paste project” which I came up with during my first year at Central St. Martins. The idea was to let children and adults take control of the final design by making interactive clothes. There were playful parts which could be removed and reattached, coloured with fabric markers. Here are a few images of the prototypes.

This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
This t-shirt sends a message about pollution. You can manipulate the tree leaves. Put them up if they are healthy, push them down if your tree got too polluted.
Tree_N_skirt_kwase1
This skirt prototype has velcro elements. You can change their position and customize the elements, for example with fabric crayons from pentel.

 

My professors were not very enthusiastic of my idea and wondered who would ever want to purchase this. However, over the last 10 years more and more interactive  design items have come onto the market! I am happy to see that more designers are thinking the same way.Back then I never considered that children with disabilities could be the end-consumers who’d benefit the most from such products.

Junko Watanabe’s interactive cloth books are not a commercial product but rather a humanistic gift. What an inspiring woman!

Please have a look at NHK’s story about Mrs Watanabe.

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NHK WORLD – Culture & Sports

Nov. 17, 2014

The Fabric of Education

A Japanese artisan has a unique take on the classic picture book. She crafts each one by hand from fabrics, adding a personal touch that seems to connect with readers. And now her creations are reaching children around the world. NHK WORLD’s Mikiko Suzuki has the story.

This is a classroom at a school for disabled children and their parents in Tokyo. Students with disabilities get the chance to experience something new here.

Junko Watanabe created the special books they are exploring. She has been making them for 35 years as a way to give disabled children opportunities to earn.

Watanabe uses felt, kimono material and other fabrics.

Details include embroidery… buttons…and string. Children can practice tying and untying, buttoning and unbuttoning while touching the books. These exercises can foster independence.

“Sometimes a mother calls me to let me know a cloth book inspired her child’s first words. That makes me so happy it brings tears to my eyes.”

Watanabe has assembled a group of volunteers who help make the books and donate them to libraries around Japan.

So far, the group has given more than 20 thousand books to around 500 libraries. This library in a Tokyo suburb has 300 of them.

Eiko Naito and her 8-year-old son Daisuke live nearby. Daisuke was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth.

When he was a year and a half old, he started coming to the library with his mother to borrow cloth books. A book introducing musical notes really caught his eye.

“We also borrow regular books. But he is really drawn to the cloth ones. If I bring a big bag of them home, he’ll say, ‘I want to see one of those!'”
Eiko Naito / mother

Now Daisuke can play the piano. It’s a simple song, but it requires both hands.

“The cloth books have broadened his world. He learned how to read from them. And he got interested in knowing more about the things around him.”
Eiko Naito / mother

It is tough for Daisuke to interpret the notes, move his fingers and listen to the music all at the same time, but he keeps trying.

Now Watanabe and her team are sending the cloth books to children around the world…especially those living in poverty or without access to education.

Some books were sent to an orphanage in Myanmar that takes care of 200 kids. Many had lost their parents in ethnic conflicts, or were abandoned due to poverty.

Other books were sent to students in Africa. They reflected cultural differences, like the way people there count with their fingers.

“People learn their own country’s language and think and act in that language. Just one cloth picture book is something people can explore and learn from. That’s why I want to pass them on to future generations around the world.”
Junko Watanabe

Watanabe believes all children, regardless of their circumstances, can learn something from her picture books. And she hopes this seed of an idea takes root around the world.

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Maude. White. Doves. Tomoko. Shioyasu.

