Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When there are no words...

How do we communicate when there are no words?

I'm stitching on this Hearts and Hands for Sendai block and I want so much to communicate my sympathy for all the loss that took place...

I want so much to communicate love and hope to all those people who lost their communities, their homes and their livelihoods...to all those mothers that lost children and to the fathers who lost families...and to all those living with the real threat of radiation exposure...

Though I can't travel to Japan in person, my block will be going...and so I decided to use lots of symbols and metaphor on this block to deliver my message.


Having lived in Japan and studied Japanese embroidery, I have come to appreciate the deep knowledge the Japanese have for their own cultural heritage and the way in which they commonly express sentiments about their cultural traditions. Often, my Japanese friends would answer cultural questions with "We". "We believe that..." "We do that because..." and each friend considered themselves part of a collective and had a tremendous grasp on all things "Japanese". Unlike we melting-pot Americans with so many diverse traditions, beliefs and cultures...it makes your head spin!

That being said, the use of certain symbols, colors, patterns and designs, all have underlying significance and meaning to the Japanese people.

I acquired this book while studying Japanese embroidery


And have found it to be a great resource for understanding symbolism and metaphor in Japanese art, design and culture.

And I'm using it as a guide in my attempt to "encrypt" my message to the Japanese people who might view my block. I'm not sure how successful I will be since I am not Japanese, but I hope that the sentiment behind my intent will be understood.

Snow-capped Mt. Fuji is Japan's tallest and most sacred mountain and has come to be linked with Japan's sense of nationhood and is often used to rally patriotic feelings.


I chose to include Mt. Fuji as a symbol of national pride and I chose to use a piece of sashiko fabric for the mountain to symbolize Japan's resourcefulness. Traditionally, sashiko was developed as a functional running stitch used to reinforce, layer and darn worn cloth and clothing...a tradition of mending, of making do with what you have...and still finding and creating beauty.


And the moon. My very first thoughts on this piece have always included the moon...

So I placed the moon in this piece to symbolize the passage of time...that Japan has existed for a very long time, through countless lunar cycles, through countless disasters, and will continue to persevere through countless more.

The request was that the block be stitched in "jewel tones"...I struggled with this a bit since I am sensitive to the Japanese people's use of color...and certain colors connote different meanings. You will never, for example, see an older woman wearing a bright pink kimono...pink is reserved for young, unmarried girls. That's why I chose to temper the jewel tones with traditional indigo shades and pieces of vintage kimono fabrics.

I love this hand-painted silk kimono fragment. It seems very old and fragile.


I had to interface a piece before I used it since the silk is so delicate and may not last over time without some "help".

The river is made of a ribbon made by Glennis Dolce of Shibori Girl Studios using the Japanese shibori-dyeing technique. Glennis also dyed the moon in this piece as well...

I didn't intend to be so wordy today...it just happened. If you're still here, thanks for hanging in there.

Now...it's time to start stitching...good day everyone.

20 comments:

blukats said...

That is lovely!

I'm sure they will understand and appreciate what you have done.

Nouli said...

I've been very touched by both your block and text.....

Suztats said...

It's wonderful to know the symbology of the colors and fabrics you are using in your block. Your feelings of love and support will be written with every stitch.

Rosa Robichaud said...

Well, as you wrote, the Japanese are full of symbolisms and such.

If it were for some unknown person in North America, I would suggest a rainbow. To me, a rainbow symbolizes hope, a new begininning, etc, etc.

Good luck with this project!

Rosa Robichaud
New Brunswick, Canada

Catherine said...

It is perfect. Do you get to send along a description explaining how it came to be that you chose and created your block?

Vicky~ stichr ~ said...

i love how much of you you put into your work, and how much you study the meanings of things.

Ingrid Mida said...

How very beautiful your block is and the explanation behind it.

kaiteM said...

so beautiful, the words, the symbols, i'm sure they will be conveyed by your work.

Sheila said...

This will be lovely!

Cynthia Nicole said...

...so beautiful and thoughtful!
I'm sure all the love you put into this piece will be greatly appreciated.

Carol said...

Hi Susan
I know that your symbolism will be understood. I know only a little about the Japanese. I have recently become blog friends with a woman near the quake city. I am constantly asking her about cultural things she mentions.

You put your heart into each and every project you create. I know that will be appreciated in this block as well.
Much Love
Carol

Lisa said...

This is so beautiful now! Can't wait to see it after you've added embellishment!

coral-seas said...

You always put so much thought and meaning into everything you do. I knew that you would find exactly the right fabrics and symbols to convey a message of hope, healing and friendship.

Whoever receives this block will understand and appreciate the thought and care you have put into this.

leilani said...

Only one word comes to mind: AWSOME!

Momma Bear said...

your block is going to be lovely!
you always put such thought, skill and beauty into your things.
it makes me slow down and think of why I am putting thus there and should I put that here.
I can't wait to see the end result.

BTW I have been bicycling more regularly now at least 2ce a week down the hill and back up!

Flora

Rachel said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on this. It's always good to hear about other people's thoughts on design!

emilyaliu66 said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. The thought and love you are putting into this is so obvious and i hope it will bring some peace and comfort to the survivors of this terrible and continuing tragedy. Having visited Japan, I have been so sad to see how awful this disaster was. And I admire your work and the thought process that goes into creating each small but incredible piece.

Pam Kellogg said...

What a lovely block and thank you for sharing some of the Japanese traditions with us. Your symbolism is wonderful and I'm sure the Japanese people will see it and appreciate it.

Pam

vicki said...

Susan- this is so very beautiful- you have communicated your feelings in such an amazing and creative way. I m blown away by the amount of research and efforts that you are putting into this. It is a masterpiece--
Vicki

underatopazsky said...

Not too wordy at all. :o) One of the things that fascinates me about textiles is the constant dialogue the maker has with the piece or order to express his or her intention, meaning, message, call it what you will.
We can piece together our own interpretations from the images we see, but being able to hear the maker unravel the back story is always fascinating.
Thank you and also thank you so much for visiting and commenting on my blog. It was very much appreciated. :o)

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