Category: - Cultural Tech-Fusion Fabrics

Cultural Tech-Fusion Fabrics

 
 
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Study for sashiko textile reflecting on San Jose history and culture
Sashiko stitching has fascinated me since I was a child. I saw it on old plantation work clothes hanging in relatives closest, on patched quilts and on purses and on Christmas ornaments. I knew that the origins of this now decorative stitch was in practicality;  its function stemmed from the need to repair and reinforce cotton and hemp work clothes.

I suspect that the Japanese agricultural workers in Santa Clara also used sashiko stitching in their work clothes. It will be interesting to research this. A few years back I learned that the current San Jose airport was once a cauliflower field. Japanese  Americans were the primary laborers.

In 1940 a bond passed to fund the airport construction. In 1942 Executive Order 9066 let to the removal of Japanese Americans from Santa Clara County. After Internment, many San Jose Japanese Americans returned to Japantown. Today, San Jose's Japantown  is the only California Japantown which returned to its exact prewar location.

In this digital sketch above, the bounding line between the blue and while background represents the this time of transition in 1940 and 1942. The circular shapes on the loop tracking back to the cauliflower represents the Japanese returning to  San Jose to create a Japantown on its original location. I would like to create a sashiko piece reflecting this history. I took images of young cauliflower as reference for this a few years back and have been stewing on this project. Recreating in sashiko stitching the fractal like patterns of the plant would reflect on culture, the past agricultural economy and the technology industries which replaced it.
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 I took a sashiko workshop  in the fall on this  technique and then taught a workshop at The San Francisco Asian Art Museum (through Serentripity Learning Vacations) incorporating this stitch work. Some images from these initial studies and projects are on on my artist blog.

 Several decades ago my grandma gave me a signed copy of Barbara Kawakami's book,  Japanese Immigrant Clothing in Hawaii 1885-1941 which documents the work clothes that were improvised from various fabrics and various cultural influences.  Some of these garments used sashiko stitching. Mrs. Kawakami's entire Japanese plantation textile collection is now at The Japanese American History Museum in Los Angeles.

Today I found this 2010 exhibit information online on Japanese Sashiko Textiles at The York Art Gallery. Their online gallery of sashiko work clothes is stunning and I will be reading all the accompanying information at the site. I also found this Japanese sashiko artist, Aya Studios on Flickr. She has documented old sashiko stitch work and has lovely creations of her own.
Below is an image of my sample purse for The Asian Art Museum workshop as well as Illustrator sashiko stitching templates. Using transfer paper, the participants traced the designs onto their fabric (Filipino noodle flour bag).
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Here are images of fabric Japanese Boy's Day carp. These belong to my son.  In Japanese agricultural settlements in California and Hawaii these sock kites were a familiar sight in early February. They would hang from long bamboo poles in celebration of the sons in a family. In Japanese culture carp represent strength and tenacity.  I enjoy the bold abstracted scale patterns on these and chose to post a close up detail image as I think this pattern might be one to revisit later in the design stage of a digital textiles.

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The very first berry basket making company in Santa Clara was  owned and operated by the family of Kamejiro Shimizu. The company was called Wayne Basket Company. This is interesting to note as Chinese and Japanese were banned from the canning industry due to the anti Asian social and political climate.  Canning companies  often advertised that all fruit was packed by only white men and women.  The hostility stretched from the late 1800's to WII when Santa Clara Japanese Americans were removed to Tanforan and then to internment camps. The City of Sunnyvale voted to urge Congress to permanently exclude Japanese from California in 1944. This was rescinded in 2001.

This woven experiment of mine  reflects on traditional Japanese weaving techniques. It blends the forms of hats and containers.  I used a rice bowl as the shaping form of the tightly woven areas.

In one of my digital textiles I hope to reinterpret basket weaving patterns in Japanese textiles to reflect upon and honor this first berry basket company of Santa Clara and the legacy of Kamijiro Shimizu.

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Detail of weaving experiment