my mom

Mom in her early 20s

My mother celebrates another birthday today.  I don’t know if she would appreciate my mentioning her age, so I won’t.  It is very fitting though, to celebrate her in her excellent health and longevity.

In an artist talk given at the Japan Center earlier this year, I spoke about women who shaped me in my working with textiles.  It’s possible that she also had a hand in it – probably more than I know, as she was, in her home making, the one selecting the colors and fabrics in every aspect of our lives.  She sewed most of my and my sisters clothing, as well as her own.  She also made curtains, bedspreads; couch covers and other items for our homes in Kagoshima, Kyoto and Tokyo.  She was the interior decorator and seamstress doing her best to influence me also in that direction (although I wasn’t having much of it at the time!).

She did succeed in teaching me to sew on her little black Singer sewing machine in the dining room of our Kagoshima house on Kami Arata.  She felt it was necessary to learn these skills not only for practicality, but also for the fact that whatever my sisters and I made would be unique. I remember certain dresses, skirts and jumpers that she made.  I also remember spending what felt like hours in fabric shops “helping” select the ‘right’ fabric for certain projects.

Her interest, though, was western, as opposed to the culture in which we were immersed.  Japan was also westernized at this point, so patterns and cloth fitting that perspective were accessible in shops and department stores. Another aspect was that she often reminded me that I was western and would one day be “returning” to that culture and had to learn it and “dress it” so that I would ultimately “fit in.”  I believe in these things, she succeeded.

Today, in her good health and long living, she still appreciates a good piece of cloth, a well-designed dress or coat and its quality.  She doesn’t sew the way she did in her younger days, but she still enjoys it.


2 Responses to “my mom”

  1. shiborigirl Says:

    happy birthday to her! it reminds me that it wasn’t all that long ago that sewing and textiles had a place in many more homes than it currently does. home ec classes are almost a thing of the past now and one is not certain to gain that knowledge at home these days.

    and a very handsome photo of her…love all those old ones of you kids growing up in Japan too. a lovely memory filled history.

    • Susan Says:

      Thank you, Glennis! I’ll pass on those good wishes!

      I think home sewing may be coming back, at least to a small degree – I think. The fabric stores seem to have a better selection than they used to, although the focus seems to be on quilting. I remember home ec (where I was a reluctant participant – I did better at home)in my own hs in Tokyo.

      The school where I taught had home ec (fortunately) and recall that some of the banners my students worked their shibori were finished along the edges by home ec students (kudos to them!). I agree that these skills need to continue to be instilled!

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