Posts Tagged ‘Japan’


February 1, 2013

First Baku
Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Baku have been on my mind for years as a motif. They are one of many kinds of yokai (mythical creatures) that lurk, cause mischief, are benign or protective.

Japanese lore is full of all kinds that help to explain the mysterious. Although, I think it makes it even more so with a bit of an edge.

 Last year I intended to start a series around Baku and as usual time got away.  I have a postcard with an image that seems to speak to me every time I look at it.   I had in mind to make them as gifts for family – at least the first few.   So they are finally, slowly emerging.  We’ll see what happens.

This is the first one. I’ve used a variety of stitches here – traditional shibori, trying to find a way to express this creature’s characteristics. As he is the first, he is very much like the postcard image.  I’ve decided that I won’t repeat the same motif over and over.  That doesn’t mean I won’t come back to it though.  He also covers a pillowcase, to guard the sleeper, as he is a nightmare eater.

Kiseki/”I Wish”

December 30, 2012


Roger Ebert, in his comment about “I Wish” on Rotten Tomatoes, says, it’s “built around performances by two real-life brothers who are as unaffected, spirited and lovable as I can imagine, and one of the pleasures of “I Wish” is simply spending time with them.”  Andrew L. Urban adds, “and in the way Kore-eda [writer/director] immerses us in provincial Japanese life is exceptional.”I think they’re holding back.  There’s so much more to this film than meets the eye.

I had the pleasure of watching it last night and will undoubtedly return to it many times.  It’s one of those films – so many levels – not to mention one of the main settings is Kagoshima.  Did I give something away here?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 10, 2012

Recently, someone at a workshop asked whether or not shibori was in other colors besides indigo and this exquisite example above answers that question. I don’t know what dyes were used to achieve this potent red, but it does bring to mind again, the beauty and boldness of that hue.

Shibori is always a main attraction on this particular site, but this time it was a word, kagome (籠目・かごめ) that gave me pause. The word is familiar, particularly in its repeated 籠目籠め、kagome, kagome   form. Then again, the write up above defines  it as  basket weave  – two different contexts, so what does it really mean?

Kago does mean “basket” and kagome refers to the pattern.  It also means “cage” (as in a bamboo bird cage), and the repeated pattern is a song in a child’s game similar to “Here we go ‘round the Mulberry Bush.” That’s how I know it and often chanted the song and walked the circle in playing the game with my playmates in Kagoshima. I’m always surprised to find how deeply embedded these memories are when I run across them – the unexpected thread.

Daily Japanese Textile

Woman’s yukata (casual summer kimono)
Several types of shibori

Most yukata have blue and white as their two base colors, but occasionally other colors are used.

This lattice design is called kagome, and is often used in basket weaving. The flowers are peonies.

The woodblock print below, by Sadahide, shows kagome weave used in gabions along a riverbank. (Photo thanks to

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Shibori swatches

June 17, 2012


Originally uploaded by j9leblanc

I stepped away from the studio on Friday to spend the day at the Gregg Museum. Janine told me that there were some swatches that needed some “attention” (you need to see these!) and they also needed some documentation. I took snapshots until my camera battery was exhausted. Then we switched over to Janine’s.

This example is only one small example. Not all are authentic shibori, but printed or woven examples. Still aspects of these pieces are quite wonderful and I find them inspiring. This is, again, just a very small sampling of what’s in the collection of this ilk.

But it takes me back

August 10, 2011

shooting outdoors
Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Aesthetically speaking, this may not be the best presentation. It’s outdoors, the clothespins are next to the scarf. I’m not sure the scarf is entirely in focus. There could have been a slight breeze just as I was pushing  the shutter. It’s hard to say. Basically, it’s imperfect and I guess we’re supposed to be striving for the best or some kind of perfection or at least bringing it to the best “light.” The thing is, there’s a part of me that wants to fight that.

I like a little reality. It’s more fun that way. There’s more to it though and I’ve realized that for some time. It hit me again when I read a message from an old middle school chum from my days in Japan. She referred to our summers in the mountains – Nojri-ko in Nagano-ken. It explained it all.

