A Commission Work in Japanese Calligraphy

 

My pattern making teacher saw one of my previous blog posts and commissioned me to do a Japanese calligraphy. She is about to move to her new apartment. She had ordered some furniture from Japan many months ago so I guess she wanted another Japanese accent where she will live.

Since I was not practising Japanese calligraphy for a while, I was not sure whether I could produce a high-level performance. I said to my teacher that I would try my best. I ordered 300 rice paper sheets for my practice.

She wanted the message symbolises “happy peaceful home”. The characters were up to me. So I thought about several options and started to practice.

People who do not know what good calligraphy pieces are, I guess everything would look very similar to them. But I know what is good and what is not acceptable. I practised so many pieces but I could not produce something I was happy with so my practice went on.

 

In the meantime, I had to go back to Japan to see my parents how they were going. Over there, I purchased more paper and materials. After I came back to Australia, I spent many more days of practising. But I could not still produce something I was happy with.

I got stressed out. Since the deadline was not close, I decided to leave it for a while. In the midst of struggling, it made me think that how important it was to practice the craft regularly if I wanted to keep at it.

After a while, I started to produce Japanese calligraphy again. Paper got wrinkled after drawing on rice paper. I ironed it to flatten but it was difficult to make it completely flat.

The top two was the size that my client was after. It is approximately 70cm by 30cm of rice paper. In the photo, it is already seen wrinkle happened. After ironing, it looked somewhat better but I could not make it flat enough. So I decided to offer to the client other pieces. See the below photo.

The size of the paper was A3. I had leftover special Japanese washi papers and I sacrificed all the papers to practice. I was happy with those pieces so I decided to hand them in.

In the end, the client also wanted to have the 70cm by 30cm piece even though the paper was not flat. I appreciate that she understands and accepts the charm and uniqueness of authentic handmade products.

I may not accept commission work in the future because I get so stressed out. But I am happy to express my freestyle of art through Japanese calligraphy.

All the best,

Chiggy

Re-making Project

 

Re-making from something old to something different sounds like fun.  I made a shrug a couple of years ago (see the photo below), but I was never happy with the result. I used square and rectangle fabrics to construct it. Of course there are some exceptions but a garment made with right-angled fabrics usually does not look nice on people because human bodies are curved. I rarely remake garments but I decided to attempt this project because I wanted to keep the Japanese Chirimen fabric (on the shoulders).

 

 

I started to unpick the threads. This is the hard and uninteresting part. I would unpick only if I love the things that I had sewn years before, or I would deconstruct it to see how I made the patterns.

 

 

In the end, I transformed the shrug into a tunic (see the photo below). It is made with 100% black linen with Japanese Chirimen as a feature. I have not worn it yet but I will enjoy wearing my new creation. The good news is I can wear this all year around.

 

What are you working at the moment?

All the best,

Chiggy

News

I am delighted and grateful that Burra Regional Art Gallery is agreed to display some of my vintage Japanese obi products. My handmade clutches are on my right.

In this photo, I am with Elaine Arthur, one of the volunteers of the gallery. She is a nice lady!

Thank you,

Chiggy

My Traditional Japanese Obi Shopping in Japan

On my last rip to Japan I had a quality time as I wrote in my previous blog “A Journey to Japan”. I wanted to buy some more obis and, at the last minute on the final day in Tokyo, I found a Japanese obi shop and bought several obis without inspecting them as carefully as I usually do. When I got home and had a good look at them I found some problems. It might be a good idea to leave my thoughts about these obis so that I could remember this experience.

Japanese obis were sashes used on traditional women’s garments and these particular ones were called Fukuro-obi. These were worn on formal occasions. There were several types of obis and these Fukuro-obis were high quality, not at the top but the second. Obis vary in rank and sizes.

 

 

Although obis were very special in the old days and still are, there is a disadvantage. Because the fabric is vintage or antique, many obis that are sold today have had a long use and may have creases, stains and sun-burnt areas. Especially white obis show stains badly. It is pity because white obis with gold and silver embroidery are particularly beautiful. One can try washing them or ask for dry cleaners to do the job, but there is no guarantee that stains will come off. The photo below shows stains on the lining of a white obi that I bought.

