Chie Hitchner

Chie Hitchner

Artist
Profile Location
Japan
Biography

Chie HItchner is a Japanese-born textile artist who resides and works in the United States.  Her work explores the interplay of color and movement with fabric as the canvas, and she likes especially to work with silk fiber and natural dyes.  In Japan, the craft of handwoven textiles was never lost even as Japan industrialized and automated its textile industry.  The textile arts were protected and nurtured by a vibrant industry and a thriving arts and crafts movement known as mingei    The textile arts in Japan today divide between traditional craft textiles, which use the craft techniques and replicate generations' old designs, and contemporary textiles that often use the same craft techniques but apply them to achieve the artist's own artistic objectives.  Chie's work falls in the latter category.

Today, even in Japan, the craft techniques that combine into handwoven textiles are known by fewer and fewer practitioners.  Chie believes that an artist's freedom of expression is enhanced through the perfection of craft techniques, as such techniques are essential to helping the artist to realize her vision.

Chie first experienced hand weaving as an art form when she entered Joshibi University of Art and Design in Tokyo after graduating from high school. Joshibi University's education philosophy is strongly impacted by the Mingei arts and crafts movement.  She later earned  a Masters in Design from the Tama Art University, also in Tokyo, where she studied textiles from around the world.

Chie exhibits her work at juried art and craft shows in the US and Japan, and was recognized recently with The Balvenie Rare Craft Award of Excellence at the American Craft Council Atlanta Show in March 2018, Best in Show at CraftBoston Holiday in December 2017 and the Award of Excellence at the American Craft Council San Franclsco Show in August 2017.  She maintains her artistic ties in Japan through participation in the artists' organization Kokugakai.

Artist Statement

Why do I weave?  

There was a time in human history when weaving was a technological innovation that changed fundamentally how we clothed ourselves and accessorized our homes.  Paleo-archeologists believe that weaving arose around 6,000 BC, which places it way after the rise of early agrarian civilizations.  Somehow, our ancestors survived for tens of thousands of years without woven cloth of any kind!

From times prior to the advent of weaving, we had developed many advanced means of adorning and accessorizing our bodies.  No leap of imagination was required for our first weaving ancestors to intuit the decorative and ritualistic possibilities that arose from weaving.

Natural fibers were sourced from the environment, dyed with naturally occurring mineral, plant or animal substances, and then the fibers were combined to form a usable fabric.

It is only in very recent human history that industrial processes have taken both weaving and dyeing out of the home and the workshop of skilled artisans. 

In fact, in many parts of the world even today, village and city artisans continue to hand weave fabrics.  It is in economically-advanced geographies that artisanal fabric production has been lost most completely.

Not in my workshop, though.  There is no reason that an advance in technology should mean that we throw away a beautiful art form.  Working in my home studio in Montgomery, Alabama, I source silk and linen directly from farmers and specialized distributors close to the geography of production.  With materials from my kitchen and my yard, I dye the threads, warp the loom, and hand weave them into a creation that started as a concept and comes together into a final piece through an iterative process engaging the mind's eye of the artist with the actual look and feel of the threads.  I always start with a design in mind, but that will often change as the pieces come together (or not).

My technique owes a heavy debt to Japanese craft traditions of the past thousand years.  Or is it a shorter time, I am not sure.  I love to use kasuri (the Japanese style of ikat, in which a single thread is dyed multiple colors prior to being loomed) to create dreamy effects and actual images on the canvas of the fabric.  And "uki-ori", which is a pick-and-weave technique that is much like embossing, to help parts of the fabric stand out and even jump from the fabric.

You can appreciate the beauty of a textile without understanding how it is made, but you may also enhance your appreciation by understanding the technique and craft that goes into its creation.  As you look through the gallery of pieces in this website, note the following:

1. I start with raw fibers, either silk, wool or linen.  In the case of silk there are about 80 fibers per inch.  Each fiber is placed on the loom one thread at a time.

2.  The threads are dyed prior to weaving.  I will sometimes use raw, un-dyed threads, especially in the case of linen.  Otherwise, I dye the fiber in small batches in my studio, almost always using a natural material from the environment as the dye. When I use a chemical dye, I will always note that in the description of the work.

3.  Every design is woven in as I weave.  None of this is stitched in later, which would be a kind of embroidery.  

4.  I usually weave on a 4-harness floor loom. The loom is powered by my hands and feet.

5.  Maybe someday I will use software to aid in my designs and to transfer my designs to the loom.  But that day is yet ahead of me. I use graph paper to develop a design and manually transfer these concepts to the loom.

While I give complete credit to my teachers and their teachers before them for the techniques in my weaver's toolbox, I hope that I alone can take credit for their execution and the effect on the viewer. 

Why weave?  For me, it is to capture and preserve the best of techniques that emerged over centuries in the workshops of our ancestors.  And just like our ancestors, to show that we too can create inspired objects of beauty on a slowly emerging two-dimensional canvas of cloth.

Medium
Fiber / Textiles
 
 

Exhibitions Featuring this Artist

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