Sunday, 25 February 2018

Shizuka Kusano Studio

Day 2 of the Colouricious itinerary for the Creative Japan tour was the clincher for me when I was deciding whether the book on the trip because it included a visit to Studio Shizuka Kusano. The visit included a workshop in a nearby community centre and a lecture/demonstration at the Kusano-san's studio. Because there was so many of us, we were split into 2 groups.  The group I was in, did the workshop first, which was taught by Kusano-san's assistants.

Kusano-san came into the classroom at the end of the workshop, in her beautiful kimono. Through an interpreter she explained it was her mother's kimono and that she had embroidered the goldfish on the back

There was a line of embroideries across the front of the classroom. I managed to take a couple of photos before we headed off to the studio.

When we arrived at the studio it was setup with tables, so that we could eat our lunch. We were surrounded by amazing embroideries and I was delighted to be sat next to the Poppy Panel.

The Poppy panel was a group project, stitched by Kusano-san's students. The top of the right most panel was stitched by UK embroiderers and I had the privilege to stitch 2 of the flowers. It was fantastic to see the completed panel. 

The panel is inspired by the poem "On Flanders' Field and a wide variety of techniques were used to stitch the poppies. 

While we were looking at the panel I was introduced to a stitcher, who had embroidered a poppy at the bottom of the panel that came to the UK. We both pointed at our poppies and there was lots of smiles. I wish I had thought to take a photo.

After lunch, Kusano-san gave us a demonstration, explaining the tools and materials used. The piece she was working on looks like it's going to be another stunning kimono. 

After the demonstration Kusano-san unrolled the fabric which had already been embroidered and allowed us to have a close look. I just love her birds.

Kusano-san then talked about the various embroideries displayed around the room, including the PoppyPanel.

One of the kimono's displayed was inspired by seeing William Morris designs during a visit to the UK a couple of years ago.

It's fascinating to see how the familiar Morris-esque design elements have been re-interpreted for Japanese Embroidery. This kimono, called "Queen Victoria" was on display in Tokyo in January as part of a collection of kimonos "Embodying the Soul of Historical Characters".

We also had a sneak preview of another kimono in the collection. This delicate pink and green kimono covered in beautiful butterflies, was inspired by Yang Guifei, a notorious Chinese beauty and concubine.

Kusano-san generously shared this work in progress and allowed us to take photos.

After the talk Kusano-san encouraged us to try on her beautiful kimonos and of course I jumped at the chance. I recognised the kimono I was wearing from a book on my shelf at home. I never dreamed I would end up wearing it one day.

I have to say I was more than a little bit star-struck meeting Kusano-san and felt very honoured to visit her studio. So I didn't really take a coherent set of photos. For a better set of photos, I recommend having a look at the Colouricious facebook page here and here . I'll finish off with 1 last photo of my poppies, which are  2nd and 3rd from the left. 

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Trip to Japan

In April last year  I set off on the trip of a lifetime to Japan. I had been wanting to visit Japan for some time and with a landmark birthday coming up, I decided this was the time to do it. I booked a place on the Colouricious Creative Japan trip in April 2016 and spent the next 12 months trying not to build up my expectations too high. I didn't need to worry. I had a fabulous time in great company. It was 10 fully packed days of sights and experiences.

The trip started with a meetup at Heathrow airport. There were 23 of us in the group and it is a great testament to Colouricious, that 16 of the 23 had already travelled on one of their holidays. Introductions were made. Names were exchanged and immediately forgotten, but at least we had 10 days to get them all straight.

After a 12 hour flight and a bus ride, we arrived at our first hotel, which was Hotel Candeo, Ueno Park in Tokyo. It was around the level of a Premier Inn. Absolutely adequate considering we would be out and about most of the time.  The view from the window was just what you would expect from a built up city.

It was  glorious afternoon when we arrived, so most of us took the opportunity for a walk in the area around the hotel.The hotel was right next a museum district and of course Ueno Park itself.

Although I was hoping to see cherry blossom, I knew that the cherry blossom season would be past it's peak in Tokyo when we arrived but some varieties were still flowering well.

This whale statue outside the Natural History Museum reminded me of the Whale and the Flowerpot falling to earth in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. 

Everywhere there was cherry blossom, there were people taking selfies. As it was Easter Sunday, it seemed that many people had taken advantage of the good weather to get out and about.

That evening we headed out for the first of many beautifully presented meals. My  chopsticks skills are at a pretty basic level but they got plenty of practice over the following 10 days.

