CETG Meeting on Saturday 22nd October 2022
Deanna Tyson – Talking Kimono: Cautionary Tales
Following our AGM, Deanna Tyson delighted us with her amazing kimonos which blend beautiful textiles with thought-provoking issues. With a background combining English Literature and Art, Deanna sees herself as a storyteller, using the kimono as her canvas. Kimono in Japanese means merely “a thing to wear” and its simple shape provides ample space for Deanna’s tales. Although she admits her kimonos are for display rather than being wearable garments, she invited members of the audience to put them on and walk around the room as she spoke, so we could appreciate the detail and skill.
The topics of her tales began with environmental issues such as energy consumption, climate change (and its denial), retreating glaciers and global sea levels rising resulting in the destruction of large areas of the world: serious and gloomy subjects, but illustrated by beautiful textile work using fabulous fabric and designs. Deanna’s kimonos are a riot of colour inside and out, often featuring diaphanous gauze over-layers and trains of beads and ribbons. Moving on through her scarlet and gold response to the Covid pandemic, she led us into stories of women through the ages, their struggles (many) and triumphs (few).
The materials she uses to create her kimonos also speak to the topic she is illustrating. Denim jeans, the most polluting garment on the planet, form a Hokusai-style wave to drown Greta Thunberg’s climate protests, and the oceans are filled with discarded plastics. Each design contains many layers of meaning, and is crowded with figures from Greek legend, the Biblical apocrypha, Haitian myth and medieval literature, all jostling for space with more modern heroines in her vibrant textile world.
Deanna was invited to design a globe for the World Reimagined project, 103 unique globes across the UK exploring the history, legacy and future of the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans. She chose as her subject Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, leader of successful rebel armies, and her globe was placed in Covent Garden, London. She was so inspired by this project, that she used the artwork in a further kimono, with a glittering portrait of Toussaint in a sequin roundel on the back of the garment.
She plans to address the subject of deforestation with her next kimono, and it was easy to imagine a jungle depicted in fabric, paint and stitch, clambering across the simply shaped garment.
Deanna also displayed a quilt made of textile portraits of people she has admired throughout her life: from Einstein to Mick Jagger, Mother Theresa to Lester Piggott. It was fun trying to put names to faces. This is a medium she plans to return to in the future.
In her own words, she aims to “create food for thought, transport ideas and messages around the world in that most ubiquitous, functional and accessible of forms, fashion.” In this most entertaining of talks, we were transported by the beauty and skill of her textile works, but also left more thoughtful about the topics she holds close to her heart.
Words © Liz Wilmott/October 2022
Photos © Michaela Matza CETG/October 2022