I think the question I get asked most about my work at markets after "Where do you get your fabric?", is "Don't you hate cutting up the kimonos?". I mostly get a surprised reaction when I answer, "Actually, no."
You see, when I buy the kimonos I use in my jewellery, mostly at the temple markets in Japan, I choose pieces that can no longer be worn. They may be marked from age, be torn or have holes in areas or sometimes, especially with the children's kimonos, a soya sauce stain down the front. I love to imagine a little girl, all dressed up in her finery, so proud of how pretty she looks, after going to the shrine with her family to pray for a promising future, relishing a delicious traditional meal in her honour. I love to think of the sense of celebration that has imbued the clothing and stayed in there, along with the flaw.
I'm then sometimes asked if it is culturally insensitive to cut up the traditional dress. Again, my answer is "no". With the Japanese belief of "mottainai" it's considered wasteful for things to just sit in cupboards and no longer be used. "Kimono Remake" is very popular in Japan and bookshops there are filled with shelves upon shelves of publications giving craft ideas of bags, clothing, shoes, artwork and pieces for the home to make with old kimonos.
But still, I'm always trying to find ways of reducing any waste, to use as much of the kimono as I can in my work. This is part of the process I've been doing today.
The pieces of kimono fabric below had a gorgeous metallic print on an off-white background. While it's hard to see in the photo, the fabric had quite a patina and so was not so suitable to use as is. I first painted the fabric and then rubbed until the silver design was visible again.
While really pretty and bright, the design was still too large to translate into my usual size pendants. So I then stencil printed over the top. I love the idea of stencil printing onto kimono fabric, as this is how much of this kimono would have printed originally. I feel like I'm still honouring the craftsmen who first worked on this fabric.
Once the print has dried, I do a second print (so the edges of the stencil don't smudge wet ink).
And now, here's one I've prepared earlier... the fabric is then hand cut, lain into a silver base and preserved under resin. I love that in that pendant there is a little piece of history as well as a little part of me in there for all time.