Monday, 25 January 2010

Japanese design sources for theming a quilt

A fellow quilter contacted me about Japanese quilt designs -

hallo Susan
I am attempting to make a quilt with reference to a festival I saw in Japan. I am including Kamons and have found your books very helpful. what I would like is a bit more knowledge on the meanings of Japanese symbols and Kamons.

I thought the links and information I sent her might be useful to other quilters. There's never enough space in my books to include as much info as I'd like to about every design motif!

There's some useful info links via the Immortal Geisha website, which I'd recommend as a very good resource for links and info about Japanese designs, because most of the members are into kimono, so motif meaning and seasonality is of great interest - first section here is the "Motif Central" forum -

There's alot of info in this part of that forum too -

This topic has alot of useful links within it, particularly for things like seasonal design motifs -

The problem with most of the kamon sites I know of is that they are in Japanese - this one lists kanji crests by name. You could try a combination of viewing the crests through the links in the "alphabetical" Japanese list by clicking on them or try viewing the site through Google's language tools, but if your computer hasn't got Chinese/Japanese characters enabled in it's Regional settings (under the Control Panel), the text won't display correctly.

Here's the same site via Google language tools - the translation (especially of the alphabetical headings) is a bit odd but useable -

The other problem with kamon is that most books of kamon, with English text, don't list the designs by family name. You are more likely to find family name/kamon design links via Japanese sites, where the idea is to order goods, kimono, hanko seals etc. with your family crest on it. The main book I use most only lists by Japanese motif name, in kanji and katakana syllabary, but again that isn't much use if you can't read Japanese because you can't read the motif name, even though the book title, intro and contents list (which is incomplete!) are in English. Another point about a lot of the design books I have collected is that they are either expensive art books or out of print - or have Japanese text.

One way to approach making a quilt with reference to a particular festival is to google the festival name and any images you can remember. What festival was it? That might set you off on an approach to a design. For example, if I was making a quilt with a particular festival as the inspiration, I'd look for images relating to it and add in seasonal or geographical references. There might be the kamon of the local clan or temple on banners or costumes, colours of dancer's costumes etc. as starting points. Here's a couple of images of the Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri that could be a starting point for a design -

The ubiquitous clothing for summer festivals are yukata (cotton kimono), so including yukata fabrics or blue and white prints will give an instant "matsuri" (festival) feeling.

Re using kanji on anything, go carefully! shows many examples of weird Chinese/Japanese kanji combinations.

1 comment:

Lis Harwood said...

Thank you for a really interesting and useful post Susan. I have linked to it on my little Japan/sashiko blog.