Saturday, May 17, 2008

Studying Embroidery in Japan -- Part II

Preparing your mind for embroidery...
By far, what I loved most about my embroidery class in Japan is the way class always began.

Each class, our sensai would bring a bit of nature to class for observation.

Photo courtesy of Jude on Flickr

It wasn't always flowers. Sometimes she would bring a persimmon still attached to a branch or lichen attached to bark from a tree or a mushroom. Even in winter, she might bring in an evergreen branch or a berry. Always the lecture began with a discussion of what was happening in the natural world around us during this season and time of year.

Photo courtesy of Jude on Flickr
If it was raining, did we pay attention to how the rain quenched the thirst of the plants? Did we notice how it sounded? How it smelled? We were then asked to bring this connectedness to our work that day.

The teacher would then begin the stitching part of class by saying "Gonbatte-kudasai" or "please have success by working hard"...

I believe I learned to be present and purposeful in my work from my Japanese sensai. I haven't looked at nature the same way since, always noting the affect of the season on me and my world.

Today, I begin my embroidery in the same way. Getting in touch with what is happening around me before I sit down to stitch.

Outside the japanese iris is blooming in my garden. Iris is a special flower to the Japanese especially in May when Boy's Day is celebrated. The iris is the flower of the warrior and symbolizes strength, wisdom and a fighting spirit. The spoken word in Japanese for iris (shobu) means success as well, though the written characters are different. The iris grows very straight and tall and it's leaves are reminiscent of swords. If you were to stitch the iris, you would want it to be a proud, strong representation. No wimpy iris need apply!

Also, seasonal in the yard right now is the tree peony, revered by the Chinese and Japanese alike. In China, it is the national flower and referred to as the King of Flowers. The peony is a symbol of wealth, good fortune and prosperity.

I take many pictures of my tree peonies this time of year because I will stitch Queen of Flowers which is Phase VIII in Japanese Embroidery.
Unfortunately, I'm only this far...

As I think of what this flower represents, I feel energy translating from my spirit into my work so that, hopefully, my embroidery will convey the regalness of this flower. If all goes well, I hope it brings me wealth and good fortune.

How do you begin your embroidery?


Mary Corbet said...

Wow - I love the bleeding hearts! Beautiful photos!

Before my embroidery classes begin, I lay out finished projects, antique needlework (especially whitework and linens I've collected), and anything that will make my students say "Wow. I'd like to learn how to do that." For the younger children I teach, I keep up a display of colorful, easy projects that they can do on their own if they have the initiative - and many of them do!

Jane said...

I found your blog via Carol-Anne of Threads Across the Web. I'm so pleased to have found another Japanese embroiderer out here in cyber space.
I start my embroidery by laying everything out correctly, checking the design, reminding myself of what is next on the design, and then taking some deep breaths. Sadly no nice garden to look out on :-(.

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