Chiyoko Myose — ‘When Feathers Come Together: A Global Chicken Collection’
CHIYOKO MYOSE | Japan/United States
We had the pleasure of collaborating with Chiyoko in person at our studio as she lives (relatively) close in Wichita, Kansas. We were touched by her intentionality in combining traditional kimono fabric with our felted fiber, creating chickens that artfully express the cultural hybridity she experiences every day as a Japanese American woman. Learning more about this traditional style of dress was fascinating. Thank you for sharing this experience with us, Chiyoko. - Sally
Chiyoko Myose is originally from Japan, and now lives and works in Wichita, Kansas. She holds a BA in English Literature from Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto, Japan and a BFA in painting from Wichita State University, Wichita, KS. Her works are primarily painting and installation arts. For her installation arts, she often uses fiber materials and found objects.
Chiyoko has been showing her works through exhibitions and commissions regionally, nationally, and internationally while participating in artist residencies, artist workshops, and community collaborations from classical music to contemporary dance.
Her recent solo exhibitions are typically large scale, including the one at CityArt, Wichita, KS, Mid America Arts Alliance in Kansas City, MO, and Oklahoma Contemporary in Oklahoma City. She was awarded several awards including a Koch Cultural Trust Enabling Grant, a Wichita Arts Council Artist Grant, and KMUW NPR Artist Series Artist for 2021.
She is married and has two children.
The chickens of City Girl Farm remind me of the significance of agriculture in Kansas and its people’s ability for sustaining life. I have lived in this strong land for many years without thinking much about its rich nature and people’s efforts, but I should not take them for granted. I live here in Kansas with my background of Japanese sensitivities and culture which are still important for me. For many years, I fell into negative feelings easily because I was counting things that I miss in this foreign land. However, these days, I have started to change my perspective and appreciate this unique life connected to both cultures as a blessing. This sense of appreciation is creating a notion of home in my mind beyond time and space.
The feathers of my chickens incorporate fabrics and elements of kimono, the traditional Japanese style clothes, together with the material of wool from City Girl Farm. It represents the dual cultures that are merged in my life and my appreciation for them. The material of thread often represents “relationship” and “connectivity” in my artistic language.
The two chickens in this show particularly represent the age differences between young and old, and the different points in time of a woman’s life.
Minako is incorporating girls’ kimono fabrics and elements. It shows youth and liveliness. Eiko is incorporating the fabrics from Tomesode kimono. The black Tomesode with the family crests are the most formal for married women. It shows solemnity and maturity.
Why did you say ‘yes’ to this collaboration project?
Firstly, I was very impressed by The City Girl Farm’s unique and sophisticated work. In the past, I did several collaborations with other forms of art such as classical music, contemporary dance, short film, and even with engineering. Each collaboration was a meaningful experience for me, and they made me grow as an artist. I thought it would be fun and great to do a collaboration with furniture/sculpture this time, especially because it is such a unique and sophisticated work.
Secondly, I was fascinated with the global aspect of this project. Last couple of years, I have been interested in the idea of doing something together with people at different parts of the world simultaneously. For example, if we sing the same song at the same time at different places, how is it going to be like? In the sounds of the song, we may be able to hear unity, connectivity, resonation, and more. To make them resonate well and go around the globe conceptually and effectively, it is ideal if these places are spread apart at various parts of the world geographically. When I noticed that the participating artists of this project are living in various parts of the world, I found the same idea with my recent interest in simultaneous global events.
Lastly, I was inspired by the cultural aspect of this project. The participating artists have diverse cultural backgrounds. The cultural aspect has been a part of my life and an inspiration to my artwork. I was able to see myself creating work for this project with a certain direction that merges to my theme.
What was your inspiration and process in creating your feathers?My idea is using Japanese kimono and obi fabrics for the feathers and incorporating them together with The City Girl Farm’s wool feathers on the chickens. The Japanese elements show my original cultural background and the chicken form as well as the wool elements show the culture that I live in currently, the Midwest which is an agricultural part of the U.S. This combination represents the cultural hybridity which I face on a day-to-day basis in my life.
- Getting vintage kimono fabrics and obi fabrics from Japan
- Designing the chickens
- Planning how to get feather elements from kimono according to the kimono designs and patterns.
- Keeping several elements of kimono without ripping them and reshaping some of these elements by machine sewing and hand sewing
- Cutting out shapes from the kimono fabric
- Making kimono feather elements with the cut-out kimono fabrics, interfacing fabrics, and fiberfill by machine sewing and hand sewing
- Cutting out shapes from the obi fabrics
- Making obi feather elements with the cut-out obi fabrics by machine sewing and hand sewing
- Making cords with thread and yarn with a hand operated Embellish Knitting tool. These cords are suggesting the obijime, the string used to hold an obi sash in place.
- Pinning the feathers onto the chicken armatures.
What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
Making decisions on whether I should keep the kimono’s traditional rules or loosen the rules was the most challenging but also fun. While I was considering the materials and patterns, I found myself following the kimono’s traditional rules rather than deconstructing them. For example, I decided to keep the kimono collar shapes as I thought it was a significant element for the kimono design. I wanted to show the beauty of the patterns rather than cutting them up into smaller pieces, so the individual feather piece became big. I made longer sleeves for Minako and shorter sleeves for Eiko. Traditionally, these sleeve length differences suggest age difference and even the marital status. I thought it would be interesting to keep this rule to show the unique characteristics of each chicken, although I knew these rules are getting changed from person to person recently. I could decide to loosen the rules more and it may happen next time, but this time, I purposely applied these traditional rules for many parts.
What have you enjoyed about this project?
The best moment was when I saw the feathers pinned on the chicken forms. I was very excited to see how cute they are! I saw very special, one-of-a-kind chickens in the world in front of me.
Little Minako: City Girl Farms’ wool, vintage silk girl’s kimono fabric, vintage obi fabric from ca. 1930, thread, wire, interfacing fabric, and fiberfill
Eiko: City Girl Farm’s wool, vintage silk Tomesode kimono fabric, vintage obi fabric from ca. 1930, thread, wire, interfacing fabric, and fiberfill
I was lucky enough to be present when Chiyoko was pinning her chickens and was so impressed at the level of detail present in her work and the attention she paid to each component of her feather design. Although challenging to stitch, her chickens are absolutely fantastic and I was honored to work on them. The Global Collection is an AMAZING project and I'm so glad that Sally had the vision for such a wide reaching collection and that it came together so beautifully! - Emily Blogett-Panos, chicken stitcher