VCUarts Qatar Masters Japanese Silk Magic

Students from VCUarts Qatar‘s MFA in Design program recently delved into the world of traditional Japanese silk dyeing during a study trip to Japan. The journey unfolded in three stages, beginning with pre-trip preparations.In the initial phase, students used generative software to craft intricate patterns. These designs were then transferred onto silk rolls using a plotting machine, setting the stage for imprinting on kimonos during their Japan workshops.

The VCUarts workshops kicked off the second phase, where participants applied a rubber glue mixture to seal silk, preventing paint bleed. This step contributed to the renowned fine outlining of Japanese kimonos. Chemical treatment followed to ensure proper setting before the final phase.

The last step involved the meticulous process of painting the treated fabric. Precision was key – quick application to avoid patchiness, yet in moderation to prevent bleeding. Suspended over heaters, silk textiles dried swiftly as various brushes brought designs to life across large fabric expanses.

For Syed Muhammad Erzum Naqvi, a first-year MFA in Design student, the way Japanese culture permeates every aspect of life in Japan was the highlight of the trip.

“The efforts put into maintaining their culture are obvious, from the preservation of their historical monuments to the way they conduct day-to-day activities,” he said. 

“Even the artisans that we worked with were practicing their craft for decades. Not only were they an inspiration in terms of their work, but also their discipline. Every step of their creative process was meticulous, from the way they organized their brushes at the end of the day, to the way they would happily spend hours mixing paints by eye to get the right colors. The priority was not in rushing through and mass producing their pieces, but in making sure that every step of the process was given care and attention.”

Naqvi added that the experience gave him a fresh perspective on the very concept of creativity. 

“The Japanese design sensibility is very different to the way we approach design in Qatar, or even in our exposure to Western design. It was eye-opening to lean into an approach that not just prioritized a meticulous process but also allowed the material to inform its own form. The idea of ‘letting the material do what it wants’ feels intimidating to our more controlled approach, but results in some very evocative work. 

“Instead of trying to impose our own will onto each piece, it’s a philosophy that embraces flaws and imperfections, allowing us to work more with challenges rather than despite them. It’s a refreshing and fascinating mentality that I hope to emulate in my approach to design,” he explained.