Textile Talk

Quilts and tradition in La Conner

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

There’s a new exhibit of Japanese textile art—the ninth—currently on view at the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum

In fact, there are two simultaneous shows: “Wishes Through Our Hands” is a collaboration of three teachers and 15 of their students, and “Works of Junko Maeda,” a one-woman effort.  

The artwork on display has been created out of salvaged, traditional clothing and household materials: kimonos, futons, comforters (kaimaki), work clothes, flour sacks, aprons, banners, hand towels, diapers and even hand-woven mosquito nets! 

These traditional objects, formerly passed down from one generation to the next, are now being thrown out by the young, who prefer Western-style, mass-produced stuff. Thus, there are two levels of artistry: the quilter and the anonymous craftspeople who handmade the everyday clothing, bedding and other textiles in years gone by. 

“Wishes Through Our Hands” consists of large, showy quilts for the most part assembled from pieces of discarded cotton, silk and linen kimonos. They are a payback for quilts that Americans sent to the victims of the tsunami. 

A piece by Sachiko Yoshida, “Hearts are Linked,” is a vast and beautiful meditation of circles and linkages, in which she expresses her sorrow for the suffering people in the tsunami region. The colored pieces, all stitched and quilted by hand, shade from crimson in the upper lefthand corner to indigo in the lower right.

Perhaps the most ambitious quilt from the standpoint of composition and pictorial representation is the Matsuri quilt by Tomoko Imagawa. Matsuri are Japanese festivals, celebrating flowers, stars, temples, kite-flying, ancestral spirits, the moon, traditional foods, folk dancing, etc.  Imagawa’s 68 x 52-inch work consists of four irregularly shaped, conjoined panels, each depicting crowds of people in—to our minds—bizarre costumes, celebrating in very different ways.

And don’t miss “Whisper of the Wind,” on the narrow back stairway, a delicate piece by Yureko Matsumoto:  a pojagi, a traditional Korean patchwork of light stitch-work, white on white.

Pojagi also feature in the work of Junko Maeda, who is a prominent quilter in Japan. She has visited Korea to learn the techniques and this tradition of women piecing together scraps of old textiles into new uses, one of the ways they kept family memories and tradition alive.

Maeda’s art fills the third floor of the Gaches mansion. Especially interesting is her work with the men’s work jackets called hanten, discarded in favor of jean jackets and polyester. She collected and repurposed many into miniatures, one-sixth size, retaining the style, the wear marks and patches, of the originals.  These can now be appreciated as works of art. 

There are examples of the complicated and difficult weaving technique kasuri; the warp and weft are separately bound and dyed before weaving. The weaver makes precise calculations to have the pattern come out exactly right on the loom, and both faces of the material appear identical. Kasuri fabrics exhibit a subtle, blurred appearance, unlike anything in mass-produced material.

A careful look at the work of all the artists reveals their intention to pay tribute to relics of the past as objects worthy of deference and respect—not merely as attractive or curious things. We can only imagine the depth of meaning they have for a Japanese audience.

SVCR Innings
More Visual...
Cup Show
An exhibit that runneth over

I have three coffee cups I keep in constant rotation. One is a dark blue and dense, and was handcrafted by a ceramicist who obviously knew exactly what they were doing. The second has a hairline fracture in it, but the painted-on fir trees and snow on it are so lovely I can’t bear to ditch…

more »
Night Moves
Art and action after dark

At last Friday’s Wine Walk in downtown Bellingham, more than 700 humans purchased tickets to sample grape elixirs and explore 20 unique venues in the urban core. While wine tasting was the official reason for the spring soiree, I heard more than one attendee express amazement at discovering…

more »
A trio of tales

Sara Siestreem was “thunderstruck” to hear her ancestors speak to her through handmade Indian baskets. A professional painter, trained in modern expressionism, she was visiting a private collection of indigenous artifacts. If DNA persists in whatever we create with our hands, she…

more »
BC Morgan Horse Show

9:00am| Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Twelfth Night

7:30pm|Philip Tarro Theatre

School of Rock

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Back to the basics


Ski to Sea Race

7:00am|Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Images of Resilience Farewell

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Fairhaven Festival

12:00pm|Historic Fairhaven

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Audubon at the Museum

2:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Art of Jazz


Village Books
Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books


9:30pm|Green Frog

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab
Fermented Vegetables

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Gather Round

7:00pm|Honey Moon Mead & Cider

Chamber Concerts

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

see our complete calendar »

Trove Village Books Northwood Steak and Crab Lester and Hyldahl Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market