Thursday, 26 May 2011

Tiny Treasures

So this was some of my recent stash of kimono fabrics from Japan, but what to do with them? There's some real beauties in there, from children's kimono, formal and informal designs, as well as some lovely old pieces. I love to try and imagine who has worn these kimono, when and why...

In Japan there is a philosophy called mottainai. It's a bit like 'reduce, reuse, recycle', and it applies to anything really, including kimono that have been damaged or stained so can not be worn any more. They are cut up and given a new lease of life, perhaps as a handbag or cushion. The leftover scraps are made into small toys and decorations. Nothing is wasted. Hence why my little warehouse is bursting at the seams (bonus points for haberdashery metaphor!) with vintage kimono fabrics, ready to be made into, er, something.

Usually I make kanzashi brooches from these precious scraps, but after 2 or 3 years I decided it was time for a change. So, now I present my new range of jewellery: Tiny Treasures!
Small but beautifully formed, each pendant contains a piece of exquisite, vintage kimono fabric, encapsulated in shiny, clear resin. They are all handmade by me and are available in round...
or square...
Obviously, each piece is absolutely unique!
They come on a waxed cord thong with a silver clasp, and are presented in a dinky lilac organza bag, like so:
I'm envisaging most of these will be sent to galleries and shops, so I'm not going to put them up on my website as it's too difficult to keep on top of what's in stock (what with them being unique and all). However, if there are any that grab your fancy, give me a shout at Even if that particular one is no longer in stock, I may have more of the fabric that I can make another from. They are £10 each, + £2 P&P (P&P is the same regardless of your order size, so why not pop over to while you're at it and let me know if there's anything else you'd like!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lights, Kimono, Action!

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually say I teach Japanese arts and crafts. But this doesn't really cover half of what I actually do from day to day. I have to juggle all sorts of balls to keep the business going, and sometimes I end up in quite bizarre situations!

 So yesterday I was in Sheffield, in a kimono, with a camera in my face...

There's a wonderful and completely fabulous art show in Sheffield each September, called Art in the Gardens. It's been going since 2004, and I've been there each year - how old does that make me feel?! The show is set in the beautiful grounds of Sheffield Botanical Gardens but because I have a tendency to hang a few wedding kimono from the ceiling, they let me exhibit in the glass pavilion (plus that's the home of the Japanesey plants). Over the years I've made some firm friends there, so it's a bit of a social event too. Plus, my ancestors hailed from Sheffield as early as 1377 and built the still-standing Bishops House! (my maiden name was Blyth, from 'de Blythe'). We moved from Sheffield in 1982. So, it's a joy for me to go back there every now and again.

Anyway, back to yesterday...

Some weeks ago, Organiser Howard asked if I would be 'the face' of this year's event! 'Oh, it'll just be a few posters', I thought, so I agreed. They wanted me to wear kimono too. No problem. All we needed was a nice, sunny day for the photos, but at the end of May that's a safe bet, right? Hmm. So the date was set, but when it came, the forecasts said 70mph winds and rain. Weather warnings in place throughout the UK. OK...

Not to be defeated, we agreed to go ahead regardless, but I decided there was a greater chance of arriving in one piece on the train than in the car, plus I could get my makeup on, en route. Organiser Howard even gave me a lift from the station so I wasn't too wind-swept upon arrival. Of course, the minute we got to the gardens, it started raining! Undeterred, I changed into my kimono, in someone's office, with one foot against the door to stop anyone barging in, and no mirror, in 10 minutes flat. Oh yeah! To my great delight, the lovely Kitty Kanzashi battled the elements and arrived before the photographer, so she was able to straighten me out where necessary, and take some snaps for you guys.
Cue cheesy grins for half an hour and that was about it. 

Except I asked Organiser Howard what exactly the photos would be used for. Apparently it's not just a few posters. It's about 75 of those 8 foot tall JCDecaux billboards(!), banners on every park railing in Sheffield, ALL the flyers, posters and programmes for the event. Ohhh... So if you live, or happen to be, in Sheffield over the next few months, I'll be watching you!!! 

But most importantly, please do try and make it to the event. It's a real family day out with tons of art, performances, stuff to see and do, you may even see some Victorians wandering around, plus loads of the market traders from Sheffield with stalls of handmade goodies, and of course there are the gardens themselves to admire. And don't forget to come and say hello to me!!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A Manic Few Weeks

OK so I've been useless and not posted on here for a few weeks. But believe me, I've not had time to catch my breath since we got back from Japan. I've done more talks and workshops than you can shake a kendo stick at, plus a fundraising day, all of which involved a lot of preparation and travelling.

At the fundraising day I was genuinely surprised, but very happy, to be presented with this gorgeous bonsai tree! 
I've also written 2 magazine articles; one for Creative Crafting on Japanese traditional crafts, and one for the Beadworkers Guild Journal which involved devising a project using kumihimo braiding with beads, and an interview about me and my work. It's amazing how much work went into the project. The easy part was designing the bracelet, but then I had to make lots of samples, take step-by-step photographs (not easy when you need 2 hands to braid with and you've no tripod!), edit said photos, write instructions linked to the photos and then package the lot off to the Guild. Apparently, everyone in the office is coveting the bracelets so I'll have to count them when I get them back! Both articles will be published next month, for the July editions.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, I made a baby's quilt. This was a commission which I got before Japan, so I was able to get some lovely waffle-weave fabrics from Kyoto. I've grabbed an hour here and there (usually in front of the 10 o'clock news) and it is finally done! The technique I used is Japanese Folded Patchwork (NOT Cathedral Windows as some people think when I teach it!). Although I machined some of it, there was a lot of hand stitching involved, which I love doing.
This is how the back looks
I've also been busy arranging workshops with several craft shops who stock my kits. So, you are welcome to come along if you want to learn! Here's the dates:

May 26th The Paper Lane, Northallerton KANZASHI BROOCH MAKING

June 18th Lythe Village Hall (Gillmot Crafts) FUROSHIKI GIFT WRAPPING AND NEEDLE FELTING

June 25th The Paper Lane, Northallerton ORIGAMI with KIMONO DRESSING DEMONSTRATION

These days should be great fun as you will meet other crafters and learn something completely different and new. Please contact the organisers through the links above to book a place.

And last, but probably most importantly, I can now announce an event that my kimono teacher and I discussed when we were in Japan. Emiko is going to come to the UK in November especially to work with Japan Crafts to raise money for Japan. Much of the country is still devastated and will need help long after the disaster disappears from our news. So, although November is a way off, money raised then will be as much needed as it is now. Details of Emiko's visit (and the other stuff Japan Crafts has been doing for Japan) can be seen here

If you have any questions or ideas for Emiko's visit, please do get in touch x