Papercutting, not paper cuts, is what this post is about:

Here is someone who Ron Orp found first, and which I would like to pass on:

Beautiful creations by artist Maude White who cuts paper into…well…white doves! (And other birds, too.)

http://instagram.com/p/rnaHDsoqCC/?modal=true Maude White's bird
http://instagram.com/p/rnaHDsoqCC/?modal=true
Maude White’s bird

And here is what Maude writes on her artist page:

“I am currently working on an exhibition to be shown in Buffalo, NY in September. Also in September I will be offering framed work online for purchase. At this time I’m still figuring my online presence out. I have some small unframed pieces available on my etsy shop BraveBird, but y’all have been so wonderful to me that I am almost out! I need to start cutting again! The larger, framed pieces that I have completed are a bit of a challenge to ship, hence the September availability. I am learning! My email is: bravebirdwork@gmail.com

Maude White Bird Art
Maude White Bird Art

I come from a family of visual storytellers. I have always believed that our vision is as important as our hearing when we communicate. Very rarely do we rely on words alone. It is what we see, and how our brains interpret what we see that shapes our perceptions and actions. I began cutting paper with that understanding. I want my art to communicate to the observer what my words cannot do effectively.

When I was a child I thought a great deal about hidden spaces. The intimacy, the hushed secrecy – I was always looking underneath objects, or through them. I have always believed that if you look hard enough, you will see something precious and new, or, perhaps, something incredibly ancient and sacred. ”

You can visit her page here: http://bravebirdpaperart.com/

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But as a lover of all things Japanese, I absolutely have to include Japanese paper artist Tomoko Shioyasu.

http://www.artnet.com/artists/tomoko-shioyasu/

Shioyasu-san makes amazing and huge papercut tapestries:

A tapestry b Shioyasu-san
A tapestry b Shioyasu-san
Shioyasu-san
Shioyasu-san

 

“I express the rhythm of life flowing through the world. We can’t see it but we are part of the flow.” Says Shioyasu-san.

The press release (from 2011) says, “Shioyasu has continued to develop a vocabulary of organic structure that refers back to primordial forms of nature.” Asked about what she regarded as content in her work, Shioyasu said, “Simply nature itself, particularly that which has existed over an extended period of time — rocks, trees, water channels, cells. I want to look into the essence and roots of life, making works that focus on these basic forms.”

If you would like to find out more about what inspires her, do have a look at this video interview:

Berlin: fashion, cafés and sparrows + INLAND pop-up fashion store report

 

 BERLIN : THE CITIY OF CONTRASTS – OLD and NEW

Around Spittelmarkt
Around Spittelmarkt

 

Yes! I went to Berlin for a meeting and got to explore “Mitte”. What I found on Brunnenstraße was a very cool pop-up store called “INLAND” featuring Scandinavian fashion from Finland.

 

 

Inland shop front

 

Inland designs

 

 

Furthermore, there were reversible kiss-n-tell pillowcases …

Kiss n Tell Pillows

 

By some talented designers:

Some of the designers featured in INLAND
Some of the designers featured in INLAND

 

And a very amazing fridge, housing vitamin drinks and beauty products by “Lumene” which is a range vitamin-C infused cremes.

The fridge!

Vitamin madness

Thank you for my vitamin boost, to the fantastic staff of INLAND who will be there until the end of August and then move on to a yet undisclosed location! Let me know if you find their next pop-up store please.

 

Brunnenstrasse graffitti

Brunnenstrasse Graffitti 2

Brunnenstrasse also has some cool carpets (Jan Kath designer carpets, to be precise), graffitti and Kaviar Gauche, the fancy fashion label which has become a synonym for Berlin.

Jan Kath designer carpats

Here are the most beautiful carpets by textile artist Jan Kath, whose magic carpets I have fallen in love with!

Jan Kath designer carpets 2

…posing in the tiny door which leads into KAVIAR GAUCHE….

 

Outside Caviar Gauche

Finally, we sat down for a well deserved coffee and French tartelettes….

opposite "Gorki Park" café
opposite “Gorki Park” café

We also had some fluffy guests join our table:

fluffy guests on my plate
fluffy guests on my plate

 

 

Street Shots from St. Petersburg – a city of exquisite architecture mixed with modern elements

 

St.Petersburg – what a city! I’ve just returned from a 2-week stay in this beautiful town and I’d like to share some impressions with you.

There is the exquisite architecture – which makes the street’s facades like a museum. I spent hours twisting my neck in the weirdest positions, just to have a look at the mesmerizing houses.

