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  • Kirstea

It's always been Japan...

I'd studied science and maths all my life, until I completely changed direction and suddenly found myself immersed in textiles at age 17. It had always been around, and was something I enjoyed; but never something I was encouraged to pursue as, understandably, my family worried I could not make a living in the arts. So I'll be honest, when I got to university I was a bit clueless about art and a fish out of water.


It was my first year. It was a contextual studies lecture at 9:30 on a Monday morning. Our lecturer always had the powerpoint up on screen and ready to go, so when I walked into the theatre at about 9:20 I looked up at the screen and saw 'Japan' (and some interesting subtitle I can't remember) in big letters. Over the next 2 hours we were told everything about Japanese design, and set an optional task as part of our coursework. The task, which I chose to do after being amazed by the lecture, was to research the ways in which Japan has influenced Western design. I became engrossed. The task was actually designed to be part of a journal consisting of another 4 similar tasks and a 2000 word essay, which was the largest of the tasks. Or rather, it was supposed to be. My little journal entry on Japan's influence (in which I focused on the katazome dyeing technique) massively exceeded my essay in terms of wordcount.


I knew from then on Japan was my source of inspiration. I didn't necessarily notice it at the time, but looking back the change in my creative work is evident - Japan began to inspire my whole degree. There's just something about the way the Japanese stitch. The use of negative space and the way they compose their pieces. It's just beautiful.


In second year I fully embraced Japan as 'my thing'. My drawing, my prints, my embroidery - everything I was doing was inspired by Japan. The 3000 word essay required for my second year contextual studies was written on the sustainability of Japanese crafts and the cherry blossom as a symbol of identity; which will be published by my university next week and I shall post about - its all very exciting! That essay was also used as a foundation for my dissertation (that I submitted last week), focusing on the ways in which the West's obsession with Japanese embroidery impacted it, analysing cultural theory to try establish why it was impacted. "Preserving Embroidery: An Anthropology of Japan" sounds a lot better. To conclude, over 3 years I have written over 10,000 words in essays and coursework on Japan and loved every second of it.


But lets just go back a bit, I did skip an important part getting carried away talking about my essays there. At the beginning of second year, as I began to embrace the Japan obsession in me, I was making plans for my 21st birthday. I had pretended my 18th wasn't happening, so I felt I had to mark my 21st with something. Then it hit me. My boyfriend and I were talking about going for a weekend away somewhere anyway, so I thought we could maybe extend that weekend to a week on the other side of the world. In Japan. I chose Kyoto as the place to go, based on the amount of culture to be absorbed there; and booked us a holiday. My birthday is at the end of March, and the Easter break began at the start of April, meaning booking it for over the Easter break not only placed it just 10 days after my birthday but also meant our visit would coincide with the cherry blossom.


He's photogenic, I'm not

Can I just note here: my boyfriend doesn't really like travelling. Being in the place travelled to, yes, but actually getting there is not something he enjoys. This was our first holiday together, and he sat squished (he's 6'2") on a plane for over 12 hours. Our first flight was delayed, so we missed our connecting flight and our journey took over 30 hours in the end - which was torture for him. Our return journey went to plan and only took 14 hours, so he was much happier then. He's amazing, just saying.

The cherry blossom was beautiful!

Anyway! I took around 2000 photos while I was there, which I whittled down to 531 when I returned - meaning I have quite a good archive of cherry blossom, temples, and other beautiful things to draw from. This year I'm taking my love of Japan even further in my work. My minor project, handed in last month, was a research and drawing module to prepare for my final major project - my last ever creative module (eek!). My concept was 'Floral Japan', sourcing the aesthetic my work is adhering to from traditional Japanese kimono. Also, a note here - I'm obsessed with flowers as much as I am Japan; they're what I love and they're what I do best, although I will include other bits and pieces if I'm feeling adventurous. Now that I'm moving into my final major project I can start developing all of those drawings and get really creative - I'll share more as it happens, I just thought I'd best make a post like this so my work has a bit of context and makes more sense.

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