NUNO Books (NUNO Corporation)


Titled after onomatopoeias in the Japanese language that describe an attribute of the textiles collected under the cover, this series of six books surveys the textiles of the celebrated Japanese company Nuno. Printed with simultaneous Japanese and English text, each theme draws together fabrics from 20 years of production at Nuno. A short story or essay drawn from a variety of disciplines outside that of textile design accompanies each. Rather than a pedantic or critical text, the writings form abstract connections to the larger concept of each book. In addition to these central texts are brief explanatory passages which discuss the process or inspiration behind many of the fabrics. The processes used by the Nuno design team are often unfamiliar, either borrowed from other industries or brand-new textile technologies making these explanations both enlightening and essential.

Boro Boro: Cruel and Unusual Treatment of Fabrics brings together cloth that has undergone processes such as lamination, burn-out, felting and chemical lacework. The term is defined, among other things, as ragged, in tatters, fragile and frayed. From these themes the archaeologist Richard Hodges comments on the process of excavation as ‘search for texture’. Typical of all the texts in the series, Hodges’ essay does not make overt connections to textiles, but discusses many of the qualities which fabric and archaeology share.

SUKÉ SUKÉ: The Emperor’s New Fabrics presents many of Nuno’s sheer fabrics. The book itself represents the feeling of translucency with several pages printed on mylar that mimic the layering of sheer fabrics. The fabrics pictured include Feather Flurries, a double-weave cloth with feathers captured at regular intervals in the pockets; and Slip Stream, a double weave with paper slit yarn floated through the centre. The architect Toyo Ito discusses the notion of transparency in architecture and culture in his essay, entitled Three Transparencies. While the reader is undeniably left with the work of assembling the connections, this somehow feels in keeping with the tenuous nature of the fabrics illustrated.

SHIMI JIMI: Borrowed Landscapes in Fabric may be one of the more abstract themes of the series. Literally translated as dyed or stained, the introduction expands upon the literal definition, explaining that it is ‘used by analogy to describe how certain feelings seep through one’s being the way a plain fabric takes up colour.’ Rather than a type of cloth, the theme attempts to capture fabrics with strong emotional associations. Four short stories by the British designer/educator Jane Rapley evoke the theme of associations determined by destiny. The final section of the book discusses dye and stitch techniques alongside examples from the Nuno line.

FUWA FUWA: Strictly Lightweight Fluff is a double entendre. On the one hand the term refers to lightness, but is also associated with a sense of instability and frivolity. Inspired by vegetation and animal coats, examples include fabrics that are lightweight and soft as well as those with structures that verge on the unstable. A pair of fold-out pages in the centre of the book contain Haruki Murakami’s short story about a cat, printed in English on one side and Japanese on the other.

KIRA KIRA, or twinkle twinkle in English, is one of the most visually arresting books in the series. A complete index at the back of this book allows for the colour images of the textiles to bleed to the side of each page and leaves the captioning to the end. Small pictures of swatches in the index confirm the title, techniques and materials as well as the museums that have examples of the fabric. At the centre of the book there is a story by Tomomi Tsutsui, called Mood Mercury, printed on flecked paper.

Finally, ZIWA ZIWA: The Murmur of the Unknown presents one of the loosest groupings, which includes textiles that have a certain noise, or an uncanny air about them. Needless to say, the idea of connecting textiles, firstly appreciated for their tactile and visual properties, with sound is an intriguing one. Appropriately, four song lyrics by Arto Lindsay accompany the images. Throughout the series, the quality of the images and the book’s production does certain justice to the Nuno fabrics. One peculiarity is the tone of the individual introductions which tend to feel as though they are trying too hard, with the result sounding kitsch and unnatural considering the sophisticated fabrics and abstract content of the main texts. But ultimately this one oddity does little to detract from the handsome design and considered content of the series.

Craft Arts International (No. 57, 2003: 116-118)