However, when you want to make a bag from an obi, for instance, you could always choose the part that is not damaged. Most of the time, stains occur on the lining fabric and usually the outer obi is not too bad.

 

The two photos below are good condition without stains but they are creased, on the lining and the outer fabric. The battle is to get the creases out. If I use low heat iron, it will not be too hard to flatten the creases.

 

 

For this red obi, I have to choose the parts which are re-usable and consider what I can do with them because there are some dark stains on the lining as well as the embroidery side.

 

On this green obi the outer fabric is not too bad but the lining has some wear and tear. I will find and keep the good parts for re-making purpose. If the worst comes the worst, I will change the whole lining to other silk fabric.

The moral of the story is it is best not to hurry some things. I wish I allowed more time to make sure I got good quality obis. If I ever go back to Tokyo and purchase some obis, I will not make the same mistake again.

 

Cheers,

Chiggy

A Journey to Japan

 

Japan is the country where I was born. I have never written about my trips to Japan even though I have gone back there every single year. My main purpose is to see my family but at the same time, that is a chance to ponder about life.

As usual, there were long flights from where I live in Australia to my hometown, Kumamoto. One of the reasons for the long flights was that I went through Tokyo. After I got to Tokyo, there was another delay before my flight to Kumamoto.

The other reason the journey felt so long was because of the eight-hour layover time at Singapore’s Changi airport. If we do not stay at a little hotel room inside the airport or do not plan to do something, the waiting hours feel dreadful.

I discovered that there were two free movie theatres in Changi airport. So if I could find a few good movies it is a good way to kill some time. Also, there are little pools, gyms or massage places.

 

By the time I got to Kumamoto, I was totally exhausted. Even though I have been travelling to Japan for ten years, I still find it difficult to get a decent sleep.

 

My mother is eighty years old and unfortunately, she is getting weaker and weaker every time I see her. In my mind, I think of my mother as she was in her 50’s and 60’s when she was strong. So observing her bedridden, getting vulnerable each year is hard.

 

I spent quality time with one of my best friends on the last day in Kumamoto. It was wonderful to catch up on each other’s lives since last we met. In spite of being a busy mum, she made time for me and we chatted and laughed a lot together.

 

The next day I flew to Tokyo. I caught up with my only brother there. We talked about our parents, the difference between our mother and father. My brother was saying one of the reasons our mum is bedridden is because she has never been interested in exercising throughout her life. That is partly because her hips and legs have been weak most of her life and she has gone through a few big operations over the years. Obviously, no one could say that she should have done exercises. Another reason she is ageing is because of her personality. She has been an introvert most of her life. She and one of her sisters have been good friends but other than that, my mum hardly ever socialised with other people. My father, on the contrary, is still active, he used to do social dancing for years and now he does table tennis three times a week. Thankfully, he is as fit as a fiddle.

 

The next day, I went to one of the old towns in Tokyo, Asakusa. I went there early in the morning before the many tourists arrived but they started to fill up the area soon after. Despite the crowds, I totally enjoyed the area.

Asakusa is the place where kimonos are common. I enjoyed watching the traditional and modern clothing together. 

 

One of the differences between Japan and Australia is that most of the old-fashioned Japanese restaurants display plastic sample dishes on the footpath or at least photos to show you what the meals look like. So you know exactly what you will get. 

 

The last day in Tokyo, I went to Aoyama where my favourite fashion designers’ shops are. Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garcons are the pioneers of Japanese fashion. Usually, I do not have the opportunity to visit their shops when I go to Japan because I do not visit Tokyo every time. But this trip I was in Tokyo and had a lot of time. I spent many happy hours wandering around their shops, looking at their crafts.

 

It was a wonderful trip to my hometown, Kumamoto as well as Tokyo. 

Image result for free image Japan

 

Thank you,

Chiggy

Powerful Question About Life 3

WHAT IS THE HIGHEST AND BEST USE OF TIME?

Time is the most precious commodity in life. It cannot be bought or made. It is only given. That makes us realise that we have to use time effectively because nobody knows when our time is going to end. That being said, we do not have to go and save the world. We can start what we can do on a small scale in daily life. Here are some examples of what we can do.

