Category Archives: Artisans

Quilt Envy at AQS Phoenix: Stellar Japanese Quilts on Display

Quilt: Flowering by Sachiko Yoshida

Detail of “Flowering” by Sachiko Yoshida at AQS Quilt Week 2016

Remember that punkish song I think I’m Turning Japanese by The Vapors? There are actually moments when I’d like to be a Japanese artist. Okay, yes, this is a strange ambition to share, but no weirder than my youngest son wanting to be a baby Doberman Pinscher when he grew up. Needless to say, he’s still human and I’m still an American. And, Japanese quilt makers are uncommonly wonderful craftswomen.

That lesson was underscored with a super-thick black Sharpie last month at AQS Quilt Week in Phoenix, AZ. Among the touring exhibits was one called Symphony of Colors: An Exhibit of 24 Japanese Quilts. Beautiful! Fantastic! Superb! If AQS Quilt Week 2016 comes your way, go, go go!

I’ve got a few images to share, but really, they are inadequate when compared to the actual quilts. Curious about whether I could find better images online, I came across a blog by another show attendee, Debbie Moyes. Take a look at her review at A Daily Dose of Fiber where the photos are truer to the colors and a bit sharper.

Here’s a look at Sachiko Yoshida’s sublime Flowering. I’ve got a serious case of quilt envy going with this quilt–it probably sparked my fantasy of becoming a Japanese quilt maker. Wrap me up in this beauty and I will be happy forever! Genius color use, fabric choice, composition, fabrication, workmanship, and finishing. Q.E.D.

Quilt: Flowering by Sashiko Yoshida at AQS Quilt Week 2016

What is better than one Sachiko Yoshida quilt? Another one! I suspect this quilt, Dianthus: In Memory of My Mother, has a story of loss, but what a wonderful way to celebrate and remember a beloved parent.

Quilt: Dianthus: In Memory of My Mother by Shashiko Yoshida at AQS Quilt Week 2016

The beauty is also in the details:

Quilt: Detail Sashiko Yoshida

The blocks are lovely as well with the subtle play of colors across their surfaces:

Quilt: Detail Sashiko Yoshida

Sigh. Japanese quilt makers just get better and better. Years ago, my friend Cyndy Rymer and I co-edited a trio of compilations of quilt patterns from Quilts Japan magazine (click the Arts& Crafts tab for the titles) for C&T Publishing. The AQS show reminded me of that journey through the inventiveness and craftsmanship of some remarkable quilting women. My trip through Symphony of Colors reinforced the lesson that Japanese quilters are uniquely able to envision and create complete masterpieces–no one element is weaker than another. And, each complements the other. The finishing touch of the quilting is never an afterthought.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox. I just had to get it off my chest. Keep on creating–I will when I finally get to unpack my studio!

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Media Finds: Artists at Work

Have tools, create art?

Have tools, create art?

Dilettante here:  I wish I were completely, perfectly, soul-satisfyingly proficient in an art form, but I cannot settle down to one pursuit and thus I’m a wicked dabbler. There are those, though, who do and they are extraordinary. Lately, I’ve found a wellspring of artists profiles on cable  TV and I thought I’d share some of the artists who’ve tantalized me with their skill and accomplishments.

How did find these artists? Well, that discovery was an unexpected boon from my husband’s channel-surfing habit. I don’t know if you’ve come across NHK World, it’s a Japanese TV network, but do give it a try if you can. Albeit funky at times, the cultural programing is remarkable and even mind-blowing. The other finds are serendipitous as well, but from more conventional sources like PBS and YouTube.

Mika Toba & Katazome Textile Dyeing

Meet Mika Toba, a woman artist who uses an ancient Japanese dyeing technique called Katazome to create fabric panels. The program we caught was called Creating a Zen World. The segment follows Toba as she conceptualizes a major commission for a Zen temple called Ryōan-ji in Kyoto–parts of it date to the 12th century, but the temple itself was constructed sometime after 1450. Toba’s completed screens would keep company with the work of revered artists and craftsmen of bygone times. The segment shows how Toba is more than up for the task from her initial renderings of the zen-like landscapes that would be dyed onto the screens to her dogged commitment to following age-old techniques and materials to complete her commission. She has singlehandedly kept artisanal workshops in Kyoto from shuttering in order to help create her art.

What is remarkable about the Zen temple commission is that she created scenes on both sides of the wall-sized screens. But it’s Toba herself who intrigued me more. I cannot help but be swept up by the single-mindedness of her vision and commitment, which is really what a dabbler/artist lacks, or at least experiences only spasmodically. I let life intrude and she, well, she doesn’t. After that fun ride on Toba’s Katazome journey, I’m an NHK fan. You will be as well if you are the least intrigued by Japanese art forms and cultural eccentricities–witness the segment on all manner cosmetic brushes each with a very specific use!

Mika Toba & her Katazome art--visit her website to learn more about this incredible artist

Mika Toba & her Katazome art–visit her website to learn more about this incredible artist

Sharon Isbin, Troubadour

Photo by J. Henry Fair and posted on Isbin's website

Photo by J. Henry Fair and posted on Isbin’s website

My husband and I caught this artist profile one evening on PBS, Sharon Isbin, Troubadour, although I suspect it forms part of a larger public television series. Sharon Isbin is a classical guitarist who is not only an international performer and Grammy winner, she also is the director of guitar for the Aspen Music Festival and The Julliard School. I was enchanted by her maverick take on guitar music. Rising through the ranks as a woman in a musical form dominated by iconoclastic guitarists like Andres Segovia is not her only grand achievement, she also experiments outrageously with musicians from all backgrounds and styles. The results reflect that diversity–some are great and some are odd, but why not? It was fun to see her interactions with rock musicians and avant-garde composers.

The Amped-up Realism of Marcello Barenghi 

Hyper realism of Marcello Barenghi featured on his website

I realized as I was composing this post that there’s a larger story at work with my BSOz adventure here:  I LOVE to see an artist at work. Many times I’d rather experience the behind-the-scenes story than see the result–it’s the struggle that yields to innovation that is compelling for me. And this artist of hyper realism delivers just that:  videos of him making drawings that are as good as photographs. Take a look at Marcello Barenghi’s time-lapse snippets and be awed.

Always a Dancer, Even if the Body Complains

A gallery of ballet dancers UK Royal Ballet from web

Click photo to visit the ballet company’s website

So far I’ve given you a textile art, music, and drawing, and so I’ll close with a bit of sublime dance. This is one of my favorite YouTube clips from the Royal Ballet in London, England. As a ballet practitioner who has run way past her dance expiration date (‘dem legs do creak and protest!), I adore watching ballet class as it should be done. I hope you do too, but know that the big stuff–turns, jumps, leaps–come toward the end of class.

BSOz for you!

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