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© Dana McCown 2005

Ozquilt Network Newsletter Issue #57 September 2005

Quilts by Japanese textile artist, Tomie Nagano, pay homage to the pioneer artisans of Japan's great textile tradition and those pioneer families who wore them. These quilts of antique handcrafted fabrics cross cultural boundaries linking to the Western quilting tradition.  

Textile Artist Tomie Nagano was given the kimonos belonging to her grandparents, great pioneers of their time, when she was 36 years old. She states, "This marked the beginning of a life changing experience for me. I made the decision to dedicate my time to preserving the history of fabrics in Japan. My mother had recycled family clothing into quilts and I felt this was a way of preserving the history and family ties to my grandparents. I pulled apart their special kimonos, washed and pressed the material and made simple patterned quilts. All my quiltmaking is by hand." Some of the fabrics are cut into strips and then rewoven to utilize damaged and worn cloth. All of the quilts in the Two Hearts in Harmony series are made with 1 inch log cabin strips. The largest quilts are approx 240 cm x 320cm - there are four at that size.

To add to her textiles, Tomie traveled to antique markets and collected over 4000 kimonos, which were worn from approximately 1883 to 1950. Many of these are indigo dyed and have been worn by Japanese farmers.  

The exhibition includes several indigo dyed garments of Tomie's grandfather crafted with hand woven ikat designs. Featured is a kimono shaped yogi  futon with tsutsugaki resist decoration. Photographs of her pioneer family are also included. 

 Dana McCown © 2005.             

Dana McCown's background in textiles is focused mainly in weaving. She trained as an art teacher and did a masters degree in recent years. She was planning the advanced degree but the textile lecturer died. Therefore she switched departments and  majored in Educational Technology, centering her study around the textiles she was researching. She gained skills that enabled her to develop multimedia products to enhance the exhibition she was curating at the time.  

Several years ago she curated an exhibition of a specialised Indian double ikat textile that she researched during her extended stays in India (1995-1999). This was opened in the Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery and then toured. So when the Toowoomba Gallery decided to mount an exhibition of quilts by Japanese quilter, Tomie Nagano, they offered her the position of curator. Dana was able to go to Hokkaido to Tomie Nagano's studio in September to make a video and work on the exhibition. Presently she is developing a full colour 32 page catalogue. This exhibition is to travel in 2006, and if any readers would like to see it, contact your local gallery and express interest. Dana thinks it is going to be of great interest, especially to other quilters. Editor





Initially I became a weaver because of my family heritage. I had never seen a loom, but had grown up living with a special tablecloth woven by my great aunt in Sweden. All important occasions in the family were an excuse to bring out the Swedish tablecloth. When on holidays about 35 years ago, an opportunity came along to attend a week long weaving workshop. And I have been weaving ever since. But I have not gone to the extent that my great aunt did of actually growing the flax in her own garden and spinning it.


Along my journey in textiles, my interaction with others has been stimulating and challenging. In 1974 living in Townsville, I found that it was difficult to obtain supplies being the only weaver in town. Getting together with June Oliver, quilter and embroiderer, we decided to try and form an organisation of like-minded textile based practitioners. Thus Fibres and Fabrics Creative Textiles Assoc. was born. That group grew from the initial 12 attending the first meeting to 80 people within a short time. Weekly meetings were held, workshops were organised and exhibitions mounted. The interaction with other creative people was nurturing.


When it comes to what inspires my individual work, I can see that it often reflects what else is happening in my life. Sometimes it has been bird watching or even my interest in computer technology. Recently it has been India as I have had the opportunity to spend part of each year there where my husband had a research project. The work of those skilled Indian craftsmen influenced me to weave a number of related pieces. The Indian influence has been multi-layered. There is their vibrant use of colour which seems more pronounced in a semi-arid environment. There is the realization that many of the traditional textile skills are no longer economically rewarding. Weavers are now attempting to have their children educated in computer skills and other more financially rewarding areas.


As a weaver, my techniques are thread based. My first exhibition featured tapestries in off-loom technique. I designed large aluminium frames in abstract shapes. I had them constructed professionally, but drilled the hundreds of holes myself to warp the shapes and use them as a loom. Most of my work however is loom woven. I prefer to use colour rather than complex weaves to create my ideas. I have used warp painting, using dyes on the threads before they are woven. Ikat, the exacting process of tie-dyeing warp and/or weft to create a pre-planned design is one of my favourite techniques. This is because of my interest in the Indian and other societies that have mastered the technique. I have seen these traditional techniques for ikat in India, Borneo, Thailand and Japan. But I also enjoy designing on the computer and printing my handwoven cloth through my printer. Besides conceptual pieces for exhibitions, I also weave cloth for practical purposes such as clothing, rugs and linens.


I also find that curating exhibitions is a creative process I enjoy. I did take a one semester course in museum exhibition techniques over 40 years ago. But practical experience with Fibres and Fabrics (Townsville Qld) exhibitions developed my interest further. In Toowoomba I have curated a number of exhibitions, the latest being "Two Hearts in Harmony Japanese Heritage Quilts".


© Dana McCown 2005