When American quilters in the 1800’s were creating the masterpieces that we still copy, modify and admire today, few knew the depth of quilting creativity growing from the islands of Japan. Like any timeless art, quilting reflects the heart of the culture and artists who pour their heart and soul into their work. Quilting in Japan gives an amazing look into the culture and history, while also influencing quilting across the world.
At the beginning of Japanese quilting, many artists imitated antique quilts or borrowed styles found in quilts from around the world. Not unlike the US quilting history, influences from within and without helped to mold and hone the skill of quilters in Japan. In the 1980’s, with the launch of the American Quilter’s Society’s AQS Quilt Show in Paducah, KY, Japanese quilters began making impressive showings on the world stage.
Americans first recognized Japanese quilts through their traditional fabrics, designs and stitching techniques. Kimono fabrics, Japanese motifs or uchikake costume shapes adorned many competitive Japanese quilts. Perhaps most notable in these works was the prevalence of sashiko stitching, a technique that is immediately recognizable and different from traditional American quilting stitches.
Quilts that represent Japanese culture quickly became crowd favorites, and ranked will in international quilting competitions. Now, many American and foreign quilters use traditional Japanese fabrics in their works, and even add sashiko stitching to complete the experience.
For the Japanese quilter, color and form have always been tied to the seasons and culture.
Professor Iwao Nagasaki at Kyoritsu Women’s University wrote about the Japanese color sense in the book, Japanese Color and Form,
In spring, Japanese people enjoy the blushing pink color of the cherry trees in full bloom, as well as the scenes of their scattering petals later. In the autumn, they appreciate the red and yellow leaves as well as them floating on water. In winter, people enjoy pure white snow as well as the contrast of the snow covered green bamboo and pine trees. Japanese people have always valued the changing colors in the four seasons.
To celebrate the unique artistry that Japanese Quilts encompass, the American Quilter’s Society and Kokusai Art from Yokohama, Japan have teamed up to present a new exhibition in the United States. Japanese Color & Form: New Works by Fifty Japanese Artists shares the artistry of Japanese quiltmakers who have been making quilts for many years and have promoted the charms of Japanese quilts to quilters and fashion designers around the world.