Zero Waste Art: Interview with textile Artist Kinga Foldi | Thread Tales Women
The Lotus, our signature fabric, is an endless source of inspiration for us. Shrouded in mystery and symbolical meaning, the Lotus flower represents resilience, enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth in Buddhist culture and beyond.
The fabric derived from it is one of the most sustainable textiles in existence; the product of a zero-waste, non-toxic, hand-led and electricity-free process with ancient cultural roots, a trade proudly protected by the Intha people, our Artisans from the Inle Lake, Myanmar, which we have the privilege of sharing with you the form of our Lotus scarves.
Resistant, yet supremely soft, raw yet exquisitely luxurious in its look, Lotus silk is often considered an ethical alternative to fine cotton and linen, but we believe it deserves a category of its own. Versatile and performant, it lends itself to a variety of uses, from fashion to homeware and décor, it makes for supple shawls, resilient tableware, elegant multi-purpose blankets, and beyond.
This year, in the hands of Budapest-based textile Artist Kinga Foldi, our Lotus silk has become art. With patience, creativity, and skill, Kinga has recreated for us the delicate shape of the Lotus flower, petal by petal, using leftover cuts of fabric from our scarves. In the process of creating her true-sized sculptures, Kinga has reflected on the symbolical meaning of the Lotus, on creativity and inspiration, and on her relationship with fabric and handi-work. She shared her thoughts with us in this interview.
What's at the origins of your work? How did you start? Why? And how has it been evolving and taking shape over the years?
I began to use pintuck during my university years. It’s a traditional sewing technique, which was used to decorate blouses and dresses in the past centuries. I began to experiment with the density of the folds, thereby changing the structure and the surface of the fabric. I created a material, which I could use to fold interesting shapes. My first pin-tucked work was a rococo-style costume, that offered me the chance to evoke the excessive playfulness of the era. It was followed by many similar bespoke costumes and dresses, often ordered by theatres and choreographers. I enjoyed these commissions, but something was missing. I had to realise, that I can’t express myself completely through costumes, because even the most spectacular ones have to be functional as well. That was the reason why I turned to free standing objects. This decision has brought up new technical problems, suddenly there was no carrying surface, neither the dress nor the human body, only the pin-tucked material remained. I had to invent my own technique to shape the objects and maintain the created form without any additional frame structure.
What inspires you and what do you do to find (and keep) your inspiration? Do you have any trusted sources, favourite activities, or rituals?
Shaping is an organic process. The pintucked fabric itself evokes natural structures and patterns, and so do the objects I create with this material. My inspiration comes from nature, especially from plants and mushrooms. I’m constantly looking for striped structures in the smallest living beings like the leaves of the trees, the onion skin, the petals of a chrysanthemum or the larger formations like the waves of the sea or the sand dunes. I take photos and draw a lot. Recently mushrooms came in the focus of my research, not only because the patterns of the gilles are so obviously reflected in the pintucked fabric, I have also found out many curiosities about fungi that might be instructive for human society as well. People of our age do well if they turn back to nature, because we moved away from it and have gone too far. If we tear ourselves apart from nature and look at it from outside, not recognising our unity, we will face severe consequences. We can see the signs already. I wish to call the attention with my works to the dangers of this process.
You create magic with your hands and textiles? What's your relationship with fabric and handi-work?
I graduated as woven textile designer artist, but I rather use the word textile artist to define myself. Textile art refers not only the fabric I use, it also offers a rich variety of techniques. I have learned some of them, like bobbin-lacemaking, origami-tessellation, crochet, knitting, beadwork and so on, these are the foundations of my works. I’m especially interested in how they find their place in our modern world. Our machines can do so many things but they are incapable of filling the objects with soul. This can be done only by the hands and soul of the artisan or the artist, because humans have the choice to change the process underway. The meaning of an object, that was cradled to life by the warmth of the human hand, goes beyond its physical appearance. Knowing and keeping the traditional techniques alive is a mission that artists and artisans must bear in every era. Objects of tribal cultures and folk art are all sacred, because beside function and aesthetics they have the capability of connecting our profane world to the higher spiritual world. The creators of these objects were the keepers of the secret, they have known the meaning of the symbols and the techniques. Our everyday objects are functional maybe aesthetic but rarely sacred. I think the importance of handi-work is that by using them one can be connected to the spiritual world, which is a rare gift.
To create lively objects I use silk dupioni. This fabric is crisp and quite paper-like. It harmonises with my aims beautifully. With the aid of some starch and textile glue I have a material that can be shaped easily. I like the small slubs that are the result of the spinning process, it makes the surface even more alive.
How was working with our Lotus Silk? In terms of feel, challenges, but also meaning? Is there anything that this experience with Lotus has left you with?
I was looking forward to touching lotus silk. I have read its story and the making process of the fabric, its sacral role in Buddhism. I opened the package that was sent to me by Katherine with shaking hands. For days I was just touching and observing, trying to imagine the artisans weaving it and spinning the threads. I felt, that I can make no mistake while working with this silk, because every filament of it was priceless. It was challenging to create objects that were worthy of being the successors of this traditional fabric. Thinking of the fact that lotus silk was traditionally a gift to Buddha, I felt grateful that I could hold a piece of this sacred fabric in my hands. The experience with lotus silk has left me with new perspectives in textile sculpture.
What was the most challenging part of this project? What was the most rewarding part?
I got several pieces of material from Katherine. The most interesting fabrics were the softest and most translucent ones, not really corresponding to my work method. I had to figure out how to stiffen the material. On the other hand I wanted to preserve the net-like texture. I couldn’t work like usually, sewing neat close folds, I wanted to allow the observer to see through the petals. Beside pintucking the fabric I also pulled out some threads between the folds, shaping dense protruding lines alternated with rare translucent ones, creating an interesting living lace-like surface.
We love how many women's hands have touched this object and the sense of purpose each stage brings. What does this mean to you personally?
At this time of the year the traditional spinning houses come to my mind. In Europe spinning has always been a winter-time activity, it lasted from the autumn harvest to the end of the carnival season around February. The raw material harvested in the autumn was processed at this time by the women working together and helping each other. It was an occasion where women sang and talked while working. It was the place of the balls too which were louder and happier as spring approached. These lotus sculptures took a special path from Myanmar across England to Hungary. They were born from lotus flowers, became yarn and turned into lotus flowers again. I think, that all the women touching and working on these objects sang their songs and souls into them.
Finally, is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to include?
I thought it was too soft and gauze-like. After starching and sewing a really living and fibre-like material came into existence. It has dense and prominent lines and between those lines you can see through the fabric. I found this alternating surface beautiful.