Reading

While going through all my Assignment 2 material for a final Reflective Commentary and then package it all up for snail mail (yay!!!) I realised I haven’t written about these two books.

Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Bernat Klein, a textile designer with an absolute passion for colour, used his autobiography to explain not only himself, but his theories about the nature and importance of design and colour. He was born in 1923 in Yugoslavia and was involved in textiles from an early age, as his parents owned and operated a textile wholesale business. Textiles and clothing – quality, colour, style and presentation –  were always important. The story of his journey from Yugoslavia to Jerusalem to Leeds in Britain to Galashiels Scotland, from religious student to Art School to textile technology at university was interesting in itself, but really a backdrop or preamble.

For Klein, “for those who can speak the language of colour it can express the whole gamut of human emotions” (p51). He argues that colour has been liberated, moving from symbolic use in ancient times to being a vital part of a richer, fuller, more civilised life. Artworks by Turner, Monet, Klee and others are illustrated and discussed in support of these ideas.

Klein has some strong views about the importance of well-trained textile designers to take advantage of and further this evolution – his program of study is quite ambitious and may have been overtaken by changes over the years. I also found his analysis of eye colour to guide colour choice in clothing rather dated. On the other hand his call to teach the young to consume intelligently (p. 94) is very current, as is the approach he took in his textile mill: “For a young, smallish firm to make its impact it must rely on brains rather than brawn, brilliant design ideas rather than quantity of output and turnover” (p 114).

The brilliant design is definitely there. Klein would start the process with an end use in mind. When a clear image emerged, often based on one of his own paintings, he would consider raw materials, equipment and processes. He would then work on constructing the yarn, being innovative in both materials and dye process. Finally there is the weave structure – often fairly simple, and the same structure looking very different due to the unique and unusual yarns and ribbons used in them.

The book finishes with large, detail photos of six fabrics, each with the painting that inspired them and a few paragraphs of text. These are wonderful. The fabrics are so complex you really need the closeup to appreciate them, and it is so interesting to be able to trace the original image in the final fabric.

Klein’s fabrics were very successful and influential, being used in designs by Chanel, Dior and Yves St Laurent.

My description above is very dry and dusty and has sucked the joy and colour and vibrant life out of Klein’s book and work, so I urge you to follow some of the links below and see for yourself.

Resources

All these links were accessed 28 April 2012.

http://nordarchitecture.com/projects/bernat-klein/. A series of photographs from an exhibition at the Scott Gallery, Hawick Museum August – October 2005. These are the best images of Klein’s work that I found on the internet.

http://blog.fidmmuseum.org/museum/2009/09/bonnie-cashin.html. The subject of this page is clothing designer Bonnie Cashin. It includes photos of a coat made using fabric designed by Bernat Klein. There’s a very good closeup photo – not my favourite fabric, but it does show the complexity of the component yarns used.

http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/features/interview-bernat-klein-textile-designer-1-1987390. This interview by Jackie McGlone was published in The Scotsman 28 November 2011.

http://www.saltspringweaving.com/blog/?p=411 Weaving and an exhibition inspired by Bernat Klein’s work. The author, Terry Bibby, does beautiful Saori weaving.

http://www.craftrevival.org/voiceDetails.asp?Code=47 KAUL, EKTA KHOKHAR, Innovation in Creative Industry. This page includes some closeups of Klein’s textiles. There are also some interesting comments on the challenges facing the Scottish textile industry and innovation in traditional crafts.

http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/bernat-klein-photos-by-arthur-massey/ This post has photographs by Arthur Massey of a young Klein at work, and some of the garments created using Klein’s textiles.

http://www.nms.ac.uk/about_us/about_us/press_office/press_releases/2011/klein_acquisition.aspx. National Museums Scotland has acquired Klein’s archive – this is the press release from November 2011.

Reading Klein’s book while working on Assignment 2 was very well-timed for me. While general and widely applicable, the course so far has used stitch and surface design as particular textile techniques. I’ve sometimes wondered how much the sketchbook work could feed into weaving design. Now I have a really clear example of how work in other areas, in this case specifically painting, can underpin weave design.

I should point out there’s a project later in the course on Woven Structures – I haven’t read ahead in the notes, but I’m mildly nervous about pushing myself out of standard weaver mode into a more expressive and innovative exploration. I need to remember the importance of the yarn, specific yarns created for a specific image and purpose. While typing this I realised an article I read last week in Textile The journal of cloth and culture is also relevant.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

The article tells a wider story, but of interest to me here is the importance of the wool, dyed in a huge range of colours then mixed before spinning to create complex, subtle colouring expressive of the land, sky and sea of the Outer Hebrides. The colour blending is one of the most skilled tasks in the process of making the tweeds.  A rationalisation by a mill owner has put into jeopardy supply of the yarns, and so of most traditional tweeds. Another of many challenges in rejuvenating the harris tweed industry is introducing colours from other environments, in particular Glasgow urban.

I’ve got rather carried away here and this post is long, but I do want to mention briefly another (fairly) recent read – Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity by Carolyn Genders. This beautifully illustrated book starts by reviewing a range of themes and approaches in design – abstraction; colour; line, structure and form; memory and place; play; size, scale and space; texture, surface and pattern.

The second part of the book has sections on eighteen artists. In different levels of detail we learn about each artist’s background, inspiration, design process, and particular concepts and concerns. Illustrations include source material, sketch books and works in progress as well as finished pieces. There are a wide range of disciplines used – textiles, glass, metal, ceramics, photography etc – textiles in particular being very well represented. We have Jeanette Appleton, textile artist; Jane Arkwright, whose experience as a textile artists influences her current painting; Jackie Binns uses basket weaving techniques in her artwork and has a “sketch box” of small samples. Without exhaustively naming them all, many of the artists use techniques traditionally associated with textiles in their work, even if the materials used and application of the technique is decidedly non-traditional. The design process is interesting in any medium, but I think the textile slant made this book particularly approachable for me.

This is a lovely book. I read it some months ago, before I started the design section of  Assignment 2, but flipping through it now I think it would be interesting to revisit. The reading pile only ever seems to grow!

 

Klein, Bernat (1965) Eye for Colour, Bernat Klein, Scotland and Collins, London.

Harper, Catherine and McDougall, Kirsty, “The very recent fall and rise of Harris Tweed”, in Textile, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp. 78-99.

Genders, Carolyn (2009) Pattern, colour & form: new approaches to creativity, London: A&C Black Publishers

2 Responses to “Reading”


  1. 1 penmcam April 29, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this in depth look at Bernat Klien; I am about to start the structures and weaving section of our course and I feel inspired by his work. Next stop the Library for some of his books, I hope!


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Fabulous figure sculpting workshop with Kassandra Bossell!

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