A BLUE & WHITE YEAR

The year started with a book party with the small handmade books of Jody Alexander of Wishi Washi Studio and Blue & White books. And now, in December, as the days dwindle down to a precious few, my heart is filled with magical moments of the year now ending.

An unforgettable NOH concert at Enoura near Odawara, performed by musicians dressed in authentic costume standing on dramatic ancient  boulders and a glass stage overlooking the ocean.
Spectacular!
Our Shibori Christmas tree hung with Blue & White irresistibles and ideas for wrapping
The food was spectacular at Blue & White’s 44th! birthday. Lotus chips and delicious onigiri by Okunushi san our brilliant seamstress and chef. Here a Yuzu roll cake strewn with strawberries – not quite 44!

Sugiura Kazuko, a favorite character appeared in her own handmade creation finished just the night before our BORO Celebration in September. You couldn’t miss her! Below the BORO creators: Mieko Kobayashi, Nora san from Iwate, and Yamazaki san of Nagano.

The annual neighborhood Azabu Juban Matsuri was held on the same Saturday we chose for our Boro Festival so what could be better to join the parade and show how beautifully BLUE & WHITE is in step with the rhythms of the neighborhood!
A trip to the dyers in Takenozuka is always a flying display of the morning’s dyeing. Here Mt. Fuji tenuguis flap under brilliant blue skies.
Above a dynamic baby quilt made with triangles of tenugui materials, hand dyed by different dyers. They give energy and surprise for a little boy to grow up with. Yesterday a grown young man came to the shop with his Mother, telling us about the quilt we had made for him when he was a baby 20 some 20 plus years ago. A forever memory!
Our annual display of hand-dyed indigo Boys’ Day Banners by the clever artisans of FACTORY AI, in March. Factory Ai is a special abilities facility using indigo dyeing as therapy for their members, who produce their ever-original hand-dyed indigo Boys’ Day Carp Banners to celebrate BOYS’ DAY on the 5th of May. Their designs are fresh and free, with patterns as endless as those of the swimming fish they depict.

Two Sashiko workshops each month. Classic Sashiko taught by Yoshiura Kazuko Sensei on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. And Zaku Zaku, zany Sashiko taught by NONOICHI on the 4th Friday. Above is a delightful Sashiko creation by an Israeli student depicting our beloved Otafuku and her consort. Sashiko is a great enabler!

Our dynamic 2020 Calendar filled with ideas and creations of our clever makers who work with needles and threads.

Paired with Indigo cloth, both all and new, Needles and Threads create a universe of variety and possibility and unfettered imagination to make anything you want to make.

2020 promises great things for us all. And small things as well, like mice and sewing projects and threads and needles. The Blue & White Furoshiki is filled with ONE OF A KIND THINGS MADE BY HAND.

THE BLUE & WHITE WORLD is at your fingertips at our OnLine Shop at https://www.blueandwhitejapan.com/online-shop.html . We are waiting for you to share our originality and JOY IN THE NEW YEAR !

You are always welcome to BLUE & WHITE.

Posted in Journal | 6 Comments

MY BLUE HEAVEN

IMG_4944.jpegHeaven is not easy to get to!

Particularly when it is at the top of Mt. Koya in Wakayama Prefecture – about 6 or 7 transfers from Tokyo by train, by cable car and by bus.  But it is well worth the journey to the mystical mountain founded in 819 by Kobo Daishi, or KUKAI, esoteric priest and poet, the founder of Buddhism.

On the 19th of October, I made the trip, not for the first time, to see the heavenly Shibori exhibit of creations dyed by the Shibori Community, living and working all over Japan.  I first discovered them on Instagram, and my friend Teresa Misagai,, a Shibori artist from Brooklyn told me about the Mt. Koya exhibit.  The group was celebrating their 35th anniversary and decided to share their art in a holy and spectacular place.  As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to go.  Alone.  Me with absolutely no sense of direction! Despite having been to Mt. Koya several times before. This was a pilgrimage of a different kind – a pilgrimage in search of BLUE – heavenly Shibori Indigo! Everything was INDIGO!

