Eley Kishimoto-Flash

I think I will just “flash” this post in like this week’s assignment was flashed on us.  While we are doing a long Eley Kishimoto brief this term, we also worked on a short one this week.  We only had 24 hours to make our designs. I made three designs in two color-ways, each for an iPhone X cover.  It was surprisingly fun, and while it was intense and hard work, I personally think I work best under pressure; I feel like I’m more productive, not to mention that I think I produce better work that way.

This is the first, albeit small, project where I felt like I really understood what it’s like to be a designer and the process of designing. It’s a whole facet of production that I wasn’t interested in exploring before, but now am.

I was also really pleased with my designs.  I am glad that they got the push that they needed in the final few hours.  One thing I need to work on is working through dissatisfaction with my initial design, which I think I really did in this project.  I’m almost sad it’s over despite the constant screen time, which is never a good thing for me no matter how much fun I find the project. However, it gave me a new perspective on my working style and I find that stimulating.

Here are my final 6 designs:




The journey so far

It’s funny how life works out: the journey takes us to places we weren’t sure we would revisit, yet here I am, back in the UK (or more precisely, Wales), just an hour away from where I originally started my BA studies.

It feels like I’ve only been here a few weeks, yet more than half a term has already flown by and it’s already so close to the holidays.  How did this happen? I am unprepared for the year to be so nearly over!

I have spent the last six weeks feeling like it’s just been play time, drawing geometrics shapes, sometimes using only rulers and not free hand, which I found oddly freeing (pardon the pun), working with block colours and different line weights.

I am now starting to work into the bigger project for the term.  It feels like we’re just starting, but in reality we are smack in the middle of the term.  However, now I am finally able to work with digital images and am experimenting with repeat patterns.   I also worked on the laser cutter this past week, something that I am definitely rusty at, but that I know I will be working more with in the future because I can get a wonderful quality of line that is not achievable any other way.  It does feel a little bit all over the place at the moment, but I do think that’s mostly in my head.  In the end it will all come together, but at the moment my brain feels like the beginning of a mind map with little bubbles everywhere.

It’s really never easy settling into a new place, although I should be a pro at it by now.  Nevertheless, it’s always difficult settling into a new city: where to buy what, making new friends and sorting out all the little things that you never think of if you don’t move, such as purchasing a phone plan and finding an apartment (and all the ensuing problems that go along with it), but after having been here for six weeks, things are starting to settle down and I can really focus on my work. I’m looking forward to printing more as I’ve now exposed one screen, although I was rusty and the coating left something to be desired, but with practice I will get there and I’m excited to do more and print a repeat pattern next time.

It’s really lovely to be back in a world I know so well, yet with new insight. I’m happy I’m able to bring my newfound knowledge gathered last year at the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen into the mix, seeing with new eyes; it is something I find very freeing.  In a way, this is a freedom I’m not used to experiencing.

Stories in Amman pt 3

Sham-bar. Synthetic, with coins on the border; the coins used are genuine silver.  The fabric is dyed black and embroidered with silk threads, coins and sequins. The two stripes are sewn together with decorative seems. The silk fringe is worked separately and then attached. Fringes are part of the woven band that is also sewn onto the scarf. Worn in central Syrian villages. The majority of embroidery stitching uses couching stitch.   The small parts with thicker threads on one end were added in during the weaving process.  With two small blue beads. Embroidery threads are mixed cotton/wool/DMC.  Circa 1900-1910.IMG_1215

fter careful analyse of the fabric under a microscope, it has been determined that the black fabric is synthetic and most likely imported from Japan.  This deduction has been made due to the time period and the high quality of synthetics that were coming out of Japan at the time.


Wrinkled silk, wetted and then wrapped around a piece of wood to achieve the wrinkled affect.

Stories from Amman part two – the Abaya

According to Mrs. Widad Kawar, this Abaya was made in Syria by an Iraqi woman using Palestine embroidery patterns on a piece of handwoven Iraqi wool fabric called al-najafy . The original owner of the Abaya ordered it because she was going to receive the Prince’s Choice award from Holland and so it was made and worn for the special event.

Blue Abaya with heardscarf Front

The Abaya is comprised of two long pieces woven in the Islamic year of 1389 (1969 AD).  It is very rare to be able to place the date so precisely, but this skilled weaver wove the date into the decoration on the back of the Abaya.   Women usually went around the home in short sleeves in Arab countries. If they left the house to go out they put on an Abaya as a quick and easy cover up. They used to be made either in Syria or Lebanon.Blue Abaya with heardscarf sideBlue Abaya with heardscarf

It was bought by Mrs. Kawar’s daughter at an auction in NYC.

Blue AbayaIMG_0754

Photos with girl, could be considered orientalist style.