It’s memory,  you carry it with you and put it in your work.  It becomes a part of your imagery.  Of course, when I’m taking these little outdoor shots, in my backyard, there’s also an element of sound, from the insects.  That experience is also important and that aspect is unseen (or unheard).

That’s as far as I can take it for the moment.  It’s a little “dip” into the idea,  but it’s a start.  I know why I do what I do and it’s the knowing and understanding that matters, I think.

Nebuta Matsuri

August 7, 2011

Nebuta float

This is from a wonderful series of photographs around Aomori’s Nebuta Summer Festival. I’m viewing it now via NHK. It’s a loud celebration with flutes, Taiko drums and folk dancing – a great way to forget the summer heat.

Beetle Queen

August 5, 2011

Beetle Queen

It’s the bug season and they seem to be making quite a racket these days – it’s those (せみ)semi (cicadas)!  I’m not crazy about insects, but can’t ignore them either, so couldn’t really pass this one up when it showed up on Independent Lens recently.  It’s in Japanese (& subbed), so it’s likely I’ll watch it again.  There is an appeal.

strengths & weaknesses

April 12, 2011


A tragedy of this magnitude must change a society. My hope is that it creates a sense of urgency and fosters a new sense of country among all. Somehow we have to go forward. Takaaki Iwabu 

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Today’s N&O features an article and photography by Takaaki Iwabu, originally from Yokohama, and currently lives in Raleigh. He recently returned from Japan where he documented the aftermath of the earthquake and also visited family.

Tampa “Deai”

January 22, 2011

Oshima Tsumugi 1

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

A brief weekend trip took me to Tampa for a visit with my younger brother and his family. I keep returning there, but it was my father’s birthplace, my grandmother’s home where I lived during my college years and is now home for both my mother and brother. In many respects, it’s not just a place for visiting family, but a revisiting of family history and the stories my grandmother and dad used to tell.

This time, it was also a deai (meeting) with the young woman (Kaori) who generously made contact with our old friends in Kagoshima over the New Year’s holiday. Needless to say, it was a momentous occasion with getting acquainted, stories, gift and generous (お土産・おみやげ・omiyage)souvenir exchanges – examples of Oshima Tsumugi. The weavers in my neighborhood produced this kind of cloth. Some of the pieces I received are from Kaori’s grandmother who also lives in Kagoshima. So, these are very heartfelt and meaningful gifts.

After our all too brief gathering at Bella’s on Friday night, I spent the rest of the weekend visiting with family, re-watching 5 episodes of Atsuhime which featured Kagoshima and its local dialect, tasting that familiar Tampa/Ybor cuisine and learning more about Floridian and Tampa culture at the history museum.

’tis the season

December 18, 2010

Ue Arata Cho

It’s the old neighborhood where I grew up, but it isn’t.  It’s entirely gone, been wiped clean by…growth, change, progress…except for one small house and shop across the street from that deluxe gas station on the right.  The station actually sits in what used to be my front yard.

This image is from Google earth, the ‘magic carpet’ I occasionally take when I want to swoop in and take little walks down the streets where I used to ride my bike, visit in the weavers quarters and play with my neighborhood friends.  It has improved vastly since I sat looking at the same place on my brother’s laptop several years ago.  This summer when visiting his home, he pulled me over and said “Susan, have you seen this?”  I was astonished.

In retrospect, perhaps none of this is so remarkable, except that I simply have not made my way back to this spot since high school days.  It’s present day Ue Arata in Kagoshima, Japan – my furusato (hometown), not my birthplace.  Other aspects of my life were born here, though.

It’s a long and short story that can’t be told quickly or easily in words just now.  It appears though, that my family & I will make at least a ‘virtual’ contact with this place in the very near future.  Suffice it to say, emotions are running high at the moment and it’s difficult to focus.  It’s what comes with the season though, thoughts of home, the heart home, furusato.

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