Maki Textile StudioMay 08, 2014

by Jessica Warner

We had a lovely day in May with Chiaki Maki and Parva Tanaka from Maki Textile Studio, which is located in Akiruno, a serene town about 1.5 - 2 hours from Tokyo by train. We made a day of it - after visiting the studio Parva recommended an excellent sushi restaurant followed by a visit to the local onsen. 

Chiaki studied textile design at the Rhode Island School of Design and she founded the Maki Textile Studio in Tokyo in 1990. She was featured in Structure and Surface, the exhibition about contemporary Japanese textiles held at MOMA in 1998. She develops products at her studio in Japan and works with weavers in India to produce her beautiful, finely-woven textiles. She uses natural fibers such as tassar silk, mulberry silk, muga silk, wool, cotton, linen and banana fiber.  

The Maki studio, pictured on the left is a restored 200-year old farmhouse and on the right is their cedar-clad shop and cafe, both situated in this lovely, verdant setting.



This is the Chiaki, who graciously hosted us at her studio and shop. On the right she is showing us wild tassar silk from India before it is woven.


Below is Parva giving us a tour of their studio and on the right are samples of the tassar silk and cocoons.


Below JM, Carol and Catherine enjoy manju and green tea on the front deck of the shop.




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Reiko Sudo - Nuno CorporationJuly 09, 2013

by Jessica Warner

In Tokyo our group had the pleasure of meeting Reiko Sudo, head designer and co-founder of the legendary NUNO Corporation. Reiko had just returned from Melbourne where she was a speaker at the agIdeas 2013 International Design Week. It was interesting to hear Reiko talk about how NUNO's fabric design, which is very experimental and cutting-edge, is also rooted in Japanese textile traditions.

An example of reinterpreting Japanese textile traditions is seen in this scarf (pictured on the left), which looks like crushed shibori. Using the traditional Japanese dyeing method as a starting-point, Reiko developed this fabric by placing dye-coated paper, containing holes, on top of silk. The fabric is then pinched through the holes and flattened before the dye is heat-transferred to the fabric. This technique gives an edginess to traditional shibori. We'll be selling this scarf in blue and copper at the pop-up shop in August. On the right are two fabrics that are created using a dissolvable base fabric, upon which smaller fabric pieces are sewn.

It was also interesting to hear Reiko talk about the recent exhibition of traditional Japanese textiles that she and her team curated for Found MUJI, the MUJI concept store in Aoyama, Tokyo. She told us about the many weekends she and her colleagues spent visiting textile-makers all over Japan during research for the exhibition. I wish I could have seen it! Check the blog for gorgeous images such as this one below. Reiko took many of these photos herself!



Shou-Sugi-BanJuly 05, 2013

by Jessica Warner

We're building an office/studio/guest-room in our backyard and we're exploring options for the exterior. One idea we're looking into is shou-sugi-ban, which is an old Japanese method of burning wood to make it fire-resistant. We just received these shou-sugi-ban samples from a company in Austin, Texas called Delta Millworks. There are so many different options! Below are some photos I took in Kyoto with examples of black interiors and exteriors.


                                          (This feature wall, pictured left, is actually lined with black paper)


Nezu Museum, TokyoJune 18, 2013

by Jessica Warner

Our first morning in Tokyo was spent at the Nezu Museum, an oasis in Tokyo. Designed by architect Kengo Kumo, the new museum building (re-opened in 2009) features classic Japanese design elements applied in a thoroughly contemporary way. The irises in full bloom in the museum's garden complemented the stunning iris screens we saw by 17th-century artist Ogata Korin. Susan, JM and Catherine are pictured below in the light-filled cafe, which has a translucent washi ceiling.





Kyototo & its NeighborsJune 18, 2013

by Jessica Warner

On our first morning in Kyoto we had the pleasure of meeting Kayoko Horiba, the designer of Kyototo, and Yasuyo Fujimoto, who is a batik and felt artist who translated for us. Kayoko gave us a sneak peak at their new line of products and also demonstrated to us two ways to tie furoshiki, the Japanese wrapping cloth. Click here to see the video! Kyototo makes quirky, contemporary versions of traditional Japanese items, such as tenugui, furoshiki and tabi. Their Ta-Wa-Ra neck cushion is made by the same atelier that makes traditional zabuton for Tenryuji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.


Kyototo's store has the most charming location, just down the hill from Yasaka Pagoda, not far from Kyomizu-dera. Here are same maiko (geiko in training) pictured on the street outside the store!


Kyototo also has some great neighbors including Uragu Hatch, a lovely stationary store and Bungakudo, a cute kimono and accessory store with the best windows!






Indigo PotJune 11, 2013

by Jessica Warner

I love this photo, taken by Anneke, of our group at the indigo pot!


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Japanese Textile WorkshopJune 01, 2013

by Jessica Warner

The highlight of our trip to Japan were the five days we spent in Fujino, a beautiful town outside Tokyo, where we were guests of Bryan Whitehead.  Bryan is Canadian but has lived in Japan for 25 years and is an expert in Japanese textiles.  He lives in a rustic Japanese farmhouse situated amongst verdant, lush mountains.  This is the view from the second floor of the farmhouse.  While we were there, these fish flags flew over town for Children's Day.  Also pictured below is the farmhouse exterior and Catherine reading in Bryan's cosy living room (Love the indigo-dyed curtains!).



Bryan grows his own indigo and also breeds silk worms.  Two large indigo pots flank the entrance to his house. In addition to dyeing, Bryan also weaves and he has several looms set up inside his house.  This is Bryan at the indigo pot and collecting wisteria for ikebana.