IMG_4954.jpeg

The first venue was in a large two roomed exhibit space in front of Kokubunji, the main temple of Mt. Koya.  It introduced the viewer to some of the marvels ahead.  What I liked about the whole exhibit was the large, free scale of the works.  Often shibori is relegated to bags and scarves and other small things that don’t allow it the freedom it deserves.    In the center of each room were two waist high columns perched with small and imaginative and  sculptural shibori creations mostly by international artists.

IMG_4961.jpegThis cosmic work by Takai Yoshiko of Hashimoto city at the foot of Mt. Koya, on Hashimoto momen/ cotton a coarse and textured, off white cotton, suitable to her suggestive cosmic shibori.  It was one of my favorites on my late afternoon preview when I first arrived, and I wanted to meet the artist but she was not scheduled to be present the next day.  But by chance? I found her standing like a sentinel in front of her work the next morning.  Like her work, she was open and natural, a busy country lady totally given to the exigencies of her art.

IMG_4991.jpegKokubunji itself is the imposing main temple of Mt. Koya, where the Shibori exhibit was held.  I had first been there with Oliver Statler on his Shikoku Pilgrimage tour in 1988!  The memories were clear and strong, if not my recall of the directions!  I was impressed that the temple had given a large, maybe 100 mat, maybe 50, tatami room over to the Shibori exhibit.  There must have been 60 large shibori creations hung against the wall with seats in front of them where we could gaze and marvel and enjoy the tea and biscuits kindly offered by volunteers.  Each was more spectacular and impressive than the last!

IMG_4898.jpeg

This piece of plaid Shibori, for lack of a better descriptor, stood out for its technique of geometric gradations and linear shadings..  Graphic and modern, I could not help but wonder how it had been created.

IMG_4911.jpeg

Another arresting one was this felted gradated indigo flames of energy on a sheer silk ground.  Totally captivating, I only wish that it had been shown in the magnificent garden of Kokubunji, or against a blue sky.  The lines of the shoji were distracting. I hope  to display some of my favorites at Blue & White sometime  early next year

IMG_4989.jpeg

Kokubunji itself, is a national treasure to my mind, with its garden and angular layout of room after room after room, furnished with nothing but fusuma door panels and Edo period screens. No photos allowed, but I was taken by the lotus paintings whose caption wrote that according to ancient Buddhist texts, the lotuses emitted a mysterious blue light

IMG_4987.jpeg

The last venue was a smaller temple where many of the artists were staying.  In it were hung Shibori kimono and other small chiclet-like panels  of indigo shibori.  Also very arresting and suggesting something larger beyond.

Square panels on the walls gave a taste of the range of the remarkable shibori techniques of the members of the Shibori Community.

IMG_4972.jpeg

The  double rows of Kimono were elegant blue and white shapes begging to be hugging a human body and to move with it.  I dreamt of seeing them walking down the street nonchalantly, showing the mastery of the artists who dyed them.  I wanted to see them animated and filled with life.

IMG_4988.jpeg

The journey was long and hard, but the chance to meet the Indigo Shibori artists made it well worthwhile.  As there were not so many visitors, I was glad I could speak with them and hear their stories.   And praise and encourage their tireless work! I hope when they come for their next exhibit scheduled in Tokyo, we can have a side showing of the work in Blue & White.  They are gifted and dedicated and they deserve a wider audience, though they could NEVER have a more heavenly venue!

IMG_5004.jpeg

A stroll through the village of Koya san is a thrill for all the senses.  The nature, the reverence, the silence, the sanctity leave you spellbound.

IMG_4999.jpegThe Shibori skies

IMG_4998.jpegThe massive and masterful architecture, sacred and secular both – here the Meiji era Police Station!

 

The spiraling straw cushions in the hallway of Sainanin, the temple where I stayed, leading to the early morning’s fire ceremony prayer service.

IMG_4937.jpeg

 

And the food!  Heaven itself!

