Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Photography secrets from "Japanese Sashiko Inspirations"

After exhibiting so many pieces from "Japanese Sashiko Inspirations" at Quilts in the Garden, I remembered I hadn't blogged some of the original photography session photos. When you see the wider scene, it makes Kim's superb photography even more skilful.

The studio "styled" shots were all taken at Kim Sayer's wonderful daylight studio in Totnes. The interior of this seventeenth century house is full of interesting details in the panelling and plasterwork. A lot of the painted panelling reminded me of Japanese Meiji era interiors, so we decided to go with that kind of look for the book. The only problem of course is that old English timber framed buildings are usually lacking in many true verticals, horizontals and right angled corners! With a bit of ingenuity and lots of wedging things up with old telephone directories and bits of card, we created the look we were after. You might be interested to compare the studio shots with the finished photos in the book!

Many people think this photo shows a real tatami floor - one friend even said, "Wow! You got to take the photos in Japan this time" . We used goza mats to fake the look. These are the thin top coverings for tatami, sold separately so you can revamp worn tatami at home, without having to go to the full expense of new mats. Unfortunately I only have two goza, so we used an old sashiko rug to fill in the front area. Next time I'm in Japan, I must buy a new set, and make sure I get a few more, so I can do a convincing tatami room with them. The huge sheets of polystyrene insulation reflect the light. Even the way the light falls through the window panes looks like it is coming through a shoji screen.

The "tatami" floor also appeared in the Mihon sampler shot. The "table" is made from two seventeenth century floor planks, salvaged when the building was restored. Kim uses these as his desk top, but he was OK about temporarily taking it to pieces. The wood looks just like an ancient, worn table.

The antique table holding the fan and miniature farmhouse is the top of an an old wooden storage box. I bought it with the 1930s scrapbooks we used to accessorise the sofa in the next set of pictures (you can see them in more detail in the first blog photo, along with my Meiji era shimacho or "stripe book", a weaver's scrapbook). This shot was used as the opening for the Projects section in the book.

We had to adjust the angles on the wallhanging and props, so the dado rail appeared level. Note the stack of Yellow Pages (phone directories) under the "table top"!

The massive bay window is at the front of the building. We arranged the panel for the Tansu pocket hanging so it was lit from the front and side. I forgot to take my real inkstone, so we improvised with a lacquer dish. I wish I could do calligraphy as well as in the pilgrim's souvenir book. In the second photo, Kim and Martin (the art editor) are adding tiny dabs of blutak to make things stay in place!

The studio is on the first floor (there is a fudge shop on the ground floor) and the cantelievered staircase was used as the set for two of the photos. There were even fewer horizontals on the stairs than in the studio! The stairs lean inwards as they go up through the middle of the building. This is the setup for the photo that opens the Techniques section in the book.

The other half of the studio...

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