But of course, this city has all the modernity you’d expect from a cosmopolitain town! I’ve stumbled upon Cartier (an entire Cartier house, actually) and Karl, too! Yes, Karl Lagerfeld is about to open a boutique on Bolshoi Prospekt, just a stone’s throw away from my apartment. 🙂 I am looking forward to checking out what Karl will offer next time I go back.

What I liked best is that people really make an effort to look good when out and about. Women gracefully walk on the highest of high heels and don’t wobble even when crossing the zebra crossing means decending by a foot from the ultra-high side walk.

You can have a look at the photos, I think they speak for themselves!

 

 

Near the Neva River and Petropavlovskaya Krepost, stands my new absolute fave: A pistaccio building:

 

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An hour later, near the same building a wedding party arrived in their ride:

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This antiques shop on Zverinskaya Ulica shows a beautiful reflection of the surrounding architecture – as if time stood still.

 

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A very typical St. Petersburg apartment block.

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Let me zoom in……

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This is how we ride:

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Or like this, with spray imagery on the cars. Very interesting, in Russia quite a few cars are decorated with various motifs on the outside. It is legal and makes for a nice change in the daily traffic!

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Or like this, oldskool style:

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A view of Church of the Savior on Blood:

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And for all fashion designers:  just at the next corner – the famous Singer Building! Yes, Singer, just like the sewing machines.

“The building was designed by architect Pavel Suzor for the Russian branch of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The management of the Singer Company initially intended to construct a skyscraper, similar to the Singer Building, the company headquarters being built at that time in New York, but the Saint Petersburg building code did not allow structures taller than the Winter Palace, residence of the emperor. The architect found an elegant solution to the limit of 23.5 meters: the six-storey Art Nouveau building is crowned with a glass tower, which in turn is topped by a glass globe sculpture created by the Estonian artist Amandus Adamson.” After the Revolution, Singer was changed. Now it is the largest book store in town.

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The Cartier building:

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Armani has just moved into the building near my flat:Image

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A Tony and Guy is hiding in this cracked building:

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A view from inside the Hermitage, as it “swims” along the Neva for ever…..

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The Hermitage from the outside:Image

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Some street shots outsie the Hermitage:

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The Soviet-style ribbons in the hair are very nostalgice, especially for Russians! Wonder why this girl decided to wear it like this?

 

 

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Lavender coat:

 

 

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Lavender coat too!

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Fashionable Karl will sort it all out!

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UPDATE: Cyborg Neil Harbisson appointed MA Material Futures Designer in Residence!

Neil_Harbisson_cyborgist

 

I am very pleased to find this on my former university’s website. The very cool Neil Harbisson who I wrote about in my last blog post has been appointed as designer in residence at St Martins – in my old department! How cool is that? Very interesting, that we think along the same lines, the MA course and I..

From the website:

MA Material Futures is honored to announce the appointment of Cyborg Neil Harbisson  as MA MF Designer in Residence !

Neil Harbisson is a Catalan-raised, British-born contemporary artist, musician, and cyborg activist best known for his self-extended ability to hear colours and to perceive colours outside the ability of human vision.[9] In 2004 he became the first person in the world to wear an eyeborg.[10] The inclusion of the eyeborg on his passport photo has been claimed by some to be official recognition of Harbisson as a cyborg.[11] Colour and the use of technology as an extension of the performer are the central themes in Harbisson’s work. In 2010, he founded the Cyborg Foundation, an international organisation to help humans become cyborgs.

 

http://www.textilefutures.co.uk/2014/02/26/cyborg-neil-harbisson-appointed-ma-material-futures-designer-in-residence/

 

Synesthetic artist Neil harbisson thanks to modern technology (not mind-altering substances)

Synesthetic artist thanks to modern technology

(not mind-altering substances)

 

This is a re-post of a fab article I came accross

today. It tells the story of a colour blind artist who

is now experiencing the phenomenon called

“Synesthesia”. Neil Harbisson’s experience could

be categorized as Chromosthesia. here is an brief

explanation from Wikipedia:

“Another common form of synesthesia; it is when people associate sounds with colors. For some, everyday sounds can trigger seeing/hearing colors such as doors opening, cars honking, or people talking. For others, colors are triggered when musical notes and/or keys are being played. People with synesthesia related to music may also have perfect pitch because their ability to see/hear colors aids them in identifying notes or keys. According to Richard Cytowic,[3] sound → color synesthesia, or chromesthesia is “something like fireworks”: voice, music, and assorted environmental sounds such as clattering dishes or dog barks trigger color and firework shapes that arise, move around, and then fade when the sound ends.