IMG_5002.jpeg

At trip to Mt. Koya is journey to a higher place.  And Indigo Shibori there was in its right place, along with all the sacred monuments of Japan

 

Posted in Journal | 14 Comments

BLUE & WHITE GOES WILD

image001Do we ever stop to think about what we step on as we walk on our paths?  Magnificent tiny flowers, weeds really, are growing there quite beautiful and hardly noticed or appreciated.  Stop before you step and you will discover a whole unnoticed kingdom blooming underfoot.  Stop and you will find what our flower loving Sayoko Hayasawa looks for as she takes walks in any neighborhood, any vacant lot, any cemetery to see the unplanted gardens blooming there.

image004A customer kindly remarked recently that Blue & White is a museum.  No higher praise, I thought.  But to add to this, I hope it can also be seen as a nature walk.  On her days off Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, our very talented  chief of staff, Sayoko Hayasawa spends her days walking and plucking flowers in Kamakura, in Aoyama Cemetery, in Daikanyama and other unsuspected places where weeds and wild flowers grow, and comes in to work  the next day with little wet towels filled with blossoms and leaves and berries that she proceeds to arrange in perfectly mundane and unnoticed containers.  The result is tiny miniature imitations of the natural world.  As someone noticed yesterday, Blue & White products on display come alive with her flowers. Hayasawa san brings the outside into the shop and it breathes life into otherwise inanimate things. For anyone interested, the flowers are also for sale – a sweet and thoughtful birthday present or hostess gift.  They are always my first choice as something to bring someone who is sick or has invited me to supper.

IMG_2857.jpgWho would have thought that these simple no big deal flowers that we often step on thinking they are just weeds would become such eloquent syntheses of nature itself?  The glory usually goes to the roses and the chrysanthemums and the carnations.  But who ever notices these tiny no big deal flowers that peak their heads out in their season?  Hayasawa san does, and she gingerly picks them with her pristine Chanel polished nails (no gloves for her!) and brings them to the shop to give them new life.  A life that she orchestrates with other leaves and sprigs and berries in a jar or pot that can be as mundane as the glass pudding container that she buys at her fancy Meidi-ya market, as much for itself as for the sweet pudding it contains.

image006Not all of the containers are even visible, but the textiles on which they are perched are enhanced by their beauty.  This one a gossamer hemp stole of two or three times dipped indigo and white.

image008Who knows the names or the genus of these anonymous flowers?
Anonymity can be beguiling.

image010Plucky purple stitches on a white dust cloth are a perfect partner for this plucky arrangement of rust colored leaves and a lavender aster.

image012It’s true.  Everything in Blue & White comes alive in the company of natural arrangements of flowers picked from the roadside. A colorful sashiko pin from Tamagawa Special Abilities Center, and some small Otafuku amulets.

image014Stripes loud and clear lead to a joyful arrangement of tiny pink and white flowers in a small blue and white cup.

image016Subtle stripes of hemp kimono material run diagonally under this equally natural arrangement of nejiriso – sometimes we know the names! – and wild asters and leaves and seed pods?    Anonymous or no, the effect is stunning.

image018The glass pudding jar again with an assortment of wild asters and leaves and no name flowers on a crossing of different indigo carp banners by Factory Ai.

image020A spikey arrangement of ferns and leaves and berries in a tea cup or large blue and white sake cup on an indigo and white striped stole by Factory Ai.

image022Two complimentary arrangements swim in a stream of an indigo and white stole dyed by Factory Ai.

image024On an elegant background of charcoal dyed table cloth or bedspread, hand stitched with a wandering sashiko pattern and windmill motifs on the edges, a whole woodland of flowers and leaves and berries can be displayed to bring the peace and quiet of nature inside.  Here Hayasawa san has arranged a number of pots and containers with the silent beauties she finds on her long walks in the city, mind you! and has put them together in original and delicate portraits of nature itself.

(Like the other textiles pictured in this blog, the background bedspread/table cloth is for sale upon request)

Posted in Journal | 6 Comments