Monday, 15 September 2014

Kappabashi-dori and the Keisuke Serizawa exhibition

We had a walk to Kappabashi-dori this morning, so Emily could see if there were any suitable knives for her taxidermy.  The knives there are very good quality - we bought Damascus steel steak knives last time we were here (not for us!) - and some of the professional chefs' knives are very expensive.  There are also all the different sharpening stones... So we were just looking.  Here's Emily posing with the Kappa statue (Kappabashi means Kappa bridge).

I picked up some more of the higher priced 'rainbow stripe' tsumugi I got in May, although I couldn't get exactly the same one, and a couple of tenugui towels (stencilled cotton, not fluffy) for myself - I'll use those in a quilt.

This afternoon Emily was really tired (I think jet lag is catching up again), so I went on my own to Takashimaya, one of Tokyo's grandest and oldest department stores.  I knew about the Serizawa exhibition, but not that they were also having a special mingei (traditional Japanese crafts) promotion event to tie in with it.  Approaching from the Ginza subway line, the pillars were decorated with advertising banners for both events.

Needless to say, this was just my kind of event! There were high quality products from all over Japan - some very expensive but others very good value for money.  I bought some lovely items of Hakone Yosegi parquetry, including my very first 'secret' puzzle box, which opens with seven moves.  I'll post photos of these when I get home, as I don't want to spoil the pretty wrapping yet.  

The Serizawa exhibition was wonderful!  I felt it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but if you google his full name, you will be able to see some images of his work.  He worked primarily in stencil techniques, combining traditional katazome with influences from Okinawan bingata, but all infused with his personal unique style. His work was shown alongside some of his inspirations, including a beautiful sandy coloured sashiko jacket (I sketched the design), African carvings and Asian textiles.

This department store is full of big name designer brands, not the kind of thing I shop for here at all, but the window displays were full of the coming season with a very autumnal feeling.  It was my first visit to Takashimaya and I was impressed with the attention to quality and detail in the store - and I noticed how people on the Ginza line were looking at my three Takashimaya shopping bags on the way back!

UPDATE - when I opened my shopping bags this morning, there were some free exhibition tickets inside, so we went again!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

A few photos from Tokyo

We arrived in Tokyo early yesterday afternoon and I got most of the fabric buying out of the way before we headed off to Asakusa and the Ryokan Shigestsu where we are staying for the remainder of our trip.  The Kaminarimon (above) is one of the places you just have to get a photo if you come to Asakusa.

Today we went to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum via Shibuya station - Shibuya crossing is above.  Although the museum website gives information about how to get there, it didn't mention that the Keio Inokashira metro line runs express ('rapid'?) and local trains, so we managed to board an express that overshot the station where we were supposed to get off.  But once we got the right train, it was easy enough to find.

No photos allowed inside the museum unfortunately.  There was an exhibition of Kantha and Sashiko/Kogin pieces, so it was a shame there wasn't a catalogue, although I picked up a small booklet featuring some pieces (in black and white) and I already have many illustrated in other books.

The museum was much smaller than I expected.  The building was beautiful - Japanese tradition meets the Arts and Crafts movement.  The collection was founded by Soetsu Yanagi in the early C20th.  The displays were very much of the objects in glass cases with small (Japanese only) labels and I imagine this is how pieces have always been shown here.  I would have to say that the Amuse Museum in Asakusa has a more interesting and informative display of koginzashi.  Certainly, the mingeikan has some very old pieces of Kogin, Nanbu Hishizashi and Sashiko, but the general feeling in the exhibition was that it was rather staid and lifeless.  I think we have been spoiled on our trip by seeing Koginzashi and sashiko as living and evolving traditions, as well as some excellent private collections of work.  The same can be said for the ceramics and lacquerware collections.  The Serizawa exhibition mentioned on the museum's facebook page is actually at Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi, but as that is only 16 minutes by underground from here, I think we should go to see that too.

