Years of careful craft go into the creation of Bonsai trees - the miniature, living artworks that mimic the shape of full-size trees. In fact, bonsai has been practised in Japan for over 1000 years, becoming one of the most highly appreciated arts.
Bonsai developed from the classical Chinese art of Penjing, or the creation of miniature landscapes. Both these art forms provide entertainment for their creators and objects of contemplation for their viewers.
Bonsai trees of varying sizes and styles have been used to decorate livings rooms, studies, gardens, and palaces. They're held on a par with calligraphy, paintings, and classical music. But how exactly do you train a pear, or a peach, or a pine tree to grow barely two feet tall?
The process begins with a suitable source; usually a cutting or small sapling of any woody-stemmed perennial. The most popular are fruit and pine trees native to the landscape of Japan: peaches, apples, elms, juniper, conifer, and spruce.
The key to stunting the plant's growth is a small pot, often with only a few centimetres of soil. The roots and leaves of the plant are trimmed with great care, and over time the tree adapts to its tiny home.
It's not just about creating any old small plant, though. Bonsai requires a keen eye and a sense of aesthetics. The aim is to create a pleasing scene in which the artist's intervention is hidden. It should appear entirely natural, even if it's in miniature form.
Ingenious tricks are used to create the impression of gnarled, twisted trunks, as in this tree. Copper wires and clamps can guide branches and pin them in place, all in order to create a convincing impression of an aged tree.
After years of growth, the result is a beautiful living sculpture. Treated well, bonsai trees can live to be just as old as full-size trees. In fact, there are a handful of trees that are proven to be almost 1000 years old.
Just as certain paintings and sculptures are internationally famous, so are some bonsai trees. This tree is named Higurashi, or 'Daily Life'. It exemplifies the koshoku, or 'aged patina' style. At over 450 years old, it is considered to be the finest bonsai tree in Japan.
There are various names for the different shapes of bonsai trees. Fukinagashi, 'Wind Blown', suggests a trunk leaning over as if being blown by a strong wind, as seen in this bonsai pinus parviflora.
The white areas of dead wood are known as shari, literally, 'relics'. The degree of shari is one of the central concerns of bonsai connoisseurship. This tree, named Uzushio, 'Swirling Tide', is a particularly prized example.
In the past 80 years, bonsai has spread beyond the borders of Japan to become a truly global art, with practitioners found from Germany to Puerto Rico. But all can trace their roots back to the delicate art, cultivated on the Japanese islands nearly a millennium ago.
The first recorded textile dates back 30,000-36,000 years, to Dzudzuana Cave, Georgia. As textiles naturally deteriorate, it's likely they existed far earlier. In many cultures, weaving, knitting, sewing and embroidery have been the province of women.
It’s no wonder, then, that textiles are stitched into the history of women's rights. Scroll on to discover the pioneering women using their craft to emancipate and empower, from Anni Albers to Faith Ringgold.
A British textile designer known for designing hand woven silk fabrics in the mid-18th century, Anna Maria Garthwaite became recognized as the prominent designer of her day.
Many of Garthwaite’s designs have been identified in portraits and costume collections from the era, despite her never receiving any formal technical training.
An isolated village on the Alabama River, Gee's Bend is also home to one of America's most treasured craft traditions. For generations, women from this African-American community have woven their way into the history of Western art.
These beautiful bedcovers draw on African and Native American patterning styles, and have become a symbol of resistance and identity throughout the history of the Human Rights movement and Black culture in the USA. The craft has been passed down for centuries.
First Lady Michelle Obama even chose to wear patterns inspired by the Gee's Bend quilts in her official portrait, further cementing the impact these women and their art have had on American visual culture. Learn more.
Jailed many times, British suffragette Elsie Howey, is pictured here in prison uniform in 1909 in a replica prison cell, taking part in sewing as a prison activity. Howey (1884-1963) used this and other tactics to protest the conditions suffragettes were imprisoned under.
British artist Winifred Roberts (1893-1981) is celebrated for her watercolours and landscape paintings. She studied at Byam Shaw School of Art and exhibited widely. Between 1912 and 1914, she collected the signatures of many well known suffragettes and embroidered over them.
Roberts stitched the names of celebrated suffragettes into the fabric of this 1914 work. Here you can see the names Beatrice Sanders, Annie Kenney, and Geraldine Lomax.
Zoom into the centre of the table cloth and you can see Emmeline Pankhurst's signature embroidered in the centre.
Self-taught Californian Dorothy Liebes (1897-1972), designed textiles for well known architects including Frank Lloyd Wright. She was Director of the Red Cross's Arts and Skills workshop and is best known for designing a screen for the United Nations Delegates Dining Room.
German textile designer, weaver, writer and printmaker, Anni Albers (1899-1994) was a pioneer of 20th century Modernism. Rather than staying home like her mother, Albers went to art college, enrolling in the weaving workshop at the Bauhaus, the only workshop open to women.
Through her innovative work, Albers came to be one of the definitive artists of the Bauhaus movement, typifying its theories of form and function.
Ray Eames (1912-1988) and her creative and life partner Charles Eames are known for pioneering contributions to architecture, furniture design, graphic design and textile design. The pair created designs still celebrated today for their colourful, abstract and humorous approach.
Colombian artist, Olga de Amaral (1932-) weaves non-traditional fibres together in her artworks. Drawing on Colombian artisanal techniques, Amaral is considered an important Latin American artist. She won the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art.
Drawing on the long history of textile-based radical art, contemporary artist Faith Ringgold used her quilts to tell stories of Black culture in the 20th and 21st centuries. This quilt weaves a narrative of survival and redemption in Harlem, New York.