Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Japanese quilters 3 : Masako Wakayama

Masako Wakayama is a quilter whose books and projects are published in France by Les Editions de Saxe. We often found one or two of her projects in the magazine Quilt Country. Her quilt company is called Crib Quilt.





Because her shop is not very far from Tokyo, I wanted to visit it. But unfortunately it was impossible to organize this visit while I was in Tokyo as I had so many things to see in five days.... and I didn't want to impose another quilt shop visit to my wife as I had already planned two.

But sometimes, the planets seem to align perfectly and guess what? A few weeks before leaving for Japan I discovered that Masako Wakayama had an exhibition in a luxurious department store in Osaka and it was the weekend I was in Osaka at the beginning of my trip! I couldn't miss that opportunity and so I went there!







 Masako Wakayama creates quilts that are different from the ones of Yoko Saito and Reiko Kato. She doesn't use taupe fabrics. Her fabric color palette is blue, white and red. Yet, her quilts have the Japanese style I like so much : attention to details, tiny pieced pieces, embroidery, beautiful hand quilting and her fabrics are both printed and textured.














Many quilts, quilted bags, pouches or decorative objects were displayed. I got the chance to see all the projects I had admired in her books and magazines. I also discovered her new fabric collection and bought the new collection box which included a fat eighth of all the fabrics as well as the printed panel used to create several projects.



Below are details of the quilt Masako Wakayama is holding in the first photo! It represents a book with the spine on the left. Look at the bottom right hand corner (4th photo below)! She has created the folded pages!










I spent some time talking to Masako about her work and projects. It was the first time I saw her in person and she has been very very nice and so enthusiastic about quilting. She showed me a project she was working on! She was piecing tiny hexagons which were 5 mm!!! Instead of paper lining, she uses the appliqué paper used with Apliquick. In fact she uses the Apliquick method to prepare the hexagons and pieced them together afterwards. The paper becomes very soft with manipulation and it is as if it is not there. So very easy!! I will definitely give it a try ;-)

















Among the notions, I noticed her threads which are really fine, even finer than the Aurifil 80wt and yet very strong. She also used extremely fine needles. She has a special technique to avoid the thread from sliding through the needle eye while stitching!







That was another great moment for me during this trip.

Japanese quilters are fascinating! And Japan has been fascinating as well! I have been back for more than a month and there are still images and thoughts that come back regularly. It is a country you wish to discover even more after such a beautiful trip!




Until later,

PSPlease let me know if you are having trouble commenting. There are new laws in Europe about Privacy and I do not know whether I should change anything or not in the settings so your feedback about comments is really appreciated so that I can make the necessary changes if it is needed. Thanks a lot 



Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Japanese quilters 2 : Yoko Saito

Who has not dreamt to go to Yoko Saito's Quilt Party shop in Tokyo? It has been a long time dream as she is a quilter I have admired since the beginning of my passion for quilting.



I remember when I first saw her quilts in an exhibition in Saintes Marie aux Mines, Alsace, France. It was simply mind-blowing!!! I had done the tour where she related the story behind the quilts that where exhibited, how she worked and how her designs evolved throughout the process of making them. I also remember she mentioned that she could find inspiration in everything around her.

If my memory is right, it was in 2006. At that time Yoko Saito worked with many dark fabrics but she was starting incorporating lighter colors in her quilts. And since then, I have seen her taupe fabric range change slightly and now incorporating more blues due to her passion for Sweden. Her use of taupe fabrics is amazing and she has written a fantastic book about it which is only available in Japanese and English. It is entitled Yoko Saito's Japanese Taupe Color Theory - A Study Guide, by Stitch Publications.



Finding the shop is very easy. But if you have trouble finding your way, you just have to ask someone in the street and, as always in Japan, people help you and very often go with you to show you the way.

The shop is on the first floor. There are two more floors but these are not accessible to the public.



The shop is quite big but not that much. It definitely has a very warm atmosphere with wooden floors and wooden shelves. It is filled to the brim with fabrics both on bolts and in folded fat quarters. All the accessories and notions that Yoko Saito use (and even more) are on display. At the back you can find the kits and on the walls the quilts and bags are on display.










Finally, behind the glass where all the small items kits are is the classroom which can sit up to 50 students. As you already know, I am quite fascinated by their teaching process.



If you are a fan of Yoko Saito and her work, it is a bit overwhelming at first. There is so much I wanted to see that I probably didn't see all there was to admire.




There are quite a lot of people working in the shop. One of the lady looked familiar to me. She finally asked me whether we had not already met in Nantes, France. She had good memory because she was with Yoko Saito in Nantes a few years ago.
I had no idea whether Yoko Saito was there or not but while I was looking around she went upstairs to tell Yoko Saito that I was in the shop and Yoko Saito very kindly came to greet me and my wife. It was great to see her again in person. Indeed, I have taken several classes with her so she remembered me and was very nice. She asked one of the ladies to bring the animal and alphabet quilt downstairs so I could see it! I was speechless! What a quilt! I know, from the many quilts from Yoko Saito I had seen in exhibitions, that when you see them up close it is always breathtaking with the details and workmanship and this one did not disappoint!





