Claire Renaut is an artist who lives in Seattle. Her Art is based on a Japanese textile tradition, a cultural emblem: the Shifu. It is a technique of spinning paper into yarn and weave into fabric from which kimono are made.
What is your personal background?
At 16 I was already knitting, sewing and transforming all my clothes, I was fascinated with fabrics and all textile materials. My grandmother who has been making clothes and costumes for my family all her life, was a good teacher. One day, a friend of my mother’s when she saw me choose my fabrics suggested that I go to the Fine Arts school, it’s a revelation for me! I entered Esmod, a fashion school in Paris and worked for 15 years as a fashion designer.
Have you always lived in the United States?
I grew up in France, raised by a German mother, I have lived in Germany and moved to the United States in 1998. This global experience has resulted in questioning my place in the world, impacted my life and shaped my artistic vision. Most notably, what it means to belong.
When I moved to New York City in 1998, I was surprised by the lack of creativity in the fashion industry who just slightly modified a good selling piece of clothing from the previous year.
I decided to get a master’s degree in Textile from Philadelphia University. Weaving, dying fabrics, knitting, using Jacquard looms and digitally printing fabric gave me an intense satisfaction.
Shortly after, I went to Japan to study traditional Japanese weaving techniques, silk painting and specially the “Shifu”, a traditional fiber technique that involves spinning paper into yarn then weaving it into kimonos.
Upon returning to the US, I decided to continue the “Shifu” technique, using newspaper as my primary material of expression. Spinning newspaper into a yarn has become a metaphor for my quest: being able to read and understand the specific language of the city I choose to live in is the first sign of cultural adaptation. Transforming this yarn into a knitted, woven, or sculpted material gives me a form of ownership and allows me to feel rooted in my adopted city.
Can we say that this material allows you to convey messages?
I keep the newspaper from places and events that have marked my life, they become for me the means to transmit emotions and messages.
Sometimes my work is very personal, and sometimes it is more political, like the works done with the New York Times and the Washington Post from September 11, 2001 or with the newspaper “resist” distributed during the women’s protest marches with which she knits mini “pussy hat”. The material and the symbols in conveys give full meaning to my Art.
We would like to than Claire Renaut for having kindly received us, to know more about her works visit her website www.clairerenaut.com