Friday, Nov. 30, 2012
SEASON'S HINTS 2012
Sewing the past into a bright future
By CHIHO IUCHI
On Aug. 17, when a special concert by 126 students from disaster-hit Miyagi Prefecture was performed at Suntory Hall, an impressive tapestry made of kimono from the prefecture's city of Ishinomaki hung in the lobby of the Tokyo concert hall.
The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of the country on March 11, 2011, causing enormous loss of life, livelihoods and property. In the case of Kameshichi Gofukuten, a long-established kimono shop in Ishinomaki, most of its products were submerged and became unsalable.
Music producer Eriko Shiomi, who has been working to donate musical instruments to the devastated areas, was given several kimono from the shop owner.
The kimono were covered with mud and sludge, but they were made by highly skilled Japanese traditional craftsmen.
"So I was determined never to throw away these kimono," Shiomi said.
Shiomi washed the kimono again and again to eliminate odors and remade them into stylish stage costumes for rental. Many musicians wore the costumes, thus helping audiences remember the disaster.
In the process of reusing the kimono, much cloth waste remained. Shiomi came up with the idea of making a tapestry using these cuttings.
She patched the pieces together with her own stock kimono, forming a square with sides of 50 cm. Responding to her call, about 200 adults and students made similar squares at home or at Shiomi's workshop. She named it the 5x5 NEXT project.
"There are 200 different designs and every piece is so beautiful," Shiomi said.
The tapestry at Suntory Hall was composed of 75 pieces of such 5x5 NEXT squares combined with safety-pins, extending a powerful message of solidarity.
"These square pieces can be separately stored and be flexibly combined together," Shiomi explained. "It will not be just a dream to combine 1,000 pieces in the near future, hopefully across borders."
Artist Satomi Fujii was moved by the efforts of Shiomi to wash the kimono.
"I love cloth, too; it's great of her to revive such damaged kimono," she said.
For years, Fujii has created original postcards featuring kimono cloth. How she makes them is very simple: She cuts out pieces and teases out thrum from old kimono and affixes them to the card.
"If you interact with the cloth in your hand, you will find your favorite part of the cloth and the most suitable position for you to put it on the card," Fujii explained. She started this as a hobby, then as an art form and now she is gradually developing the method, which she named "cloth collage," for therapeutic purposes.
"Cloth can tolerate a lot of handling, such as touching, balling up, tearing apart, raveling and cutting, and this may help heal broken hearts," Fujii said. "Also, a participant of my workshop said that she was a master of herself as she was engaged in 'cloth collage.' "
Fujii sometimes goes to the devastated areas to hold her workshops. In December, she will have her first workshop with German students visiting Japan for musical exchanges.
After Fujii and Shiomi met, Shiomi handed leftover pieces from the Ishinomaki kimono to Fujii.
"You will make the best use of each single thread, I believe," Shiomi said to Fujii.
The 5x5 NEXT Christmas special workshop takes place on Dec. 8 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Kammersaal in Tachikawa, Tokyo. The participation fee is ¥2,000 (including Ishinomaki kimono cloth and tea service). For more information and to apply, call Eriko Shiomi at 090-2564-3198 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.