Liz Gill tries her hand and succeeds by making a deer using this traditional craft
Whatever one’s job in Taiwan taking a break from it for a nap is apparently almost obligatory. I learned this from Dali Liu, a host at the Lines of Possibilities – Taiwanese Rush Weaving exhibition at the Gallery in the Oxo Tower Wharf on London’s South Bank.
I’ve asked him what a beautiful round woven artefact is and he answers by crossing his arms over it and putting his head down as if snoozing at his desk.
The pillow/cushion (it’s filled with memory foam and you can sit on it if you prefer) is just one of a range of lovely things on show: there are also baskets, boxes, purses, hats and slippers. One wall has a display of framed examples of all the different patterns and textures that can be created.
The tradition goes back over 300 years to Yuanli, a small township in the north west of Taiwan. From there it spread across the island until products like hats and mats became one of the country’s main exports during the Japanese colonial era and in the post W W II period.
Subsequent rapid economic growth and the rise in mass produced goods though led to a decline in rush weaving until its rediscovery in the recent years by a new generation of young artisans and innovative designers.
I learned very quickly just how skilful you need to be to make even the simplest item when I joined a workshop and attempted to make a deer. Despite a page of clear diagrams and much encouragement by Dali and his colleagues I fumbled so much I had to start again at the beginning before producing a rather wonky animal and feeling very pleased with it – and myself.
The exhibition is part of London Craft Week so it only runs until October 10th. The free workshops which run between 2pm and 3pm are fully booked but visitors can watch and if there are no-shows can take the empty place.
Gallery in the Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, London until 10th October