 

Reading Great Books To Study And Learn 

When I was young, I was not much of a reader. My parents never encouraged me to read, they did not tell me what was the benefit of reading nor did I have a curiosity what books would have given me.

When I was twenty-seven, a friend loaned me a book to read when I was in hospital. I cannot remember what the book was but it was intriguing so I devoured it. That was the starting point of my reading journey.

For me, benefits of reading are; creative stimulation, acquiring knowledge, learning history, expansion of my vocabulary range, making me a better writer, improvement of focus and concentration, stress reduction and so forth.

 

Going To Art Galleries And Exhibitions For Inspiration

Looking at art in books is wonderful, yet visiting art galleries and exhibitions is the best way to experience fine art. My experience is that when I see some original art, I get goosebumps. This never happens when I look at books.

 

Do The Things That You Love To Do Whether The Results Are Successful Or Not 

Whatever your special interests might be, “actual doing” brings joy. Some people are afraid to try because they think they might not be able to complete the project or do not have the ability to finish it well. Nonetheless, we all have to start at some point whether or not we are happy with the result at first.

You do not have to create excellent results from the very beginning. You can simply express yourself and enjoy the creativity. The more you practice your art, the better the result you get. The truth of the matter is practice makes the master.

 

Be Healthy And Laugh 

A healthy lifestyle is the number one priority in life. Eating well and looking after the body is the key to longevity. So we have to choose what to eat wisely and give ourselves a certain amount of activity to lower risk of injuries and diseases.

 

Give Yourself A Time Off 

Once in a while, it might be the best use of our time to simply take a break. If you are feeling blue and do not have the energy to go about the day, time off might be the smartest use of your time to allow yourself to heal and rejuvenate. It is okay to give yourself time to embrace your aches and pains for a while. You will let them go when you are ready to go to your next chapter.

 

Now, it is your turn to ponder about what is your best use of your time. What makes you happy?

 

Best,

Chiggy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Surprising Contact from an Old Friend

In between the year of 1999 and 2000, I was in my late twenties and I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. One day, I was walking in the city of Kumamoto, Japan, which is my home town and saw a sign of  “Studying Abroad in London”. It got my attention so I went into the office to see what was involved. In that office, I was introduced to courses to go to the UK to study English for a reasonable fee while working.

A great majority of Japanese people would like to improve English because Japanese schools taught  mainly using textbook English with grammatical focuses and their main purpose was conquering tests. That is why mastering spoken English has always been so problematic for Japanese people. And yet, a great number of Japanese people would like to improve their spoken abilities. Because if their overall English level is great, it certainly serves to get a higher salary, take advantage of having a better career, or simply making foreign friends.

I met two girls through the study abroad agency and they also wanted to study English in the UK. All the preparation time passed and I left Japan a bit earlier than them but they arrived soon after that. We had a great time together in the UK even though we were in different classes. In the end, I got close to one of them, Terumi.

Then, our year-long study abroad finished. Unfortunately, we drifted apart because I did not make an effort to keep in touch with her.

Years later, I received a postcard which was forwarded to my mum’s care home facility because I already moved to Australia. Mum is old and becoming forgettable year by year that is why she did not tell me that she had a postcard for me. I discovered it 6 years later when I was tidying up her possessions.

I felt bad about not knowing Terumi’s effort to reach me even though I did not know that I received it so I immediately contacted her to apologise. She was surprised to hear from me. She understood the situation and there was no problem.

Some more years passed. One day, my computer went wrong and I lost all the emails I had received. The message from the friend years earlier was in my mailbox and I did not jot her address down in any other places in case of occurring problems of a computer. I was so shocked that I could not recover my old emails and I thought I would never be able to contact her nor some of my other friends.

Recently, my friend Terumi found me on Facebook and left a message. It was so wonderful to hear from her. In the meantime she had married a British man and lives in the UK with their beautiful children👨‍👩‍👧‍👦

I am not into Facebooking much but for this reason, I am so happy to have a Facebook account.

May my friend Terumi be happy💕

 

Best wishes,

Chiggy