Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Happy Holidays

Happy Holiday Greetings from all at
Japanese Embroidery UK

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Gold leafing on silk

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to take part in a gold leafing workshop with Midori Matsushima. This is not the standard gold leafing as we in the west understand it, but the art of Kinsai - gold leafing on silk. We prepared a piece of silk with gold leafing and once the embroidery is completed it will be made into a fan. For those of you who read Threads Across the Web, Carol did a series of posts on this when she attended a workshop with Midori earlier in the year - you'll find the details here. This form of gold leafing is used to decorate silk for kimono or other textiles and can be used in conjunction with yuzen dying or embroidery. One of the things that struck me most during the workshop is how modern materials have been used to replace or work with traditional tools. Rather than using traditional paper to make the cloud designs we used sticky back plastic. This had the various patterns we would need printed on it, so our first task was to cut out all the pieces very accurately. Both the positive and negative sides of some of these pieces would be used. The brushes on the other hand are hand made, an art in itself, sadly dieing out. Midori demonstrated how to use out sticky patterns as masks and how to use the brush and a blue metallic mixed with glue into a very think substance to form the clouds. This needed a very light touch to build up the layers of colour from dark to light. Harder than it looks! I'd have liked to get a more even shading, but I think they look OK for a first try. The branches of the cherries were made using a mix of gold and silver leaf. We used another sticky mask to protect the rest of the silk and used the same type of gold and silver technique as we used for the clouds. The next task was to put some gold and silver sprinkles over the whole of the piece. To do this we had spread glue over the whole of the silk - given how careful and precious we are of our silk when embroidering this felt really odd.
We used large and small gold and silver sprinkles.
This is the completed piece. Difficult to see just how much the metallics shine but they do look lovely.
Next job is to complete the embroidery, I'm guessing it'll be a while, but once I start I'll blog progress over on www.nejiribana.co.uk
This is the example of the completed piece which Midori brought to class.
For anyone who is interested in adding a new dimension to their textiles I would really recommend learning this technique from Midori. Check out her gallery of work.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Exhibition - Japanese embroidery and Japanese beading

Japanese Embroidery UK will be exhibiting at The Stitch and Creative Craft Show at Manchester Central (GMEX) from 3rd - 5th September. If you are planning a visit please come along and say hello. You can find more details here.

Kusudama and Yoyo san will both be there.

A couple of our members also study Japanese beading with JEC. This year they will have some of their pieces on display and will also be demonstrating their stunning work.

Glasses case, Calm flow, and Poppy Purse photos courtesy of Carol-Anne.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

International Kimono Fan Club

For those kimono fans out there in blogland - Ichiro from Ichiroya in Japan has set up this great page on facebook the International Kimono Fan Club. The page in in English and Japanese. Lots of interesting articles and information on kimono, their construction, wear, and fabrics. Ichiro is also posting details of the Kimono de Jack events which have taken off very fast in Japan and are now being held in many places. These are social events where people meet wearing kimono - details of events are posted mainly through twitter. Enjoy

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Living Treasures of Japan

Indigo dyed hemp cloth. No embroidery here, but this video wonderful. With thanks to National Geographic who produced this film. There are other films in the series National Living Treasures - you'll find them all on You Tube.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

shou chiku bai - three friends of winter

pine, bamboo, and plum (ume) blossom. Since ancient times these three plants have been symbols of longevity, friendship, strength, and integrity. Over time they have become common subjects in Chinese and Japanese painting, calligraphy, and textiles, becoming an expression of celebration and joy, especially in the New Year season.

PINE - shou - showing abundant green even in the fiercest of winter they have been a symbol of long life in China since ancient times. They also represent friendship and constancy during times of adversity.

Antique fukusa - embroidered with gold, silver, and silk threads. From the authors collection

BAMBOO - chiku - remains mostly green through the winter. Unlike the pine, however, the stalk of the bamboo is hollow, which came to symbolize tolerance and open-mindedness. The flexibility and strength of the bamboo stalk also came to represent the human values of cultivation and integrity in which one yields but does not break.

Pre WWII fukusa from Ichiroya - woven and embroidered

PLUM (ume) - bai - renowned for bursting into a riot of blossoms in the dead of winter. Its subtle fragrance spills forth at one of the coldest times of the year, making it difficult to go unnoticed. Though not be as striking as the cherry blossom, they manage to exude an otherworldly exquisiteness and beautiful elegance during the desolation of winter. The demeanour and character of the plum tree thereby serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under adverse conditions.

