Monday, 14 March 2011

Help Japan and Win a Kimono Jacket!!!

 I think we all feel a sense of helplessness at the situation in Japan. What can we do to help when we are so far away? would you like to help Japan AND win this fabulous, vintage kimono jacket???! Is that a "yes please" I hear?
An online friend who lives in Japan is running an auction, with the help of bloggers all over the world. Details of the master plan are here Japan Quake Appeal Auction 

So, I'm GIVING AWAY this rather scrumptious 'haori' (kimono jacket) to the person who pledges most to the appeal.

OK so what's a haori? A haori is a jacket worn over the kimono as an outdoor coat, to protect the kimono. This is a genuine, authentic haori from Japan, probably made in the 1970s. Great for collectors of vintage clothing, or those who just want to look stylish but different. That's all of us then, yes?

The beauty of a haori is its versatility. It is not tailored, so will comfortably fit anyone from a size 10 to a size 18. If you are smaller than a size 10 (lucky you!), simply wear with a belt. It is supposed to hang at the sides rather than meet in the middle, so will fit larger women too. (Btw I have also sold plenty of haori to men, so if you are male, don't let that put you off!). Haoris suit and flatter any figure, age or height and look amazing as evening jackets.
The haori is PURE SILK. The outside is decorated with woven patterns of clouds, and the black silk itself has designs woven into it (you can just see it on the photos)
At the nape of the neck is a hand-painted 'mon' or family crest. This means it is a semi-formal haori (basically, perfect for a night out!)

But wait til you see the lining on this baby!!!
The lining of the back and sleeves is HAND PAINTED on silk. Absolutely stunning. And it is so well made that there are no ugly seams inside. So if you want to wear it inside out and show off that lining, go ahead.
I hope I have you salivating and desperate to know how to get your mitts on this haori. Here's the deal. The auction will be run in British Pounds, but you may bid wherever you are in the world and if you win, it will be posted to you FREE OF CHARGE. The starting bid is just £10 (but obviously the jacket is worth a helluva lot more, so be generous!). You can bid by leaving a comment at the end of this post, along with your bid (which must be higher than the previous bid, obviously...) and your email address. The auction will close at 11pm GMT on 26th March.

On 27th March the winning bidder will be announced and contacted. The winner must then make their payment (ie donate the pledged amount to the relief fund) and send me proof of payment within 48 hours. If payment is not made within 48 hours then the item will go to the second highest bidder. The donation must be paid to Global Giving. For help with the donation you can refer to this post ( The auction is being held on this blog, in cooperation with a Bit of This and a Bit of That. We are in no way affiliated with global giving, that's just our chosen method of getting funds safely to the affected area.

OK it's time to get this party started and let you get bidding! Again, please, please bid generously as all the money goes to a very worthy cause. Even if you don't personally want this jacket, please consider bidding on it as a gift for someone else. The main thing is, we all come together and raise whatever we can for Japan in their darkest hour of need. Thank you so much x

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Funky Friends: Part One, Old Painter Man

During our travels in Japan we've come across some weird and wonderful folk, so I thought it might be nice to share some of them with you!

 Now, the gentleman in this picture is weirder and more wonderful than most. He would only have his picture taken if my daughter was with him; in fact, considering how non-huggy most Japanese people are, he was a law unto himself, he wouldn't let go of her! In the background you can see his work - he paints Japanese scenes and sells postcards of his work. Each painting is done using a brush with a SINGLE HAIR!!! Needless to say, they are unimaginably detailed and painstakingly produced. They don't do things by halves, these Japanese. So, we bought a few postcards cos it's good to support amazingly talented people like that.

So far, so ordinary, you might say. Then he showed us the rest of his work...
 Get this, he'd made a tiny little village, out of the bits and bobs lying around his postcard stand! Can you see the weeny little houses and fences?! There was even a stone statue with 1yen offerings...

...and for a spot of Zen meditation, a stone garden.
A little bit of wonderfulness that goes unnoticed by so many, but brings joy to those who take the time to stop and look. I'm so glad we did x

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Birmingham Japanese Garden Society

On Saturday I was privileged to be asked to speak for the West Midlands Japanese Garden Society at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Now, usually talks are arranged up to 2 years in advance and I say 'yes' without giving it much of a second thought. But this was slightly different. For one thing, this was a Japanese special interest group, and most of the members had visited Japan at least once. For another thing, they didn't want my standard 'kimono' talk as there would be lots of men present (as it turned out they would have quite liked to see that, so I've promised to go back!).

Oh, and did I mention they wanted not one but two talks, plus a workshop???!

So the day began with a talk on Japanese tea. Fortunately I'd brought Boyf along as my chauffeur and general dogsbody for the weekend, so while I talked, he brewed cups of finest Japanese tea for the audience to taste. Everyone tried:
  • gyokuro - bestest quality tea from the official suppliers to the Imperial family for the last 500 years (I'm good to my audience!!!)
  • genmaicha - 'popcorn' tea - green tea with roasted brown rice for a yummy, nutty flavour
  • sencha sakura - green tea with cherry blossoms and rose petals in, very sweet and delicious
After a bit more waffle about tea, I performed a tea ceremony
Now, the beady-eyed among you will have spotted the deliberate error...I'm whisking the tea with my left hand! In Japan everything is done right-handed, but as a lefty, that's the one bit I just can't do the wrong way round. Besides, my teacher in Japan said it was OK for me to do it that way, so that's fine.

To my great delight, nobody snook away during lunch, so I was able to give a talk called 'Seeing Dreams' about my adventures, mishaps and experiences in Japan. Usually the majority of this talk is about things like how to take a bath in Japan, which slippers to wear in the loo, and Japanese loos in general. In fact, I should really make a talk solely about Japanese toilets, it's such a vast and fascinating subject! But being a knowledgeable group I altered the talk and gave them a more in-depth look at some of the characters I've met and what I get up to over there. It was great fun, the group was very relaxed and they guffawed in all the right places, which is always a good sign.

As if they weren't Japanned out by then, there was still time (just) for a short workshop on kumihimo braiding. It was a pleasure to watch faces change from 'I can't do this' to 'this is actually quite easy and I'm enjoying it, ooh look, there's a braid coming out the bottom!'

I'm so pleased I was able to entertain the JGS and I hope they enjoyed the day as much as I did. Days like that really are precious and it was wonderful to meet such a warm, welcoming group who, though knowledgeable, are open to learning more about different areas of Japanese culture.

Just plotting the next talk I can do for them...something about kimono and toilets, maybe...?

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Felting Fantastic!

I started my working life as a silk painter, and it seems that wherever life takes me, I'm always drawn (no pun intended) back to textiles in some form or other. The common thread (groan) of the last 7 years has been the kimono; whether I'm painting it, studying it or wearing it, I just adore kimono!

Recently I got the itch to create again but I knew I didn't want to paint...I wanted a new medium with different qualities...I wanted to create textiles but not through stitch...the solution was...needle felting!!!

Being 'Japanese', it's hard not to use nature as a starting point, but I much prefer the stylised designs on kimono which have been around for centuries and yet still look so modern and fresh.
So, here's the start of my new collection
They are each about 25cm square and will be mounted in black frames, without glass. 

At last I have found something I absolutely love creating, but more importantly, feel confident about showing to the world! These are still early attempts and I'm sure there's still a lot to learn but I wanted to share them with you all the same.

Now, usually this is the point where I'd chicken out and decide that really, nobody needs to see my work, but I'm going to be brave and press the 'publish' button this time xxx