I already knew about the fully featured Japanese toilets and the toilet in my hotel room was the first example of this, so I had to take a photo.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Butterfly Panel

So here it is - my Japanese embroidery phase 4 piece finished. I seem to be taking 2 years to finish each piece of Japanese embroidery or bead embroidery at the moment. I was warned there was a lot of work in this design but I still went ahead and did it. After doing the endless gold circles, I  no longer have any fear of going around corners in goldwork or plunging gold threads. Next up is the cords design for phase 5. I enjoy the rhythm of cords, so I have been looking forward to Himotaba. It will be nice to work with more than 2 colours as well!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Double Daggers Necklaces

I picked up some interesting two hole daggers during my last visit to Stitch 'n' Craft and made uo a couple of kumihimo necklaces as presents for friends, using the Doubles Daggers Necklace design from "The Prumihimo Disk" by Pru McRae. The dagger colours were opaque beige in the green and brown necklace, jet picasso in the black and blue necklace. The design is similar to the Blue Dagger Kumihimo Necklace but doesn't have seed beads on the other side of the cord. The second hole in the dagger beads allows additional seed bead embellishments between the daggers.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Cake Catch Up

It was my fiftieth birthday last year and Jen helped me celebrate in style with, what I think, is her best cake to date. I requested red roses, which are my favourite flower and that's exactly what I got. Jen has spent a lot of time practising get clean sharp edges with her icing and this cake really showed it off.

We treated ourselves to a Kitchenaid cake mixer at the start of last year and it came with a free pasta attachment, which is a great help to achieving a consistent fine thickness with sugarpaste petals and leaves. I was keen to have a go with the pasta attachment myself, so when Jen's birthday came round later in the year, I decided to try the  striped tier from "Wedding Day Dots and Stripes" by Trudy Mitchell in the October/November 2017 issue of  Cakes and Sugarcraft.

I picked a couple of different flowers and made them over a couple of weekends. I was busy at work during this time and although I managed to bake the cake, I wasn't able to finish it before Jen arrived on her weekend visit home from university. From this point it became a family effort. Graeme helped get things moving by "plastering" the buttercream and I managed to get the base layer of sugarpaste on the cake. Jen applied the stripes herself. Then together with Christina, she made the leaves and small blossoms. 

The flowers were arranged on the cake using posy pickers. It was the first time we had tried them and they worked really well. I like the way every angle looked different on this cake. 

Finally there is the Christmas cake. Jen was busy with project work at Christmas so she chose a simpler cake design this year. She found this super cute  Snow Foxes design on Pinterest. The snowball idea  was from the Red Nosed Reindeer cake she made a couple of years ago. The end result was an elegant ands understated cake. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Cedric the Dragon Bauble

It has been a very long time since my last post and I'm stretching it a bit doing a Christmas round up this late in January but here we go. Work has been super busy for the last 6 months and in the run up to Christmas, I wanted a fun project to maintain my sanity. I am fan of Spellbound Bead kits and their "Cedric the Dragon bauble" kept calling to me, until I finally gave in and placed an order at the beginning of December. 

Of course I couldn't just limit myself to 1 kit, so I ordered a couple more kits, Festive Beading Three and a selection of baubles for some other decorations I have in mind.

I finished Cedric just in time for Christmas. Cedric's position isn't quite right in my version. He should be sitting higher on the bauble but the way he's hanging on probably reflects my state of mind while I was making him!

Despite having a week's holiday from work, I didn't get as much time for stitching and beading as I hoped but I did manage to finish one of the beaded candy cane decorations. It's photographed here on a tree I bought in the sales a year ago. 

For a couple of years I have been thinking about having a tree specifically for my handmade beaded decorations, as  well as my collection of Swarovski decorations, many of which I've been given as presents over the years. I specifically picked a sparse tree, so that there was space for the baubles, which often have fringes or tassels. The tinsel was kept neutral, so that I can mix up the decoration colours as much as I want. It's very much a tree in progress at the moment and one of my goals before next Christmas is to make a tree skirt. 

This year, the colour scheme on our main tree was blue, silver and white. Even though I cropped this photo you can still see a pile of stuff hiding behind the tree. This is pertinent to my mantra/intention for 2018, which is to "Create a sacred space". As an introvert my personal space is important to me and having a cluttered environment gives me a sense of being out of control. My goal for this year is to do 1 thing every day to deal with the clutter. I can't say I've done a very good job of it so far but I'm not giving up just yet.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Small Gold Butterfly

The main project I'm working on at the moment is my phase 4 Japanese Embroidery piece - the Butterfly Panel. After finishing the circles around the red butterfly, there was a bit more variety for the large and small gold butterflies. The small gold butterfly is now finished and the large gold butterfly is coming along as well.  

All I have left to do now, is to surround the large gold butterfly with circles. As it will be a larger area than around the red butterfly, it is still likely to take me a fair few months more. Here's how the whole design looks so far.