TBZ goes on a textile tour in Japan!

I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I’m fascinated by Japanese handwork, silk work, and embroidery. A friend agreed to hold my scared country mouse hand in the big city of Tokyo to attend The Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival as well as a host of other textile/threadwork lovers dream excursions. If you’re interested in what it is like to be a clueless American in Japan, you’ve found the right blog series!

Without further ado – here are all the posts related to TBZ in Japan!

TBZ goes to Japan: Golden Pavillion, Kimonos, Indigo, Shopping, and hands on Shibori

We spent our last two days in Kyoto touring around various shops, a shrine, and a few hands on workshops. Take a look at some of the photos! We went to Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion at the foot of Kinugasa hill. The pavilion and the grounds have a long an interesting history including arson of the Buddhist temple in the 1950s. Even in the middle of winter without all of the leaves and flowers, it is beautiful with tons of opportunities for photos. After leaving the Kinkakuji, we went to Aizenkobo Workshop. Aizenkobo Workshop is a Kyoto Indigo dyeing workshop owned and operated by third generation dyer Kenichi Utsuki and his wife Hisako Utsuki. It is located in a traditional Japanese home that is roughly 150 years old. We were invited in and Kenichi and his wife explained the process of growing and dyeing indigo. Kenichi demonstrated that Indigo doesn’t burn by burning a sample of dyed cloth and showing us the indigo it left behind. Indigo is believed to offer extra protection the wearer. They showed us a traditional fireman’s uniform and one one of the group’s members tried it on. The uniform is very old and as they explained, the hat is a rare antique and no longer producible. My favorite piece was this one that was created using a resist method similar to a watercolor painting. It is very important to them that they use all natural materials, so the resist is not wax. I can’t for the life of me remember what it is though! They also had some treasures from Kenichi’s father and grandfather....

TBZ goes to Japan: Sashiko, Tie Dye, and Silk

The last two days have been a bit of a whirlwind through Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kyoto. We’ve seen some stunning and inspiring traditional textile work and met some wonderful and chatty artists. Please enjoy this this picture heavy post! (Special Note: I’ve learned that in Japan when something is called a “museum”, it isn’t always what American’s think of. The “museums” we’ve visited have all been artisans and craftsman that show off their work then kindly offer to sell you their art or supplies.) We took a little drive to a village called Hinohara in Tokyo whre Akie Ginza’s Sashiko Museum is located. The drive was a lovely lightly winding tour though the mountains with Mount Fuji ever present in the background.  Akie Ginza’s museum is a traditional Japanese farm house sitting in the nook of a mountain. There is a lovely walk up to it and the snow really added an extra bit of whimsy and beauty. Here’s the house from the outside after the climb. We were very lucky as Mrs Ginza was home and more than accommodating showing us her work and simple demos of how to do it. Could I be more big, hulking, and awkward with my big coat and too small slippers next to this sweet and very little lady? I know what you’re thinking – you want to know what the rest of that coat looks like, right? I aim to please…. Her house is simply stunning. All of the wood, roofing, and decorations are traditional and natural. If I remember correctly she said the house was around 200 years old. Her...

TBZ goes to Japan: Fabric Shopping and Shrines

For our last few days in Tokyo, we visited a few shrines and lots of fabric shopping. First we stopped at Quilt Party, Yoko Saito’s shop. It is super cute with lots of fun fabric, eye candy books, bag hardware, and interesting notions. Like any good quilter in a fabric shop, I spent my fair share of cash on new prizes to bring home and pet for a while. I picked up two kits and a few small collections of the beautimus muted textured fabric. Following Quilt Party we visited Sensoji Temple. We learned how to purify ourselves Then we had our fortunes read. Seems like mine was OK But Christine’s didn’t turn out so well. She had to leave hers tied to the bad rack If you look you may see the two three kids in kimonos. When I first saw them, I thought maybe they were doing something interesting, but what is actually in their hands are cell phones. They are taking photos of one another. The tour guide said it is likely the kimonos were rented which is apparently a common thing to do at this shrine. I still really like them in the picture though! Here’s another picture just because I like it Looks cold out there doesn’t it? Because it is! The threat of snow was overhead all day long, but luckily never came. The color makes for a nice back drop to this shopping street with all of the red and white decorations. We also spotted this fella making some sort of cakes with chocolates in them. He really had a rhythm going...

