Threads

This month, Mary Taguchi has an exhibition of Kasuri cotton fabrics at the Altenberg & Co in Braidwood, NSW.

In her description of the fabrics, Mary writes:

The old cloths tell the story of villagers who tie and dye threads into intricate patterns before weaving the cloths needed for life, as clothing, as bedding. The new cloths are all from my contact with a present day Japanese pedlar …

Marilyn Murphy points out:

Kasuri is a Japanese word from the verb kasureru meaning “to blur”… it’s a method of creating patterns in cloth through a dye process whereby threads are bound or resisted before the dyeing.

Mary adds:

kasuri is created by weaving together thread that has been pre-dyed with a calculated pattern. Thread is first bound with string in predetermined areas, then dyed repeatedly in vats of indigo. After the bindings are removed, white areas will be revealed; in the weaving the pattern takes shape, either by weft alone, or warp alone, or by both warp and weft in combination.

Mary’s exhibition shares the beauty of Kasuri cloth and in the tranquil environment of the Altenburg exhibition space, reveals the complexity of the creation of Kasuri in a wonderfully simple way.

I left the exhibition thinking about threads and how the concept of Kasuri might help me contemplate learning journeys.

Then serendipity struck to help amplify my thinking about threads. Solomon Kingsnorth introduced me to Mr Yamazaki:

a small, unassuming headteacher from Kanazawa had transfromed a Truro primary school by importing his special educational potion which he likes to calls the ‘Hitaisho’ method (loosely translated as ‘asymmetrical’, or ‘top-heavy’, which refers mainly to the radical approach he takes to Year One).

Simon says of Mr Yamazaki:

At the heart of Mr Yamazaki’s ‘hitaisho’ method is a beautiful minimalism- a stripping back of every single thing to its ‘bubbling core’ in an attempt to remove all waste from the system. At Mr Yamazaki’s school, less is more. It is a version of mastery that creates true masters.

In reception, this means that there are only 2 learning objectives for the entire year

knowing the alphabet off by heart (by sight and by hand)

counting up to 20 and back down again.

That’s it. No…really.

Solomon reports that “the rest of the time is spent unfolding a very intense program of oral language development”.

He adds:

To step into Mr Yamazaki’s reception class is to enter an enchanted world of fairy tale and myth which seems to encompass the entire world (and those beyond), from Ghanaian creation myths to Japanese folk tales. From 9am–3.30pm, the children are enveloped in a golden cloak of storytelling embroidered by their expertly trained teachers. The children are constantly retelling stories to each other, their parents and the class, with astonishing eloquence. By the time they leave reception, Mr Yamazaki estimates that each child has heard around 500 stories, each one rich with vocabulary and imagery.

I found the combination of Kasuri and the hitaisho teaching approach fascinating.

Whether the threads are of cotton or of stories, both have a magic about them.

My thoughts are moving towards how these threads might be celebrated in learning environments embraced in the values I mentioned in my recent post about Fogo Island.

Photo Credits

Mary Taguchi and Kasuri cloth (Mingei Studio website)

Mr Yamakazi’s School (Solomon Kingsworth)

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