Marie-Ange Guilleminot, in Conversation with Savoir-faire

On the occasion of its fourth edition, Maison d’Exceptions highlights the intersection of art and contemporary textile expertise, presenting the result of a collaboration between French artist Marie-Ange Guilleminot and two textile workshops of exceptional quality.
As part of Nuit Blanche celebrated in October 2014 in Kyoto by the French Institute of Japan, Marie-Ange Guilleminot collaborated with two workshops represented at MAISON D’EXCEPTIONS: Amaike Textile Industry of Ishikawa, Japan and Atelier Caraco of Paris.
Amaike Textile Industry is responsible for the invention of the incredible “Super-Organza,” a polyester fabric that is the lightest in the world, while Atelier Caraco draws on deep historical knowledge and over twenty years of experience in cinematic and theatrical costuming to specialize in construction and corsetry techniques. Based on artist drawings and direction, Atelier Caraco created a sea urchin in Super-Organza, a textile sculpture animated by Marie-Ange Guilleminot during a performance in the temple gardens of Kanga-an in Kyoto.
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Urchin, Ø 3,70 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Nuit blanche, Kanga-an, Kyoto, 2014. Photo credit: Michel-Ange Seretti.
More than an impetus to a new type of dialogue, the interaction between artist and artisan is primarily a reconnection with the roots of art and a return to fundamental sources of excellence. The terms “art” and “artisan” of course share a common Latin etymology in ars, artis, which signify skill, craft, technical knowledge, expertise and talent. And it is precisely these values that Maison d’Exceptions presents to luxury houses, fashion and interior designers and artists alike.
The artistic practice of Marie-Ange Guilleminot is framed as a voyage. In perpetual motion and attentive to the techniques of the countries and cultures that she visits, each new project is a pretext for exploring unexpected skills and building a rapport between her work and new techniques. Porcelain, metal, glass, textile, paper, wood, carbon, ceramic…since the mid-1990s the artist has explored the transformation of various materials through her projects, which have involved multiple collaborations with artisans and technicians worldwide.
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Urchin, Ø 3,70 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Nuit blanche, Kanga-an, Kyoto, 2014. Photo credit: Michel-Ange Seretti.
Textiles and fashion occupy a special place in the imagination and work of the artist: born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1960, Marie-Ange Guilleminot comes from a family of Northern French textile industrialists. Her grandfather, Pierre Bauden, was a textile designer and founded the Tissages d’Honnechy, a weaving company that provided for Parisian couture houses through the mid-twentieth century. This pronounced taste for textiles as artistic materials led the artist to visit Maison d’Exceptions for the first time in February 2014, where exchanges with various craftspeople led to the recent double collaboration with Amaike Textile Industry and Atelier Caraco.
Gestural Sculptures

Sew, fold, roll, unfold, stretch, refold… In her performances and videos, Marie-Ange Guilleminot enacts the appropriation of the objects that she designs. She calls these “sculptures of use” precisely for their quality as objects to be manipulated, not only by herself but also often by the public.
For Cauris™, a project first presented in 1997 at the Venice Biennale, the nervous and agile fingers of the artists pulled, stretched, knotted and reknotted the material of nylon stockings to impart the functionality of a backpack – multiform, multifunction. Around the world, for Life-Hat Demonstration (1995), a tube of black stretch fabric extends from head to toe, sometimes masking and other times revealing the silhouette of the artist. The gestures of use are similar to those of a prestidigitator in their way of suggesting, revealing and then disappearing the body.
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Cauris™, tights backpack, 1994, Le Creux de l’Enfer, Thiers, 1997. Photo credit: Pierre Leguillon.
The sculptures of Marie-Ange Guilleminot change form and scale across time and their usage. The hang tags, instructions and all other types of instructions that generally accompany pieces are the true sculptures of the artist. These manuals encourage use, discovery, manipulation and exploration of each object. They materialize gestures and savoir-faire, the most ubiquitous ingredients in the artist’s body of work.
Genealogy of Urchin

As is often the case in the work of artisans and artists, one project births the next, one form inspires another, producing a creative genealogy. This is especially true for the work of Marie-Ange Guilleminot. Objects calibrated at the scale of the hand respond to those at the scale of the body. Changes in dimension transform a human-sized sculpture into an architecture capable of accommodating 50 people.
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Urchin, Ø 4 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 1998. Photo credit: Mary Anne Friel.
The form of Urchin is a simple circle crossed by 12 diagonals meeting in the center. The size of the disk, which evolved over time with the artist, currently exists in four diameters: 62 cm, 1.2 m, 4 m and 12.6 m. Each scaling implies different functions and makes different analogies. Cords are positioned along the ribs and in the hem of the circle to allow for the form to change smoothly through a sliding motion. The objects are more and more produced following the choice of a certain material or format. Each is named afterwords and often by analogy, and that is how this first form – conceived of as a rollable Tyvek® cape 1.2 m in diameter – became Urchin. Refoldable into the form of a bindle, it obliquely references the form of a sea urchin. Once the sewing is completed, the artist is the first to manipulate these sculptures and produce them as experiences. This allows her to go further in her reflection on use and object, a strong preoccupation of her work.
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Urchin, Ø 4 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Dia Art Foundation, New York, 2001. Photo credit: Mary Anne Friel.
Invited to a residency at Atelier Calder in 2000, the artist adjusted her format to work at the scale of architecture. A new Urchin with a 12.6 m diameter was born from an assemblage of emergency space blankets. Reversible, one side is golden and the other is silver. This piece was produced with a careful and clever method where each rib is sewn through with adhesive ribbon to reinforce support for the extremely fragile object. During this same residency, Marie-Ange Guilleminot also developed a geodesic structure from carbon fiber and ceramic to maintain the form of this Urchin, also referred to as the Architecture Dress.
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Urchin, Ø 12 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, Structure géodésique, ceramic bows with Jean-François Paquay, Constructies Espeel, Roeselare, Belgium, 2001. Photo credit: Boris Saverys.
The most recent stop on this artistic journey took the form of Urchin in “Super-Organza,” presented during Kyoto Nuit Blanche. It was in fact the first apparition of a future sculpture, of larger scale, inspired by the extreme lightness of this Japanese textile.
For Marie-Ange Guilleminot, there are no borders between the design of objects, the expertise that their construction requires, and their successive manipulations and appropriations. Somehow, her performances start when fabrication of her objects begins, often in conversation with artisans and technical collaborators. The work of the artist is permanent, carried out in perpetual gestures of return between workshop and exhibition spaces, whether those be museums or daily lives. The use of objects that the artist displays is thus a way to reveal and valorize both the workshop and the process of working.
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Urchin, Ø 12 m, Marie-Ange Guilleminot, 2000, Contrepoint, L’Art contemporain au Louvre, Paris, 2004
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