Quilts, Quilts, and More Quilts

Trip Start Jul 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 15, 2010

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Monday, January 28, 2008

We interrupt this Kyoto travelogue for a brief foray into the world of Japanese textile arts!

Last Friday, I went to the Tokyo Quilt Festival, an annual event at the Tokyo Dome.  It was my second time attending, as I went with my mother last year while she was visiting.  I think there were fewer people this year (on the day I went, at least) but that impression may simply be a result of my having become inured to Tokyo crowds.  No matter, there were still lots of people there, and I felt even taller than usual; the attendees were overwhelmingly female, and most of then over 40, so I generally had no trouble seeing above people's heads (I'm big in Japan!), though taking pictures without anyone in the frame was still tricky.

The show takes up the whole of the Tokyo Dome, which is no mean feat.  There are different sections featuring particular themes (this year, for example, there were "Sun, Moon and Stars" and "Antique Swedish Quilts", as well as the usual children's and traditional sections), and artists.  It took me over three hours just to see everything!  And let's not forget the vendors, which take up nearly as much space as the quilts themselves: everything related to fabric arts, from fabric and thread to buttons and sewing machines, you can find at the quilt show.

The quilts themselves were incredible, and there were styles to suit every taste.  There were traditional Western-style quilts (which are even more interesting when made of traditional Japanese fabrics), abstracts designs, flower designs, mosaic-like landscapes, pojagi (a Korean form of patchwork, worked in sheer or semi-sheer fabrics), even three-dimensional quilts.  Of course, these works of art aren't meant for actual use -- just imagine the countless hours of work that went into each one!  Even if you machine-quilt, it's incredibly time-consuming, not to mention the time it takes to choose fabrics, design the quilt, cut and assemble everything.

Here are pictures of some of my favourites from this year, plus a couple from last year's show.  I've listed the artists' names in the Japanese order, so the surname comes first, and they're all women (though I'm guessing for the Korean names). 

(Names ending in "ko", which use the character for "child", are quite common for women, though it seems they've lost popularity in the past twenty years or so.  Still, in one of my classes, 10 out of 12 Japanese women are named (something)ko!  Note that the ending "hiko" (such as Kazuhiko), is spelled with a different character and is always masculine, as far as I can tell.)
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