This week I squeezed in a visit to Ruthin, North Wales, to see the Reiko Sudo and Japanese Style: Sustaining Design exhibition before it comes down this weekend.  As with all Reiko Sudo’s work, the style is clean, interestingly hung, and descriptive.

The sight, as you walked into the gallery (which is a lovely open space with light from large windows and gallery lighting) was an abundance of elegant forms suspended from the ceiling.  The lengths of fabric had been draped over hangers in a way remeniscent of kimono draped around the neck, and fastened together at the front by a simple fabric-covered clip which allowed the fullness of the cloth to move gently in the air flow of passing people.  You were able to wander around the pieces at will, choosing your own path, to explore the work as took your fancy.

Each piece was documented with a handling piece overhanging a description of its conception or broad technical information as to method, and enlarging on this were presentations of different yarns, fibres, and concepts simply pinned directly to the gallery wall and covered in front with a sheet of perspex.  The shadows cast by the swirling yarns and fibres gave extra depth and quality to the presentation.  Simple numbers stuck to the floor under each of the fabric forms related to the technical information and handling pieces which were gathered into related groups around the walls.  Simple, clean, effective, and totally entrancing.

I went with a fellow student on my MA course who is a mixed-media sculptor, and she was as clearly engaged as I.  The larger-than-life size of the exhibit induced a feeling of openness to contemplation, an unhurried absorption of the tactility of the fabrics, the unity of the concept behind the exhibit, the attention to detail.

Alongside the textile exhibition was also an exhibition of Japanese style incorporating ceramics, Kagure, Urban Research, and architecture exploring sustainable design.  There was also a fascinating video of papermaking which I would have loved to have been able to buy as a DVD.  The ceramics featured the Hale Collection of Tohoku Ceramics, traditional ceramics from the Tohoku region collected by David and Anne Hale. They were exquisite and exuded that quintessential essence of simplicity, elegance, fitness for purpose and sheer beauty in simplicity that is what I associate with the best of Japanese design.

There were also modern-day Japanese potters showing here – Takahiro Kondo, and Shinsuke Iwami – and their work was available for sale.  Kagure, Urban Research is a Japanese ethical design initiative that specialises in working with crafts people whose practice has a strong commitment to sustainable development, and whose work reflects the traditions of the medium in which they work.  Items on display included textiles, ceramics, iron and wood, bamboo and baskets by members of the group.  Their philosophy is ‘to lead a local, sustainable life style, and a connection with the earth, even in the city’. (Taken from the exhibition programme).

In several studios within the Ruthin Craft Centre were examples of Japanese architecture from Kazuya Morita, Tono Mirai, and Studio Archi Farm.  These were very interesting and thoughtful displays of models, video and images and gave me food for thought.

My only regret is that I didn’t go earlier and participate in some of the wonderful workshops that had been held – in papermaking (Gill Wilson), shibori (Michelle Griffiths), sashiko (Michele Walker), 3D Construction and Print (Mai Thomas), and a dance performance (Sioned Huws and Reina Kimura).

However, for those of you unable to attend, at least you can buy the exhibition catalogue – ZokuZoku – to add to the growing collection of inspirational fabrics that Reiko Sudo and Nuno Fabrics have created and illustrated in their books.