Nov 18, 2017

tiny Tokyo boutique and a foreigner who recognized the handwoven Japanese cotton


I was wandering around a multi-story shopping mall in Tokyo in September, when I happened to see this little kimono fabric shop. I walked directly the the shelf and touched the gorgeous Ise Momen handwoven cotton.


The shop assistant did not speak English, but she was quite surprised when I said the name of this traditional handwoven cotton.

I showed her the post card for my book... her surprise was precious.


While researching my book, I visited the very place where this beautiful cotton is made. The family has been weaving this same cotton for many generations - and in fact, they are the last weaver still in business in this region of Japan.

Ise Momen is woven form 100% American cotton thread... which make it all the more special for me. The beautiful pastel patterns have been passed down from generation to generation. There is no need for updating.


Many women and professional seamstresses travel from all over to visit the showroom where Ise Momen is made. They buy rolls to make their own kimono and other clothing, bags, etc.

There is an entire chapter in my new book about the Japan's traditional woven cottons.

Living the life of a researcher (and maker) is so wonderful. I feel incredibly lucky to have spent time in the Ise Momen workshop.

And I could not stop smiling at the fact that all my time, research and investment brought my eye right to the shelf where this beautiful cotton was sitting.

Love Japan!




Oct 24, 2017

the stunning quilts of artist Susan Shie


Artist Susan Shie is a tiny, soft spoken woman, with a big and powerful artistic voice.

She has chosen the quilt and needle and thread as her medium because she feels it is a fitting place from which to express her feminist point of view.

Her colorful quilts are infused with folk art drawings and covered edge to edge in text - which she applies using a variety of air brush methods. The stories they tell vacillate between stories of angst, love, and imaginary settings. The famous and the fallen are often front and center, along with powerful women and women who should be powerful.

Every person who sees these extraordinary quilts will come away with a different reaction, and most will certainly react. These works of art are not passive. They have profound expressions that cannot be ignored.

When I study these, I see a mix of artistic references --- from the faces and floating figures of Marc Chagall to the colors of Paul Gauguin to the 'leave no surface untouched' style of street artists and graffiti art. The issues she fixates on are current events, as well as made up events. Her mind conjures up meetings between the most unexpected figures. For example, what if the guy from Bert's Bees met Ghandi... a strange and also refreshing point of view. Susan also focuses a lot of her imagery and love on Barack and Michelle Obama, and these two are her go to subjects. Her stories are relevant and current.

I find her voice powerful and inspiring, and its made all the more interesting to me because Susan Shie is legally blind. Her struggle with sight means she must work extremely close to her surfaces. And it this intensity with the surface that enables this powerful voice to emerge from the cloth and inspire or provoke the viewer.
 

Left, Karey Bresenhan, co-founder of the Texas Quilt Museum, with artist Susan Shie.

The exhibit is titled "The Way I See It: The Narrative Art of Susan Shie" and it is at the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange, Texas. The exhibition will be on view until Dec. 22, 2017. Susan kindly allows photos to be taken of her work. Thanks for that Susan!














Here is Susan's website:  http://www.turtlemoon.com/

You can find more info about her art and background. You can also take drawing classes from Susan - online or at her studio. But she only accepts female students! She wants to expend her energy encouraging feminine expression from other artists as well as her own.

Oct 13, 2017

chasing Tadao Ando, Japan's super architect

Ever seen Kyoto from this angle? 


I took this photo at a place millions of people traverse through day in and day out. And if you've even been to Kyoto, you've probably been in this building. 


Its Kyoto Station. And this gorgeous mega train station was designed by Japan's most famous architect, Tadao Ando. 

Like most people, on my previous trips to Kyoto, I would rush in and out of this station. 

Occasionally, I would glance up at the massive light-filled ceiling. On my last trip, I changed all that and spent hours walking through this station and exploring its many unique spaces. From there, I went on a quest to chase other Tadao Ando landmarks!


Kyoto Station is huge. And everywhere you turn, the architecture is equally impressive. The seemingly disparate sections of the small city are connected on the 15th floor with a series of uber modern glass hallways.