I also noticed that the same quilt, but without the borders, was on display behind the cashier counter which means that the Quilt Party staff make several versions. It is really impressive!! And there was also the bonus small projects that were made with the block patterns of the quilt :-)





I brought back some notions and kits and fabrics. I can quilt night and day for years I suppose!!! But that's another story ;-)

If you do not know Yoko Saito, I really recommend that you have a look at what she does. She has plenty of books available in French (Quiltmania Editions and Editions de Saxe) and now in English too thanks to Stitch Publications, distributed by Martingale in the USA.

And if you want to make one of her projects, Stitch Publications have published single patterns too. I have read them all throughout and I can assure you that the patterns are really well written and the instructions are very clear. It is a fabulous way to make a first Yoko Saito's project.



Until later for my last post about the Japanese quilters,

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Japanese quilters 1 : Reiko Kato

Hello dear quilters and friends,

Those following me on Instagram know that I am back from a fabulous and amazing trip to Japan. I visited many places : Osaka, Koyasan, Hiroshima; Itsukushima, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama, Hakone and Tokyo.

I have been impressed by what I have seen and about the cleanliness of all the public places. The trains are fast,  clean and on time. And the people were so nice and helpful all along. Believe it or not, there has not been one night since I came back 3 weeks ago without dreaming of Japan! I will return for sure!!

If I find the courage to write regularly again, I might post about this trip.

But for now, I have decided to write 3 posts about the Japanese quilters I have met in Japan : Reiko Kato, Yoko Saito and Masako Wakayama. I love their work. I discovered them a long time ago because they are regularly published in France. I even took several classes with Reiko Kato and Yoko Saito in France.

There will be three posts.  Let's start with Reiko Kato.





If you love Sunbonnets, Reiko Kato is THE quilter!!! She has published several books with Quiltmania, has done a mystery quilt with them too and teaches and exhibits regularly in Spain and France as well as in Indonesia and Japan.

Her quilt company is called Mother's Dream.





Having met Reiko Kato several times in France, I was really looking forward to meeting her again and discovering her new shop! Indeed she has a new shop close to where she lives which is very convenient for her. Imagine that you forget something at your workplace and need it in the evening to finish your quilt top ;-)

Reiko's shop is full of charm. It has an American look from the outside as well as the Japanese style and elegance in all the details. A perfect blend!













There is something that really fascinates me about the Japanese quilters! It is the delicate hand work they do. They piece, do appliqué and quilt by hand, which, as you can guess, is very appealing to me! As I told Reiko, the motto "quicker, easier, faster" that I hear so many times,  is something that does not make me want to learn about the technique. This might sound strange but "quicker and faster" is not what I am looking for when I quilt. I like the process even when it is slow. I am a slow quilter and this is true that I do not finish several projects in a year but I don't mind. Handwork takes time. But Reiko works a lot and works a two new projects each month!! Quite impressive!

I was also happy to discuss extensively with Reiko about how the Japanese quilters learn quilting and their school system around a master teacher. This fascinates me because this is a way to pass down the techniques with respect for beautiful handmade objects. Judge for yourself.



















It is nice to see all the models I had seen in the books exposed above the kits for sale.

When a quilter sign up with a master, they usually do a 5-year program. 2 years are dedicated to learning the basics. The next 2 years are for more advanced work and the last year teaches them how to become a fully professional teacher, how to write a pattern and so on.

Something I also noticed  is that the students work on a quilt as well as an "applied work" during the lessons. An applied work could use the same block you've made for the quilt that you will use to make a pouch or bag or any other quilted item.

It is more a step-by-step approach of teaching than what we do here in France. Indeed, many French quilters learn a technique here, then they try another approach there and they eventually either switch to or incorporate the new technique into their own quilting. It is a different approach and I do not consider one better than the other; It is just different! Yet, it tells a lot about the culture you live in.

When you arrive at Reiko Kato's shop, you see two separate buildings. On your right is the shop and on the left is the classroom. It was wonderful to see in person this place. Reiko's kindness is incredible. She is happy to share with you her experience and her quilts reflect who she is.

Her work is delicate, the details in her quilts are impressive and her hand quilting is jaw-dropping!

The general atmosphere of Reiko's shop is warm and welcoming. And the taupe fabrics that are so difficult to find in France are everywhere!!!





Add the charm of some old furniture and quilted objects and you understand that it is a quilter's heaven!











Isn't this miniature Reiko Kato's shop, with all the covers of her books displayed, the cutest thing she coud have in her classroom?

My wife and I spent the evening with Reiko and a friend of hers in a restaurant in Tokyo and so we talked a lot about her country, France, quilting. My wife even told me that I talked too much!!! That's how I am when I am happy ;-)

I hope that Reiko will one day come to the south of France to teach the quilters in my area. I am sure that many would be interested. I know dreams come true, so let's make it happen ;-)



 Thank you SO much Reiko. See you next year in Nantes and hopefully in the south of France sooner or later ;-)



I hope you have enjoyed discovering Reiko Kato's in her environment.

Until later,