TBZ goes to Japan: The Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival

We have officially experienced the Tokyo quilt show and what a pleasure it was! Read on for my top five favorite quilts, a bit of what it is like to be here, and picture candy! Sadly I couldn’t read the many of the artist’s names or titles of their quits. Since my souvenir book is also in Japanese, I started calling them various names based on what I saw in them. If you come by and know the actual title or artist’s name, please let me know so I can use that instead! TBZ’s Top 5 from the 2016 Tokyo Great International Quilt Festival 1. “The Brown Quilt” This one is my absolute favorite I love everything about this quilt. The limited color palette full of neutrals, the math tricks, the depth, the beautifully done curved piecing, interesting and precise hand quilting, and and the texture. Just take a minute to really look at it. Follow some of the lines and shapes and watch how they transform as them move around their curves. Perfect, in every way. #2 Through the looking glass I couldn’t image coming up with all the right techniques to create this: Interesting at first glance, but when you start looking at how she created the trees, reflections, and texture tons of details start to emerge The bright trees a the top, the muted trees in the reflection, all of the detailed piecing, plus the use of organza and metallic thread to create both realism and depth are spectacular. There are so many details in the house and at the well that I could look at...

TBZ goes to Japan: Flying sucks, but it is worth it.

We started off with a flight that went through Canada, which means I finally had the opportunity to try a Tim Horton’s doughnut. Too bad we had to wait an hour…. Have you ever?! Turns out, it was worth it. I won’t say the doughnut tops my favorite, Krispy Kreme, but I will say that I’ll eat more of them should I find myself at another Tim’s. We made it to Tokyo after what seems like days traveling. I’ve never been on a flight more than five hours or so. As it turns out, Susan gets airsick about hour 5.5. I didn’t think the plane would ever land, it just kept flying and flying and flying and my tummy turned inside out inside out inside out. I managed not to ralph so 10 points to Hufflepuff! See my dot there?? We’re totally for realz here. The iphone agrees. After some much needed rest, we woke up to less than stellar weather. The snow and ice wasn’t so terrible. You can see they jumped right on clearing paths and making it safe to walk; however, it rained and rained and rained. Cold, heavy rain. We did our best to go out in it, but were quickly turned back by the sheer misery. We did manage to spot this sign for the quilt show we’re headed to… Squee!! Exciting! When the rain let up, we managed to get our jet lagged butts out to find an oragmi “museum”. It seems to me it was more a shop with a few floors of oragmi to sell the papers, but interesting none the...

TBZ goes to Japan: Pre-Flight and something to ponder

Funny how brave I am right up until the minute it is time to put my money where my mouth is. Here’s a fact, with a few small domestic exceptions, I’ve never really been anywhere more than a couple hundred miles from home. Up until this trip, I didn’t even have a passport. When we decided to do this, I came up with this brilliant idea that I wanted to allow the experience to be what it wanted to be. I abandoned all my Clark Griswold planning tendencies and decided to just go with it. I honestly believe discovery can be an amazing thing and I can’t discover if I’m too busy walking the straight and narrow. Now that it is time to hop on that plane, I’m a little concerned about my discovery plan. As a matter of fact the anxiety is raging. I’m worried about pretty much everything and I’m homesick before I even leave home. I just keep telling myself that I’m not going to the moon and I will be fine and everyone will be here when I get back, they might even be glad to see me. This is going to be OK, maybe even great. I’ve managed to put everything I think I need for two weeks into a backpack and a large suitcase, both with plenty of room to add things on the way back. I’ll be sporting the most boring “I don’t care if these jeans and plain tshirts are lost” wardrobe known to man, but at least I don’t have to worry about my bloody bunny shirt never coming home....

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Susan Owenby
Principal Artificer of Things.

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