Sound often changes the perceived hue, brightness, scintillation, and directional movement. Some individuals see music on a “screen” in front of their faces. Deni Simon, for whom music produces waving lines “like oscilloscope configurations – lines moving in color, often metallic with height, width and, most importantly, depth. My favorite music has lines that extend horizontally beyond the ‘screen’ area.”

Individuals rarely agree on what color a given sound is (composers Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov famously disagreed on the colors of music keys).”

Of course, in the past these mind-altering

synesthetic experciences could also be triggered

through the consumtion of narcotics. In some

cases, they have been know to create flas

hbacks or remain irreversible….Scary stuff!

Please read below the story and feel free to comment!

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Colour-Blind Artist Neil Harbisson Embeds

‘Eyeborg’ in Skull to ‘Hear’ Colour

 

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Artist Neil Harbisson and his ‘eyeborg’. (www.eyeborg.wix.com)

A colour-blind artist can now “hear” colours, after having an “eyeborg” implanted into his skull.

Neil Harbisson, 31, was born with achromatopsia, a rare condition which means he can only see in black and white.

For 10 years, the London-based artist has been using an “electronic eye”, which picks up colour frequencies and transforms them into sound.

In an effort to hear more intricate colours, he has now had the device implanted into his skull.

“This announcement is not the launch of a new product and it is not the presentation of new technology – it is the presentation of a new body part that will allow us to extend our senses in unimaginable ways,” Harbisson said.

Harbisson conceived of the idea for the device after hearing Adam Montandon give a talk about cybernetics at Dartington College in 2003.

The pair then devised the device, which comprises a camera at one end, and an audio device on the other.

Every colour recorded by the camera produces a different vibration or sound and a wi-fi connector allows him to “see” images sent from mobile phones

Last month, in a series of operations in Barcelona, Harbisson had the device implanted into his skull, giving him greater depth of perception, and tomorrow he will unveil the device.

Project spokeswoman Mariana Viada said: “There is now more distinction between the colours – it is much wider and more definite.

“But the most important new thing is that he can now connect with other devices.

“He can now not only perceive the colours that are in front of him but also colours that other people are looking at on their phones.

“Potentially, this means, that he could also communicate skull to skull with other people who have the implant, but at the moment he is the only one.

“How this will exactly work and the details will be revealed by Neil during his presentation.”

Harbisson has used the device to create the world’s first “colour opera”, in which he ordered the sounds produced by an image of Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica into a musical sequence, which singers and musicians then performed.

Speaking at a conference in 2012, he said: “For me the sky is always grey, flowers are always grey and television is black and white.

“But since the age of 21 instead of seeing colour I can hear colour.

“So I’ve been hearing colour all the time for eight years so I find it completely normal to hear it all the time.

“At the start it’s had to memorise the names you have for each colour and the notes but after some time all this information became a perception and I didn’t have to think about the notes and after some time this became a feeling.

“I started to have favourite colours and I started to dream in colour.

“When I stared to dream in colour is when I felt that the software and my brain had united because in my dream it was my brain creating electronic sounds it was not the software and that’s when I started to feel like a cyborg.

“It had become an extension of my senses.”

 

Full article seen here: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/colour-blind-artist-neil-harbisson-embeds-eyeborg-skull-hear-colour-1440525

Frankfurt art fair last week end

My friend spontaneously invited me to co-exhibit at this art fair in Frankfurt. It was great fun! I put on my Stephen Jones white hat and made my way down to the Main rivet along with a big of art….
Continue reading “Frankfurt art fair last week end”