Our workshops with Bryan included shibori and katazome stencil dyeing in indigo.  Below is a lovely picture of Catherine at the indigo pot and a photo of me rinsing my shibori-dyed fabric in the river.  As this photo was taken another piece of fabric started floating down the river and I had to run -- rather ungracefully -- over the slippery rocks in plastic slippers to retrieve it! 


Its always fun removing the shibori stitches to reveal the pattern after dyeing -- Susan made this stunning piece on the left. On the right are katazome-dyed samples by Bryan.


Each morning we gathered in the living room where Bryan introduced us to various Japanese textiles and showed us pieces from his collection. 


Bryan's house is filled with gorgeous ikebana arrangements done by the lovely Hiro, who is a Japanese-Brazilian ikebana artist.  This is the spectacular ikebana arrangement on the third-floor where the guest rooms are located.

Hiro gave us an ikebana lesson and here he is below working magic with the flowers!  It was a lot of fun to try (although weirdly difficult...) and Hiro had the most beautiful selection of flowers, branches and vines for us to work with. The wisteria was collected from the forest behind the farmhouse.


We ate incredible food at Bryan's house, prepared by his friend Shuji, who works as a lawyer in Tokyo and spends the weekends in Fujino where he has a pottery studio.  Have I mentioned that Bryan's house is filled with the most interesting people?  It was like Grand Central Station with talented creative friends coming and going.  Here's some of Shuji's food and pottery.


We also had the privilege of meeting Ogata-san, Bryan's 95-year old friend and one of the most inspiring older woman I've met!  She cooked hand-made udon noodles for us and prepared lunch for about 15 people!  In addition to cooking, she also gardens and does shibori stitching!  Bryan's friend Aiko, who is a fashion designer (Carol bought a dress she made - wish I had a photo!), came over with her trunk of kimono and Ogata-san helped dress us.  That was quite a moment - to have the arms of a 95-year old woman around me while she tied the obi.  Here she is making udon and dressing Susan in kimono.

Bryan took us out to dinner at Shu, a restaurant belonging to his friend, and he also arranged for some friends to play music that night.  In a stroke of serendipity, there just happened to be a singer and Elvis look-alike from Tokyo eating at the restaurant that night.  He sang classic American cover songs and we had fun, fabulous evening!


Thank you, Bryan, for giving us such a rich experience!  Thanks also to everyone who helped out while we were there.  Shuji, thanks for the delicious home-cooking; Hiro, thank-you for sharing ikebana with us; Anneke, thank you for the pots of tea & fabulous presence; Ishikawa-san, thank you for taking us places & for the lovely baskets; Mini & Henry, thank you for sharing your space with us!


Kyoto Indigo - Aizen Kobo & Gallery KeiMay 31, 2013

by Jessica Warner

While we were traveling in Japan I read in the Wall Street Journal that "shibori is the next ikat" in home furnishings. Shibori is certainly having a moment when you see the designs at West Elm, but these mass-produced knock-offs are far from the enduring Japanese tradition practiced by Kenichi Utsuki at Aizen Kobo. Aizen Kobo specializes in indigo dyeing and we were fortunate to spend an afternoon there during our Kyoto visit. At the back of the shop you can smell the pungent indigo vat, which requires constant tending! Its easy to appreciate the price of these naturally- and hand-dyed fabrics. Below are examples of shibori-dyed and sashiko-embroidered fabrics. The brilliant red is dyed with madder. 





One afternoon we also raced down Teramachi Street to get to Gallery Kei before closing. Kei Kawasaki -- who is so friendly and knowledgeable -- specializes in Japanese bast-fiber textiles (made from plants and grasses). She has an excellent selection, including vintage indigo-dyed fabrics and katazome stencils. This neighborhood is also great for browsing.





Kyoto Design HouseMay 31, 2013

by Jessica Warner

Kyoto Design House is a great source for contemporary design from Kyoto craftspeople. The store is housed within an elegant building designed by Tadao Ando and is located in an old neighborhood full of shops and restaurants. Kyoto Design House provides a map and guide to the area. After browsing Kyoto Design House we discovered Yamashiro, a tiny shop (founded in 1950) which sells cotton basics made from a lovely, lightweight crepe cotton. We especially liked their itajime-dyed scarves and shrugs.






Tokyo VintageMay 22, 2013

by Jessica Warner

We did a lot of shopping in Japan! These are some shops we visited for vintage textiles in Tokyo. Subscribe to my blog feed (the icon at top right corner of website) for posts about Japan...I have a LOT of material and images to post of the coming weeks!

Morita has an excellent selection of vintage Japanese textiles as well as other Asian textiles.  Tadashi Morita (pictured below) opened the store in 1970 and he is the author of this great new book, which is worth having just for the images even if you can't read Japanese!

Nearby at Ishii Collection, we enjoyed looking through Hiromi Ishii's collection of katagami stencils. These stencils, used to print kimono fabric, can be made into custom lamps.

Gallery Kawano in Omotesando has a great selection of vintage kimono as well as fabric pieces.  We had a delicious tonkatsu lunch at nearby at Maisen.  Also further up the street is a new Mina Perhonen store, which I was excited to check out.


In Shinjuku we discovered this fabulous little kimono store, called Gallery Sakura, housed in a charming wooden house along the Myosenji River. A group of young women were having a sewing circle on the floor of the shop. The woman holding up her sleeve is wearing her grandmother's kimono - she was showing us how the sleeves are too short!  Carol felt right at home here as you can see!  I was coveting the dolls' kimono hanging from the ceiling but they weren't for sale.