Kyoto Station has two floors with a dozen or so restaurants each. The 9th floor is all ramen, and the 10th floor has many other restaurant choices. And if that's not enough food, Kyoto Station is also connected to the lovely Isetan department store and they also have an entire floor filled with restaurants. Never leave Kyoto Station hungry!

Not far from Kyoto Station, is one of Tadao Ando's most famous works: The Church of Light. This tiny Christian church sits in an upscale neighborhood halfway between Kyoto and Osaka. 

Its utter simplicity is the crux of its beauty.



I visited the Church, but sadly, visitors are no longer allowed inside. The fame of the architecture has overwhelmed the small staff and in the past, many sightseers were rude and intrusive. Tourists! 

A few people are allowed in on Saturday and Sunday with advance reservations. Next time!


Naoshima Island, also known as Japan's Art Island, is mecca for Tadao Ando chasers. I went there on a hot and steamy September day. Totally loved it!

The famous Benessee House and Museum, the Chichu Art Museum, and the Lee Ufan Museum are are all built by Ando. Plus, there is also the Ando Museum on the island.

Chichu translates as underground --- and this structure is partially underground and the intent what to blend in with the natural landscape. Stunning. Breathtaking. These words seem small compared to this structure's outsized beauty. 

Inside, the space is sparse and minimalist. The art is good, but limited. There is one room with Monet's water lily paintings. Another James Turrell exhibit. And then there is this room!




As I was walked up the path and was about to enter the museum, I stopped to take a photo of the outside of the museum and I was stopped by a staff member. I was slightly dumbfounded to learn that no photos are allowed of the building itself! I understand rules to protect the art, but the building? 

I feel the rule to not allow photos of the building exterior for visitors who paid a hefty ticket price to enter is crazy. That said, the Chichu Art Museum is well worth a visit.

Next is the Benessee House and museum. This is perhaps one of my new favorite art museums. The building is endlessly beautiful, super modern, and surprising.






I needed more time to visit this island. Next time I will plan farther in advance and spend the night.

I'm thinking of going on an 'all architecture' trip to Japan and truly chasing Tadao Ando. Here are the sights on my wishlist. Anyone want to join me?










Oct 6, 2017

made a dress from a Japanese sewing book


I guess me and my Bernina can do just about anything!

I made this dress today and I loved sewing it on such a great machine. This pattern for this dress is from a Japanese sewing book. This time I found one that's been translated to English.


The book title is Basic Black, found it here on Amazon.


So much of my wardrobe is black, so I choose red. The fabric is a linen/rayon blend from Joann's. Its called "linen look" fabric and the price was great. Normally, ~$12 yd, and it was on sale for ~$9 yd.

With this type of linen fabric every edge needs to be serged. But I can do it on my Bernina using the over-lock stitch and special foot #2. Very handy and looks beautiful.

As I said in my last sewing post, this is only the 3rd thing I've sewn since I was a teenager. I'm loving it. Its good to do different things and stretch the brain.


Also, some of you who follow this blog, might also know that I design and make leather purses too. I have a company - mariejay - where I sell them online. The little black purse in the photo is one I made for me. Its black cowhide with gold hardware. I think it looks cute with all the red.

More to come! Thanks for reading along

Oct 5, 2017

Japan travel: looking back on my favorite Kyoto walk


There is so much to see and do in Kyoto, especially for textile lovers. History and traditional crafts are everywhere.

Its almost overwhelming to know where to go and what to do next. If you want to go some place quiet and peaceful... I highly recommend taking a break and walking Kyoto's Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi).


The Path is pedestrian only ... and it runs along a narrow canal. The main part is about 1.8 kilomters - from Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Temple) to the Nanzen-ji temple.

Its lined with cherry blossom trees, so from April to May it is supposed to be spectacular, but also more crowded.

My visit was during the first week of September, and I went in the morning on a weekday and there were very few people on the path. It was hot, but also very peaceful.

The Path of Philosophy is named in honor of a philosophy professor who took this path to Kyoto University everyday.  There are dozens of historic temples and shrines along the path and its easy to visit them along the way.


There are also small shops and restaurants, if you want to stop and relax.

My new favorite Kyoto sight is the Silver Temple! Its gorgeous, especially the garden which is hidden away in the back. The pond and the landscaping are incredibly green and lush. This is was Japanese landscaping and gardening is all about.