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,