Braids 2016 - 'Braids, Bands and Beyond'

I was lucky enough to accompany my mother recently to Tacoma, (near Seattle, USA) for an amazing braiding conference, Braids 2016  - 'Braids, Bands and Beyond'. Not only did I learn some wonderful new techniques, I was able to meet one of my favourite artists, Jacqui Carey (photo of Jacquie with Rodrick Owen below right. Both legends in the braiding world!) It was Jacquie's book that taught me how to braid using kumihimo on a marudai and I have made many sageo since. It was a privilege to be a part of one of her classes during the conference and her ideas have inspired me to look at braiding and braiding outcomes, in a totally different way. 

Kumihimo offers so many patterns to produce infinite possibilities. Jacquie's class encouraged the use of just one pattern on the marudai, a simple square braid, and by changing one variable at a time we were able to create so many different braids. Possible variables we experimented with were - differences in weights (the ratio between the counterbalance weight bag and bobbin weight); number of bobbins on each quadrant of the marudai (creating asymmetrical braids); amount of thread on each bobbin; adding a twist to the bobbin during braiding; adding a tight tug on just two of the bobbin at the end of each sequence of movements and surprisingly enough, how the braider was feeling while braiding. This last variable was a bit of a surprise to me and I was dubious that it could even play a part the final outcome. At every new change in our braid we would put in a marker, you can see in the image (above centre) that mine is a red yarn, so we could compare each change and affect. My braid using the regular square pattern created first thing in the morning was compared to the same pattern created just after lunch. For me there wasn't a huge difference but for some of my class mates there was a marked difference. Perhaps mine remained uniform because I usually create an entire sageo (2.5m in length) in one sitting and the entire braid must be uniform, regardless of how I am feeling. However, I can understand that changes in energy levels would result in different tension. She even compared one of my braids to one of hers using the same pattern and variables and decided the differences in the end result - which were quite marked - came down to the differences in braider. This is something to remember when collaborating with other artists - there is always going to be a difference in how each artist braids even when possible variables are the same.

Another aspect of Jacquie's work is the way she uses her himo. This jacket was created using sample pieces of himo and she told us that many of the pieces are full of mistakes. Of course in an artwork like this the mistakes are completely moot as it is the sum of its parts that makes it beyond amazing. This jacket inspired me in another class I took taught by Lyn Christiansen. In this class we used our sample braids to create something to go on the wall - a small framed piece to show what can be achieved with mere scraps of himo. I have lots of old sageo that I used in my final work and I was surprised at the results. All my samples should have a life on display instead of being shoved into a bag and forgotten. Now where did I put my bag of samples...

Another class I took was taught by an amazing Japanese sensei, Yuko Yoshida. This class was similar to Jacquie Carey's class in that we used one pattern at a time to experiment with and change. However, instead of changing variables we actually changed the pattern of the braid (see sample above right). The results were a surprise every time and even though the classroom we were in was so hot and noisy at times, I really enjoyed learning from Yoshida Sensei and my fellow students. I came away from the week long conference with the strong impression that I have only just scraped the surface of the amazing art of kumihimo and I have so much to learn. I better get braiding...

A huge thank you to my new friends who taught me split ply braiding and gave me the grip fid so I could continue making my (somewhat dodgy) keychain. Mary and Ruth from San Josie (thanks for the ciders and amazing olives!), Susan (thanks for the Leatherman! I was right, my husband is very envious!) Mary, Lynn, Linda, Michelle (for your conversations and teaching) and so many others who were always willing to share expertise and experiences with this novice from Oz. And of course my always wonderful mum, Rosa, who thought she was taking me with her so I could care for her. I think she forgets that she doesn't really need a carer just yet! You all made the trip worthwhile and very memorable. Thank you!

To comment on this post...
Click on the title of the post and scroll to the bottom of the page (it can take a few seconds to load) there will be a comment section. If you have a squarespace account you can log in using the funny Squarespace icon above the field for your name, there is also Google+, Twitter or facebook icons you can use to log in. However, if you have none of these accounts - it's ok! Just write your comment and click on the little person icon and fill in the Your Name field. Email and website are optional and all comments are moderated before publishing :)