Tetuko Itoh



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'Tree I'



Materials: Fleece (Hedridian, Polwarth, Jacob), Silk, Polyester Trousers
Techniques: Hand Spinning, Felting, Hand Knitting
Size: H160cm x W40cm
Date Made: 1996
There is a long established and ancient isle called Yakushima in most southerly part of Japan. It's long history can be divined from the numerous varieties of trees - such as the 7,200 year old Japanese Joumon Cedar (Cryptomeria) - and the mosses and ferns which cloak the land with thick vegetation, as if the sacred spirit gods of the mountains were running amok on the island. 

These two pieces share a common theme and imagery, based on the intense sense of spirituality to be found on the island. 
I started by selecting the colours which I hoped would convey an impression of the Joumon Cedar tree. I focussed on the natural colours of fleece from several types of sheep. I felt the inner quality of these colours had a depth that suited my theme and which couldn't be achieved through the dying process. I used Hedridian fleece for the darkest browns, and Polwarth and Jacob for various shades of brown and grey. The Hedridian Fleece, which I had purchased in Britain while I was there in 1994, brings the piece to life. 

In order to create a delicate impression from the thread, I blended raw silk into wool fleece, and to capture the sense of rough bark I controlled the finish of the blend by varying the quantities of each material and the degree of 'carding' used. Lumpy, badly mixed fleece produced just the knotty thread my image required. In total I spun around 1kg of fleece. 

This piece used knitting methods based on a combination of Plain Knitting, Cable, and Moss stitch. Rather than formally planning how I wanted it to look, I improvised which colours and stitches to use during process of knitting, paying attention to the overall impression as it grew. Twists on the sleeves are like the branches of trees. 
The hat was constructed from two separate different coloured hats, each made by felting. I laid the brightly coloured hat underneath a darker coloured hat and made several holes through the surface of the outer hat. From a certain distance I could notice how the hidden brighter colour appeared to peep from beneath the surface, - an effect I enjoyed. I also randomly cut the top part of the hat into sharply pointed shapes, which created the impression of individual figures.
The trousers were made of polyester and I bleached them, deliberately causing the blotchy and uneven colours that seemed to fit well with the other parts of this piece.