This is the description about how Susan’s Boro Series came about. To see the entire collection, click here.
The ten fiber collage works in the Boro Series were constructed between 2005-2011. As it sometimes happens, a few things came together at the same time: A) Across 15 years in business, I had somehow collected (aka couldn’t throw out) a LOT of very small Japanese vintage textile remnants, both from cutting fabric kits for my business and from my own projects using these kinds of fabrics. B) I happened upon an outdoor installation of large cloth banners adhered to nylon netting, purposefully hung outside to react “with” the natural environment. I was struck with how light traveled through the fabrics and how wind caused the large banners to bend and change shape. C) I needed a hand-sewing project for the 15-hour airplane ride to Japan in January 2005. D) The deadline: When Amy Katoh (owner of Blue & White shop) asked me what I was making, I told her I wasn’t sure yet where it was going. She asked if I could make six of these “whatevers” by July for a special exhibit in Tokyo. I said yes.
The full title of the series in Japanese is “Arigato: Boro Boro Byobu.” Let’s take this apart… Many people know that the Japanese word arigato means “thank you,” but to whom? In this case it represents my gratitude to the many people of Japan who informed me about the detailed process of making Japanese textiles, to the artisans who crafted these humble fabrics, and to the cloth itself.
Boro-boro is a uniquely Japanese concept that refers to a state of being with only vague guidelines. When something (such as hand-spun, hand-woven cloth from an old kimono) is labeled “boro-boro,” it has become worn and tattered from daily/ordinary use across many years. Likely it was repaired and patched many times, but it is no longer repairable and doesn’t offer much – if any – remaining value. Despite its weak physical appearance, however, both the spirit of the maker and the wearer linger; one might even hear a whispered melody between the threads. Holding the bits of cloth in the palm of our hands, we feel a sense of reverence for and connection to life in old Japan rise up. We shake our heads in sadness and mutter “mottainai, ne!” (“Such a waste!”), acknowledging the effort of the maker and its life of service in all its reincarnations. To save these otherwise seemingly useless bits cloth from the garbage bin, I created works allowing them “one more round,” so their individual voices could merge with their sisters’ and be appreciated just a little longer.
A byobu is a Japanese screen. Typically, it is painted with flowers, birds, and seasonal landscapes of specific locations, but it could also portray a picture of interior life (such as kimono hanging on a rack), or famous battle scenes, or historic festivals. Screens can be used to decorate a wall, but also to divide a space, to create privacy, or mark a physical limit (don’t go past here). They come in various heights and sizes and can be a single flat piece or have up to 6 folds, and sometimes come in pairs of sixes. For my Boro Series, byobu is a play on words as the work is constructed using nylon netting or “screening” as backing, hand sewing the cloth directly onto it. There is no batting or backing in the works; they are not quilts. All ten pieces can be hung either horizontally or vertically. Shown here on the website as two-dimensional flat works, they are both translucent when hung near light, and flexible, meaning they can be bent or coaxed to soft 3D shapes and/or worn as adornment.
As a final note, the works in this series have been exhibited both in Tokyo and New York by invitation and by jury process and featured in two catalogs. All work is by the artist, no assist. All work is for sale. Prices on request.