In the afternoon, we went to Harajuku.  Yoyogi Park has been closed due to the first dengue fever outbreak in Japan in seventy years, so we kept away from the park side and headed for the shops. There were a few people out in their finest weekend fashions, but mostly it was full of high school girls shopping.

Looking at cute stuff - seifuku (old style school uniform) outfit.

Tonight we just had a stroll around the Sensoji temple at Asakusa before dinner.

More exploring tomorrow, and hopefully going to the Serizawa exhibition.  The Amuse Museum is closed Mondays, so that is the plan for Tuesday, among other things.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Yuza Sashiko Guild's Friday meeting

Yesterday morning, we went to Yuza Sashiko Guild's Friday meeting at Yuza's community centre.   It is always very interesting to see works in progress but also finished and nearly finished pieces.  I love these maekake aprons with a contemporary arrangement of traditional and modern patterns on each one - every apron is unique! I think these could be a good project when the Loch Lomond Sashiko Guild first year group get back together.  By the way, the Loch Lomond Quilt Studio is running my course again this autumn and winter - please check their website for more information.

This is a good tip for patterns that need to go across the side seams - assemble these first -


We saw several large new patchwork and sashiko quilts in progress.  I love this design, with cute minka farmhouses and farmer's outfits mixed with sashiko

A leaf design sketched in freehand above the minka - 

Keiko Ishikawa was starting a bag combining a piece of fabric from the African Fabric Shop in the UK with traditional aizome cloth. She is going to use hand dyed natural indigo threads her sister made and a dark brown thread. 

Koto Domon is working in red and cream, a colour combination I like very much.

This boy's quilt has quirky characters and sports motifs as well as some more traditional designs in applique.  Anpan man and sashiko!

Reiko Domon uses every spare moment at home to stitch a little more sashiko...

At the meeting, Emily wanted to try sashiko again, so I showed her how to begin marking and stitching komezashi (rice stitch).

Everyone else had a very productive morning, but I didn't really stitch anything!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Meeting old friends around Yuza

One of the really nice things about coming back to Yuza is meeting friends when we've got out of touch.  Before the internet, keeping in touch with many Japanese friends was difficult for me, because I can't read and write Japanese and many of them can't write a lot of English easily.  Also I moved house several times over the last few years.  I was so happy to meet Kyoko Abe again when we came back to the Sanno Club after lunch on Thursday.  Kyoko retired as a teacher when I lived in Yuza and we used to share our interest in lace crochet!  Following crochet patterns was how I started to understand Japanese craft book diagrams.  We lost touch since about 2000.

Kyoko gave me many pieces of kimono fabric in the 1990s, and a lot of the centre squares in my 'Time and Again' quilt were her fabrics.  She recongised them like old friends - the grey one with the pink and white squares was from her.

She told me this pink kimono silk was made into a blouse.

This wool muslin with the asanoha pattern, one of my favorite fabrics in the quilt, was one of her family's fabrics.

I am sure this silk was her's too.

This piece came from the end of a kimono tanmono (roll) and shows the shading at the end, plus part of the manufacturer's name.

She was very interested in all our work.  The 3-D balls in sashiko are one of Yuza Sashiko's specialities - they have a play ball inside.

I hope I can meet Kyoko again next time I visit Yuza.  She gave me many of her family's kimono, which have such an interesting history, and I have used them in my kimono talks so many times.  So I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Kyoko Abe!

Other friends I haven't seen for a long time include Keiko Abe, who started me off with Koginzashi, and Takahashi Obiya, who runs the shop where I learned to sew kimono.  These are all people I feel gave me a significant direction change with the work I do.  It's great to meet them again after so long.  I bought some tenugui towels at the Obiya shop this time and I'm planning to use them in quilts.  The Utamaro bijin ukiyo-e handkerchief I used for 'Shonai no Yume', my second quilt, came from Obiya too.