Antique fukusa from Ichiroya - embroidered

Shou-chiku-bai are found in pictures in every way you can imagine. They are on kimono, futons, carrying cloths, purses, and just about everything to be found in daily life. In Japan the crane and tortoise also symbolise long life, the crane is said to live for 1000 years the tortoise 10,000. Sometimes these characters are combined with shou chiku bai and sometimes, as in the fukusa above, it is combined with other myths and legends.

The fukusa above the crane appears with a rake and broom which symbolize Uba and Ju from the Legend of Takasago.

The JEC and Kurenai kai have a number of designs which feature Shou chiku bai. To finish this post I'd like to share two lovely examples of one of these pieces, Mile High, by two of my fellow Japanese embroidery students Jennifer Orchard and Valerie Brooklyn.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

It's cherry blossom time

Well, not quite here in NW England, but spring does seem to be just round the corner so in honour of the cherry blossom season which will soon be upon us, here are just a few links to some sites where you can track its progress. If you search the web you will find many, many more.

Have fun and happy cherry blossom viewing.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Meisen Kimono - on line exhibition

Marcuson & Hall have a wonderful on-line exhibition of Meisen Kimono, well worth checking out. Click on the image to visit the exhibition.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Harikuyo - Festival of Broken Needles

The Festival of Broken Needles, harikuyo, has taken place in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples all over Japan on February 8th for hundreds of years. While memorial services are more usually held for the spirits of the dead, there is an old Shinto belief that inanimate objects, as well as living beings, have a soul and spirit. The animists believe that to simply discard a tool that has served you well is disrespectful would anger the object's soul. Tailors, embroiderers and other needleworkers gather their worn and broken needles from the previous year and take them to the temple. Prayers of respect and thanks giving are offered. The needles are pushed into slabs of tofu or other soft substances to keep them safe and to prevent their sharp points doing any harm before they are taken to their final resting place. By showing respect and offering prayers it is hoped that the power and energy of the needle will pass to the owner and make them a better stitcher. Note: while researching this article, I found a lot of conflicting information. For example, while February 8th was the date most frequently given for the festival, December 8th and other dates were also suggested. This may be because the festival is celebrated on different dates at various shrines. Also, Harikuyo was given as the name of the shrine as well as the name of the fesival. If you feel that any of the information given here is incorrect or your have any further information about the Festival of Broken Needles, please leave a comment or email us.

Monday, 1 February 2010


In front of the Shishinden in the old Imperial Palace in Kyoto there are two trees. The tree on the left (east) was originally was a plum but a cherry replaced this when the Shishinden was rebuilt in 960 following a fire. The tree on the right (west) is a tachibana, an ornamental orange. The tale of how the tachibana got its name is in the Kojiki, the oldest history book of Japan. Long ago, Emperor Suinin heard tell of a tree whose seed was rumoured to bring immortality and eternal youth when eaten. On hearing this story the Emperor sent one of his men, Tachima-mori, to Tokoyo where the tree was said to grow. It took Tachima-mori ten years and one month to locate the tree and return with the fruit, by which time Emperor Suinin had died. When Tachima-mori learnt of the Emperor’s demise he was so overcome with grief and remorse that he cried everyday until his own death. In tribute to Tachima-mori the fruit was named tachimana. Over time the name became corrupted to tachibana. As well as being associated with longevity, tachibana is thought to bring luck. It is one of the myriad of 'treasures'. As with sakura, tachibana have been breed to improve their flowers rather than their fruit which is inedible. Like other citrus trees the tachibana bears flowers and fruit simultaneously. In all the examples I have seen, the fruit is depicted with either 3 or 5 leaves. A common treatment of larger motifs is to fill them with patterns and/or other motifs. On this obi, the clouds within the oranges are stitched in a variety of patterns; even the butterfly’s wings are stitched in an elaborate version of basket weave.
Black Shusu Obi - courtesy of Ichiroya
The crest on this uchishik is appliqu├ęd with the outlines and details emphasised by couched gold thread.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Japanese embroidery exihibition and demonstration

We will be exhibiting at the Stitch and Creative Crafts Show at Manchester Central between the 29th and 30th January. We will have lots of pieces on show and will be demonstrating this wonderful art form throughout all three days. Why not come along and find out more, pick up details of classes, watch the demonstrations, or just say hello.
September 2009 exhibition