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.

Sep 29, 2017

from quilts to garments: sewing Japanese fashion, in Japanese

When I was about 13 years old, I sewed all the time. I loved making tops. That was so long ago, but those memories are somehow very fresh. Well, in the past year I have sewn 2 new tops and I've had a blast. Here is one I finished today. 

Its made from Japanese linen and I followed a Japanese pattern... with no English!

The fabric was designed by Yoshiko Jinzenji, an amazing artist who lives and works in Kyoto. Over the years, I've been lucky to visit with her on several occassions. A few weeks ago, when I was in Kyoto, she invited me to a lovely lunch at a swanky Kyoto gallery / cafe. Joining us was Akiko Shibusawa, one of Yoshiko's master students. I loved the top Akiko was wearing (which is also made with Yoshiko's fabric).

Yoshiko Jinzenji and Akiko Shibusawa are both featured in my new book: "Cotton & Indigo from Japan." 

Akiko kindly gave me a copy of the sewing book, which included the pattern. The fashion in this book is just darling. But there is no English translation. I gave it my best shot by following the pictures.

The hardest part was knowing whether or not the pattern included a seam allowance. My decision was that the pattern did include a seam allowance (although I have no idea if that is correct). Since this top is quite boxy and loose, I figured I'd be okay with an inch or so "off" in either direction.

I started by tracing the pattern. Then I shortened it a bit (from dress length to a long top). I ended up creating my own textile for the front and back (rather than cutting on the fold, as recommended). I really wanted to preserve the selvedge with the Made in Japan writing and the designers name. Plus, since its linen, there is a nice edge. So I cut the pattern paper and pieced the sections together - as pictured below. The two pieces seen here form the front section of the top.

I stopped a couple times to try the top on. It fit well using the pattern, even though the typical Japanese woman is much smaller/more petite than me. I did enlarge the sleeve quite a bit. It was too tight, and I wanted more of a loose look. There might have been instructions for alterating the size, I'll never know... haha.

I'm happy with the way it turned out. And now I am ready to sew more garments. I feel like my 13 year-old self again.

I also did some searching and I found several Japanese sewing books that have been translated and I have ordered them! Can't wait to try again, this time with English!

Third Floor Quilts fabric label.

Sep 8, 2017

Coming Soon: Beloved Kyoto book store to carry "Cotton & Indigo from Japan"

Maurzen Books, Kyoto's beloved book store, will soon start selling "Cotton & Indigo from Japan." Maurzen is known for its huge section of books in English and I'm thrilled my new book will soon be among them.

Maurzen has a long history in Kyoto. It first opened its doors in 1872! The store closed in 2005 for 10 years, and finally repoened in 2015 - on two floors of the basement of BAL department store (downtown Kyoto).

Its everything a book store should be --- large selection, helpful staff, coffee shop and cafe. And lemons! Wait... lemons???

There is a popular Japanese short story titled "Lemon." Its very poetic and children read it in school. The main character ends of creating a sculpture out of books in the old Maurzen book store, and he places a perfectly shaped lemon on it. So people used to bring lemons and leave them on the shelves of the old store. Now, you can find the lemon table in the new store, along with copies of the story (Japanese only). Or you can go the more commercial route, and buy a lemon shaped cake in the cafe!

So, if you go to Kyoto, or live there or nearby, be sure to visit. Check out the quirky lemon story. And ask for my book!

I'm so happy to be a part of this beloved book store.

Maurzen Books / BAL department store
251 Yamazaki-cho
Kawaramachi-sanjo Sagaru

Sep 6, 2017

Japan travel diary: Tokyo quilt exbhibition and denim made in Japan

Visited a small quilt exhibition and market in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It was held in a large department store. We arrived a few minutes before 10 am and there were quite a few quilters waiting in line to get in. Quilters can always spot other quilters!

Here are two highlights.

The taupe quilt is called "Victoria and Albert" and was made by Yoko Saito. This quilt is featured in my new book and if you read it, you'll learn about Kameda Jima, a very special woven fabric used in this quilt and how its still being made today by a handful of waevers in the Niigata region of Northern Japan.

The other highlight for me was this stunning swirl of small circles made by Yoshiko Katagiri. The hundreds of small circles are all made from antique silk kimono, and hand appliqued. The quilt is also hand quilted. Antique silk kimono, paired with this chalky black cotton background, is her signature style.  If you want to read more about her story, she is featured in my first book "Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters."

This lovely lady had an exquisite booth of handmade sashiko clothing! She makes everything herself using antique textiles and sashiko stitching.

My friend Noriko Endo and I walked through all the vendor booths... fabric, purses, patterns, and notions. Just two aisles of booths - mostly commercial cotton. Not too much antique or specialty fabrics.

After a morning of quilts, I headed off to a store that sells denim made in Japan. 'Evisu the Tokyo' is the name of the store, and its near the Ebisu metro stop.

Japanese denim, or Japan Blue as its sometimes called, is coveted by denim afficiandos! The denim is made at very small boutique mills and designed and constructed domestically.  Evisu is kind of famous for their seagull logo. I had way too much fun in here!

Good night Tokyo. See you next time. I'm off to Osaka and Kyoto.