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.