art creativity design quilts Zen philosophy

Rainbow kimono silk quilt sparkles in sunshine! updated with news from Seattle Asian Art Museum

This quilt, made of tiny pieces of Japanese kimono silk, really sparkles in the sunlight!   May its beauty shine some cheer into your day.

Japanese kimono silk quilt no. 1 framed better

The border fabric is cotton with a violet pattern from Terao, Japan, a region known for its wisteria.  (Thanks to Ashley M., who deciphered the characters for me.) The silks and cotton wisteria fabric came from Hosekibako–the elegant Japanese resale shop here in Seattle. Can’t wait to go back for more treasures!

P.S. I went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum today at the grand re-opening. It is a spring-like day here today; perfect for a trek to Capitol Hill. As we made our way back to West Seattle, the roads were (relatively) clear and trouble-free, the sky had fluffy white clouds, tiny sailboats flickered about on the blue waters off to the West, and all was cloaked in a subtle sense of well-being. That happiness is due in part at least to the art museum visit: seeing so many smiling, warm-looking Buddhas wishing you well does a world of good to the soul. And you must love the camels out front this art deco building–it brought back fond memories of climbing up and relaxing in their warm, smooth embrace, as a little kid. Reminded me of the Art Institute of Chicago also, and its lions.

The exhibits were all exquisitely balanced, well-contextualized by clear but un-intrusive signage, and thematically interesting. I liked the thematic organization; it makes it easier for non-specialists to see the differences between Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan sculpture or painting , for example, when you see the objects side by side. Loved the Chinese landscapes with the tiny human figures and soaring mountains wrapped in mist, the adorable ducklings in the Chinese style, and the plum bough cloaked in snow.

But the best thing was to discover a link between my recent creation and Japanese tradition! Below you’ll see my big discovery: an eighteenth-century overcoat or kesa, where wisteria winds around other “auspicious motifs” including  chrysanthemums and peonies.  A phoenix flies by, adding to the baroque feel and hopeful message.

This visit reminded me of the profound eloquence of symbols. The crane–symbol of longevity–is featured in many delightful objects seen in the museum: for example this exquisite writing box.  My quilt also has a tiny crane–or more precisely, a white heron, also an emblem of good luck*–tucked inside; see it hiding in the reeds below?

favorite square with crane in late phase

It is so inspiring to see and to create objects that pass on an uplifting message with eloquent symbols. Since I already have two more underway, I hereby vow to create an entire line of Kimono silk quilts, and each one will have a crane and other “auspicious motifs” sewn directly into it, thereby providing hopes for good fortune and long life to all the people they touch.

*Thanks to my new acquaintances at Hosekibako, for explaining the difference between cranes and white herons!


art design quilts Zen philosophy

always learning … and here’s Kimono silk quilt no. 1, “Rainbow”!

Kimono silk rainbow design top Jan 10 2020.jpg

Epictetus wrote: “Know first who you are and what you’re capable of. Just as nothing great is created instantly, the same goes for the perfecting of our talents and aptitudes. We are always learning, always growing. It is right to accept challenges. This is how we progress to the next level of intellectual, physical, or moral development. Still, don’t kid yourself: If you try to be something or someone you are not, you belittle your true self and end up not developing in those areas that you would have excelled at quite naturally.  …. we each have our own special calling. Listen to yours and follow it faithfully.”

–The Art of Living: The Classic Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness, ed. Sharon Lebell, p. 65.

Over the past 16 days, I have challenged myself to do something with a bunch of tiny rectangles of silk from a catalog of Japanese kimono silks, which I received in an old cookie tin from a thrift shop. As mentioned earlier, I first found them frustrating to handle–they slip so quickly out of grip!  But the more I worked with them, the more fascinated and delighted I became. Unlike cheaper fabrics, these tiny scraps are sturdy and cooperative; they feel so soft yet they are strong. They take a fold easily with a cool iron, though one must handle them extremely carefully when sewing or they will stretch out of shape.

The photos here give a glimpse of how it came about, bit by bit.  It was a perfect project for an accomplished perfectionist. What I now marvel on, looking at the finished project, is how the scraps seem to have fallen naturally into color categories–blue, purple, orange, yellow, and green. I had no plan in mind upon beginning; I was just following the instructions on making a Log Cabin quilt from Quilts from the Quiltmaker’s Gift. The crucial difference was that instead of imposing a color scheme, I let the color scheme emerge from the materials–and it became a rainbow!  Then I framed it in white and grey, to enhance the yin/yang message.  And it became Kimono quilt no. 1, “Rainbow”: a perfect emblem for this rainy and flowery place. I’ll have it done right in time for Cherry Blossom celebrations of the early spring!

Today I’m heading back over to Hosekibako, the Japanese resale shop on Weller Street where my husband bought that tin, in the hopes of finding more Kimono silk scraps. I love the way they tell stories, if you’re quiet and look carefully…

and I can’t wait to make Kimono silk quilt no. 2!

Patchwork man