Gallery 12 - Richard Sutherland, USA
Although my training had been in painting and ceramics, I have not used it professionally. I became aware of kumihimo in July 1995 when I happened upon the dust jacket of Rodrick Owen's about-to-be-published first book. When he came to California several months later, I attended his workshop on Japanese and Peruvian braiding. This led to attending Rodrick's annual workshops in Maryland where he introduced me to the takadai. I have continued working under his tutelage privately and participating in all of his West Coast classes.I owe my braiding life to Rodrick and consider myself as Oxford educated in Japanese studies!
During five week-long summer sessions at the John Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, Ethel Kawamura taught me kakudai braiding. Although I enjoy working on the kakudai, I find the takadai is what holds my interest.
In 2002 I had the privilege of arranging a California exhibition and workshop for three prominent Japanese kumihimo artists - Tamaki Hirata, Yayoi Miura, and Makiko Tada. The ten days of observation and instruction from them proved invaluable in the continuing development of my braiding life.
I work almost exclusively on a large takadai (a no longer available Leanda from England). After a long period of concentrating on 68-tama double braids, Rodrick suggested that I try some wider fare - similar to the pieces Warren Felton was making in Idaho. These have become the scarves that I am currently producing.

Before moving on to scarves, I spent several years making samples of the traditional Japanese double-braid patterns, working from Rodrick's drafted instructions that were to become part of his recently published takadai book. He also taught me how to draft my own designs which was both fun and challenging. These four examples are particular favorites among my designs.

There are several braids that I consider 'rites of passage.' 'Itsukushima' is a traditional Japanese braid, the oldest known example dating from the 7th century. A single, twill structure, it is the introduction to linking, that is, simultaneously creating parallel braids that are linked together. There are many versions of this pattern. This was made in silk from Rodrick Owen's pattern using only 38 tama. (See Gallery 9 for another interpretation.)

I was fascinated by a braid created by Tamaki Hirata and reproduced in Book 2 of her three volumes. Hirata-san graciously gave me the instructions for this unusual structure, which I have attempted to replicate. The characters - my name below hers - tested my graphing capabilities. The struggle to match the precision of her elegant braiding was a very humbling experience!

These multi-colored Rep braids are basically an Andean braid structure that has colors that hide in channels, then reappear. A photo of Makiko Tada's fine examples can be seen in Gallery 1. It is also reproduced in her Takadai Book 1 but without instructions. Her generous gift to me of this braid challenged me to 'break the code.' It took much time, but was a valuable learning experience in understanding braid structure. Makiko's version uses 80 tama. The Peruvians, however, used their fingers.

A belt/sash, created for tea ceremony master Shozo Sato, was the beginning of 'going wide.' Made with Italian black silk and blue wool, it is 2-1/2" wide.

I modified the Leanda takadai by adding an extension behind the torii that permits me to see an entire scarf while working on it from start to finish, essential for random patterning. Removing the bench/kneeling platform allows me to stand in, rather than behind, the takadai. Now I braid very close to the torii and tip the takadai forward to create a better arm angle for weaving through a lengthy shed.
A Leigh Morris monograph (see Braidershand) has been very helpful for creating patterns by showing what happens in plain weave when black/white threads are placed on the koma in various arrangements. Many thanks, Leigh.

The scarves shown are made with a yarn that is 50% silk, 50% wool (Jagger Bros. 'Zephyr'), either four or five ends per tama, and (with one exception) a plain weave structure. I work with 95 to 108 tama depending on the pattern requirement, and with 9-peg komas on the takadai. Although lighter weight tama are more commonly used with yarns, 70g tama are what I have.

A symmetrically patterned scarf and a plaid one, both made with 4 ends per tama, creating an approximate width of 7".

Basket pattern when worked with an even number of tama creates a 'spine' down the center. 5 ends per tama - 7-1/2" width.

A favorite bold plaid. 4 ends per tama.

Richard can be reached by e-mail.
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March 3, 2004
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