Thursday, 4 September 2014

In search of Koginzashi in Hirosaki

This morning we visited Yoko Satoh, an expert Kogin stitcher, collector and teacher in Hirosaki.  Her house was the most amazing treasure trove of Kogin - a little bit museum, a little bit teaching studio, a little bit display and a lot of talent for making the traditional vocabulary of Kogin into something new.  A previous post explaining some of my interest in kogin is here.

In her 'museum' section of historical kogin, there were several handling pieces and some koginu jackets to try on.

The reverse of the panels are also very interesting and tightly stitched, unlike Shonai Sashiko.  With Satoh-sensei (below).

There are many traditional pattern combinations from about 24 basic designs and three main styles of koginu jacket - Higashi (East), Nishi (West) and Mishima (three stripe).

This sampler by Satoh-sensei shows how beautifully the patterns work with a reverse of the white thread on dark indigo background traditionally used. Some of these patterns also occur in Yuza Sashiko, but not counted.

Satoh- sensei knows how to really show off her collection in an accessible and interesting way in her personal kogin exhibit, from well lit and displayed valuable antique pieces from 150 years ago to handling samples.  After seeing the historical work, it was time to move on to her own designs and pieces designed by her teacher, Setsu Maeda (1919 - 1980?), who was a prolific kogin stitcher and designer, creating pieces relevant to modern use and bringing the tough qualities of kogin up to date.  It reminded me very much of the way that Yuza Sashiko has been updated and brought into modern life and was very inspirational.  The piece behind me below was on a theme of sakura (cherry blossoms), contrasting threads shaded into pink on dark blue fabric with a shaded background cloth with the same thread for stitching.

Although Satoh-sensei doesn't hold a regular class, she kindly gave us a kogin lesson.  It is a little like counted cross stitch, in that we followed a chart - this would be necessary for beginners like us but also to produce the more complicated designs with patterns in a large scale diamond format, as the designs are worked in continuous rows across the cloth (traditionally hemp).

Satoh-sensei shows a particularly complex piece of work in progress to our friends.  This is one that she had to chart - the design is visible just under her stitching.

I was very impressed, not only with the kogin but in the way that Satoh-sensei had created a kogin inspiration environment in her home.   Even Mount Iwaki was beautifully framed by a special wooden aperture in a tiny window - a heart or an apple (Hirosaki is famous for apples)?

We swapped some books (I gave her my 'Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook') and I feel very inspired to start making some pieces including kogin soon.  Perhaps after another trip to the Amuse Museum when we are in Tokyo...  Satoh-sensei kindly gave us a double ticket to see the current  exhibition too.

This was just the beginning of a wonderful day out in Hirosaki - I will post more photos soon!

UPDATE : My friends Yutaka and Ryo Satoh gave me a beautiful book of Kogin patterns by Setsu Maeda, which has recently been reprinted.  When I opened it, I realised that the Yuza Sahiko Guild member Keiko Hori, who gave me my first lesson, had also learned from Maeda-san, as Hori-san had shown me her copy of the book and told me it was her teacher's book!  Wonderful to have a copy of it myself.

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