Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Neuroplasticity and Issey Miyake

Well, it seems eveything always comes full circle. I am now working with a client, making custom kimonos for a kibuki theater project. And, whoa, what a learning experience... Not only that, but learning to make a kimono gives some insight into Miyake's design ideas and shapes. The following post, which I wrote last year, fits into this moment in my work as well.

A recent article in the New York Times, entitled "A Pointy-headed Piano", was so beautifully inspirational and well written, that I have kept the clipping near me, waiting for an opportunity to use it somehow...

Dr. Norman Doidge, the author of a book studying the experiences of scientists, doctors and patients in the field of neuroplasticity (a new way of looking at the brain as a more malleable and renewable structure than the traditional) is featured in this article, describing his beloved Heintzman piano. The article uses the piano as a metaphor for the brain's ability to adapt.

In a nutshell, this rare transposable piano, made in 1895, allows a musician to slide its keyboard left or right, two or three keys in either direction. This, in his words, "eliminates the need to play the entirely different configuration that switching to another key requires." This is much like the brain's ability, when it hits a wrong "key", to transpose to a new one, after a stroke, learning disability, or emotional trauma. As the parent of an autistic child, I have become acutely aware of what an amazingly complex instrument the brain is, and how wonderful it can be, discovering which "keys" to play.

While the author mentions that the goal of the adaptive brain is to perform repetitive tasks, personally, I love breaking out of that mold, and embracing the constant challenge of "new thinking", which brings me to one of my favorite artists/designers... the one and only Issey Miyake.

I made my first Miyake when I was in high school. I used a striped, tightly-woven wool fabric from Art Max fabrics in Manhattan's garment district. How I loved that store... (sigh) It had an assymmetrical, sculptural skirt and a cowl-necked shirt with dangling "straps", for lack of a better description.

So, I have had the following Miyakes for quite some time, and hope to make them soon (the coats first!), but I always find that I am far more inspired by the flats than the photos,

since the models never look anything like me, and the fabrics chosen are always wildly different than anything I would ever choose.

So, here they are...







These patterns, if you are unfamiliar with them, are as close to "fabric oragami" as one can get. Once you have learned to create garments, you have a general understanding of what shape a collar should be, where it should attach, where the armholes should be... well, Miyake patterns challenge all of that, and require that you surrender to the instructions and embark on the adventure.