Stage 2 Focusing on your theme book

Stage 2: Focusing on your Theme Book

Having got some ideas for using techniques practised during the course, I then got out the Theme Book which I have been adding to over the last few months.  It has turned out as a kind of pictorial journal of my time exploring Japanese textiles whilst living in Tokyo.  I decided to concentrate early on on Japanese Folk Textiles and have collected photos, brochures, articles etc as well as fabric samples I have made myself and collected from flea markets.  I am attracted to Japanese folk textiles because of the different  threads and fabrics woven and stitched into the layers.  The concepts of ‘Mottainai’ and aesthetic of ‘Wabi Sabi’ are very important to me and will be central to my finished piece.  I also love the aesthetic of Shibusa which implies elegance – simple, subtle and unobtrusive beauty (Wikipaedia) – simplicity, modesty, naturalness, everydayness, as well as imperfection.

Vintage textiles are wonderful to handle as they invoke feelings, experiences and memories.  This sensory experience is something I would like my final piece to have and so it is important that the piece is made of vintage fabric that I have reworked.  I have explored the nature of Japanese textiles further by attempting some of the pain-staking techniques of katazome and shibori myself. 


Looking closely at some of my collected Japanese textiles for inspiration:

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In 1960 ChuzaburoTanaka  set out to salvage the patched and mended Boro clothing, which was thrown away due to the shame of possessing repaired clothing.  I visited his museum, The Amuse Museum in Tokyo several times.  It was fantastic as visitors are free to handle the textiles and photograph them.  I spent hours there!

I have been looking closely at Boro textiles and in particular at the stitching used to join two or more layers.  These samples have intrinsic value as each filament and piece of fabric was precious.  Beautiful stitching brings pleasure to a simple mind-numbing task!  The techniques used can be compared to Western quilt making, Indian Kantha and Korean Potaj, all initially carried out to add longevity to pieces of valuable cloth.


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 As part of my studies, I have been attempting to capture the alluring texture of boro pieces through photography, wash and ink, line drawing and collage.


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 I have also explored making pieces of patchwork –  boro-inspired by piecing together vintage textiles:


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Last year, I decided to further my studies by actually attempting some of the Japanese textile techniques I so admired myself.  It was hard to find classes in English and I actually attended two classes on Shibori at West Dean College, England whilst visiting.  Luckily, on my return to Japan, i cam across a Canadian who had been living in Japan for over twenty years, studying Japanese textiles.  He offered classes in Indigo-dyeing, Shibori, Katazome and weaving.  He also passed on his experience and knowledge of natural dyeing and silk production.


Katazome – Japanese stencilling

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Some of my stash of hand-dyed fabrics: 

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To supplement by first-hand research into Japanese folk textiles, I have been studying books and magazines and I have further added to my research by attending exhibitions and museums, researching traditional textiles and observing the work of contemporary artists, utilising traditional techniques but with a contemporary slant.

Looking through my Theme book and all my samples, it has become clear that my aim is to produce a final piece that as well as being useful is beautiful and inspirational – to be used and held –  a textile piece that contains the history of uses before and hints that it can be used and mended further.  Rather than try to reproduce a weathered, traditional textile, I am however interested in creating a contemporary piece, whilst using traditional Japanese techniques and aesthetic.

As a fitting final piece, following all this research, my idea is to make a panelled bag using my own printed textiles.  I will be taking inspiration from the boro textiles and sashiko stitching.  I will need to plan the bag, think about the composition of the textiles, the techniques used to create the textiles, how I will piece them and designs for the stitching.  Then I will need to plan how to line and fasten the bag.  I shall be using my theme book for ideas at each stage. 


The problem is that I have so many sources of inspiration.  Initially, I kept thinking about ways to include everything but I really must consider my  tutor’s comments about keeping things simple – simple is best!  I plan to use some of my shibori and katazome pieces, adding sashiko stitching for further interest but.. some ideas have to go – my Calligraphy idea – may be too much as well as using different Japanese motifs.  to

We were asked to make at least two ‘large’ drawings based on our source material so my next step was to draw a design for my boro bag with details of stitching and patched pieces.


I was inspired by this bag by Jude Hill which had something of the aesthetic I was after but I wanted to keep the design more simple.

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 This photo of a vintage Japanese bag was closer to what I was thinking…

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Here are my initial plans: 

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There are still many points to consider:

 – colour, texture, shape and composition

– how to combine the different techniques i plan to use: sashiko, piecing, layering, colour blocks, composition

-need to think about contrast and harmony. I can alter the balance by adding shapes, using stitching, splashes of colour etc 








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