Stories from Amman


As I have mentioned before, I would like to share some stories of textiles I have studied and photographed in Amman.  This might just be a short text on where they come from, or it might be the story of how the garment became part of the collection.  First, I would like to start with this wedding set comprised of a jacket and skirt:

Blue Velvet Skirt and JacketThe daughter of an Arab banker in Jerusalem was getting married and the family were influenced by the Ottoman formal dress style and Ottoman styles in general so they decided to go to Damascus and order a dress in the Ottoman style but with a European twist, and they were told it would be finished in two months. After two months had passed and it wasn’t finished, they took it to be finished in Aleppo. The people who finished the wedding outfit in Aleppo were two woman who were also invited to bring it to Jerusalem and attend the wedding. It was worn on the night before the wedding (they were Christian) and it became the talk of the town. 1912 apx or in the 20’s after the war.

Blue Velvet Skirt

Mrs. Kawar came to have the dress when two sisters of the bride living in Damascus came to inherit it.  The bride had already left the Middle East. The two sisters, through a friend, heard about Mrs. Kawar and that she collected dresses.  They called her from Damascus.  They had a very high asking price and when she refused, hung up. Later in the day they called back and accepted the new price.  The two sisters said they might come or they might send it. One day later they called again, this time from Amman, where Mrs. Kawar resides. With the dress, they had travelled though the night on a bus from Damascus to Amman; the journey by bus took 5 hours. When they arrived they said that they could not depend on anyone to carry the money for them, so they had come themselves. Mrs. Kawar invited them to stay but they said they could not and left the same day.  They came prepared to take the money in cash, as one of them pulled out a money belt and quickly hid the money from sight.

Blue Velvet Jacket back

The blue velvet skirt and jacket are embroidered using the Samra technique.  The name of the pattern is “The Name of the Thousand Branches”.


The dress has a variety of stitches in silver threads that are gold plated on velvet cotton, probably imported from Europe and more specifically Germany.  The silver threads originate from Aleppo.  Embroidery became more connected with Aleppo when machines were invented to produce the silver thread.

DSCF6566Mrs. Kawar acquired it in the early 1990’s.

Back to Base


I had a wonderful experience in Amman! I really am surprised at how fast the past two weeks have gone by, with so many things to do and see. I found so much rich history and so many stories hidden away in the Middle East. The textiles of the Middle East form a large part of its culture and traditions.  Simply being there and soaking up knowledge is a tangible experience that is difficult to explain or put into words.  For example, by the end of the trip I had a good idea of where a fabric was produced just by looking at it.  I learned some interesting things about Middle Eastern jewelry as well, which is a whole other field in and of itself, but since jewelry and textiles are both important parts of the cultural costume, they go hand in hand and you can’t help but learn about both even if you didn’t intend to in the first place. Safe to say, I learned a thing or two about Middle Eastern jewelry as well.  The makers of silver jewelry traveled around the Middle East (they were often the people that harvested crops) so there was not a country-specific jewelry style. Some styles seem to be timeless; they are found in archaeological grave finds throughout the Middle East as well as sold in jewelry shops today, making them one of the hardest things to determine the true origin of.

One of the reasons that the Triaz Widad Kawar Home for Arab Dress  (http://tirazcentre.org/en/widad-kawar) is such an important and inspirational place to study is that it is one of the only places that has such an extensive Middle Eastern textile collection.   This heritage should be protected as it is slowly eroding and morphing into something that is not nearly as nice as the things from the past. Modern fabrics and machines are taking over and, while this allows textile artists more freedom of design, it also means that the traditional patterns and methods are slowly sinking out of sight without being fully recorded. I would encourage everyone who has an interest to visit.  By educating yourself, you become one more person who is there to share the knowledge.

In the following post, I will highlight a small sample of some of the textiles I find the most interesting, including not only the history and story of each textile, but also the story of how they came to be in this most impressive collection as well.

One Week in Amman

I am here in Amman, Jordan to study the collection of an inspiring textile collector named Widad Kawar who has the largest collection of Middle Eastern textiles in the world.  Not only are her textiles amazing but she is an inspirational person to be around because of all of her knowledge about textiles.  I’m here to work with and study her Syrian collection and catalogue the silk pieces produced in Syria; there are so many that it’s an impossible task to complete in just two weeks, but I’m going to try and do as much as I can! 

I’m working to catalogue all the silks, but focusing on the brocades that I find, as well as the ikats.  The ikats come from Aleppo and I find them very interesting as ikat is not an easy technique to master.. There are also lots of lovely indigo-dyed cotton fabrics coming out of Aleppo. I think one of the most interesting things is how different cities specialized in different techniques.  You can tell where a  piece was from, or even the village or tribe of the person who was wearing it, simply by the pattern and the cut.  Since what comes from where hasn’t been recorded  the people that can still make or at least identify where they came from are fast disappearing, making it doubly important that we can write it down now. This is one of the many reasons I feel it’s so imperative that we document all these things now, and that they be studied and catalogued today and not tomorrow. 
I wanted to share some of things that I’ve been able to study with you today so that you can have an idea about what I’m working on.  
These are some of my favroite pieces. They are actually all men’s jackets from different parts of Syria, mostly from Damascus.  The short one is a Bedouin jacket used for weddings and the longer two were used for festive occasions.  They were all produced between 1910-1935.
More to come later with even more intesting discoveries.  Honestly, for a textile person who’s interested in history and the Middle East, it’s a bit like Candy Land.Yellow and Gold Dress FrontMen's Wedding jacket backRose and Gold Dress 1