Tag Archives: fabric art

Reiko Brandon: Exquisite Silk Art

Laurie says:

When I was in Hawaii last month I saw a brief newspaper mention of an exhibition of silk art by Reiko Brandon in a  gallery space at Kapiolani Community College. How the work was made was unclear but it still sounded fascinating. I went to see it and found her work stunning.  It’s made by unwinding silk worm cocoons and then shaping the incredibly fine threads into art.

Silk Hanging

This dramatic hanging was the first piece I saw.

Serendipitously when I went to see the exhibit there was a workshop to make squares for a display quilt that was attended by Sensei Akihiko Izukura from Kyoto, who is the master of this art. I was able to speak with him (through a translator) and later to talk to Reiko Brandon whose work I admired so much.

I made a square experimentally and realized that with time, my hand and design skills would work well with the both the technique and its concepts. Within the limits of the square you can do anything that you find beautiful. It’s the kind of art within limitations that always appeals to me, and one could expand the concept into many shapes.


Laurie making silk square
Me working in shadow.


My finished square before it was lacquered for permanency.  It’s a flat board with nails in four corners. Nails can be placed to make any shapes you want.

Experiencing the technique gave her art a very powerful new dimension for me.

Reiko Brandon wrote about her art at the exhibition:

Cocoon Journey

This exhibition showcases my recent works created directly from silk cocoons colored with natural dyes. Inspiration for these pieces came from the one-year silk workshop given by Mr. Akihiko Izukura in 2012-2013. It was a most remarkable experience for me to observe the amazing life cycle of silk cocoons, from minute eggs to caterpillars, then to cocoons. One cocoon produces extremely fine, lustrous threads as long saw 3000 feet. Fragile, yet strong silk fiber responds beautifully to all natural dyes. It has been a delightful adventure working with silk cocoons.


Close up of silk square
Close up of a silk square.

The square pieces in the show are made by hand-stretching cocoons softened by being immersed in water for several months. The largest, perhaps the most significant piece of this type, Square Cocoons, White was made from approximately 3500 silk cocoons. The various vessel forms are created by reeling a single thread directly from each boiled cocoon, then dipping them in natural indigo. Working with cocoons is a repetitious, time-consuming endeavor. It requires enormous patience, but it gives me a special pleasure, seeing and feeling the mysterious rhythm of nature.


Pots made from silk thread
Pots made from the silk thread.

I doubt if there will ever be time in my life to learn this technique well enough to make good art but it was joy to experience it and see the work.

Brains, Coral, and Helixes: Oh My

Laurie and Debbie say:

I (Laurie) was in Seattle staying with Vonda McIntyre and visiting with friends last week. Vonda is a marvelous (and multiple-award-winning) science fiction writer and she is also a maker of fabulous sea creatures.

Her house has really magical clusters of anemones, jellyfish and other creatures of the sea. They’re made from tiny beads and are three-dimensional, vivid and alive. While she was there I helped her set up a window box with semiprecious rocks and lots of her undersea denizens.

beaded sea creatures in Vonda McIntyre's window

Vonda and her sea creatures have also been written up in Science News Online.

She told me a lot about crafts based on math, science and nature, a design area I was unaware of. When I got home I talked to Debbie about science/crafts and we decided it would be fun to blog about it and show you some examples and links.

quilt of brain cross-sections

This quilt is from the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art (no, really!).

Neither of us is as clear as we would like to be on exactly what a Lorenz manifold is, but apparently crocheting “the famous Lorenz equations that describe the nature of chaotic systems” was both a complex task and turned out to be a very good way to demonstrate a multidimensional concept in a three-dimensional world.


Debbie has followed science artist Bathsheba Grossman for some time; she does astronomicals and molecules in metal or lucite, and also some stunning science concepts, like this Quaternion Julia fractal carved in lucite.

Quaternion Julia fractal set

The Institute for Figuring brings us this giant coral reef project, crocheted by thousands of volunteers from around the world. The link includes an email where you can contribute your own piece of the reef (or of their “Toxic Reef,” made from yarn and plastic trash).

crochet coral and anemone garden

There’s lots more, and here’s a pattern for a hand-knit DNA helix scarf that any knitters out there can make for themselves.

Many of the above links are from Vonda.