I had the good fortune to go with a friend to see Kimono Portraits that was the latest exhibition at Kimono House in the Nicholas Building. The works are created using a collage technique and vintage Japanese textiles on a heavy linen base.
Theo and Maria Giannoukas work collaboratively, on this occasion inspired by a visit to Japan. They were both on hand to answer questions and were most generous in describing their process and how they got started in this joint endeavour. Theo is a painter who is inspired by the impressionists and prefers portraiture from real life. Maria moved on from making clothes when her boys got to that age when they thought store bought was better. She began patchwork and quilting and then dying her own fabrics. Stuck with where to go next while doing a challenge for her quilt guild she asked Theo’s advice. So began his exploration of fabric as a medium instead of paint. In 2012 they were finalists in the AQC challenge “What the world needs now” with a very personal work focussing on peace and love.
Theo makes many sketches before settling on the final design which is then outlined on the linen. This is supported on an easel and he snips at fabric from bundles Maria has sorted by colour. The small pieces are kept in place with a little glue. There is much overlapping and hunting for just the right piece, with lots of stepping back to take in the whole effect. When he is satisfied, Maria presses the piece and begins the stitching phase. She uses a sturdy straight stitch Singer and adds to the work with careful choice of stitch pattern and thread colour.
Recently they have had a turn of swapping roles, which has increased Theo’s appreciation of the challenge of the stitching. Maria also dyes fabric when just the right shade cannot be found as was the case with the flesh colour of some Sumo wrestlers in one work. More images from this exhibition can be found in this post by Jacaranda.