April 27, 2012

Fun Friday: Kurotomosode

Just a quick post today...I'm on the downhill slope of recovering from a bad cold this week and had to do some work today; so this is kind of a boring photo!
Here is a scan of a photo taken of me in April 2010 (?) when I took a Kimono Kitsuke workshop in Phoenix. This photo was taken at the Japanese Garden by a professional photographer, sorry that there is not a better one. I didn't dress myself; we were all told to "bring your best kimono" and be ready for a photo shoot in the garden- four ladies dressed everyone in the class. This is the only time I have worn my kurotomosode. (For those who are new to kimono lingo, kurotomosode is the most formal kimono a married woman can wear- like formal gown worn to a black tie affair; it's always black with the pattern near the bottom half of the dress). The design features cattleya orchids and chrysanthemums and has a padded hem. The fukuro obi is gold and silver on white and features hanabishi or diamond-shaped stylized floral motifs. I'm also wearing the requisite formal metallic zori (silver), creamy rinzu obiage and cream obijime, and white juban. One of these days I will post a nice clear photo of the kimono and the obi- the design is really gorgeous.
Have a great weekend!

PS: Somehow, I managed to look strangely older in this photo....must be that "mother of the bride" kimono! :P

April 24, 2012

Haori with yellow leaves

Here is another fun purchase that I have put off sharing. This lovely navy blue haori covered in yellow and gold leaves features embroidery accents on the back. Only three clusters of the reddish orange leaves have the added embroidery. The lining features karako (plump little children) and various stylized floral motifs. I'm not exactly sure what plants the leaves these are, but if I find out, I will post it here.

It's in virtually perfect condition and the buttery yellow color is warm and friendly! This will surely brighten up a navy iromuji or grey komon.
Embroidery detail.
Lining detail.

April 20, 2012

Fun Friday: hakata tsuke obi

Just a quick entry for Friday fun! I received a navy and red hakata tsuke a.k.a."easy obi" or "pre-tied" obi a while back and have been meaning to share. I love hakata obi since they are so versatile; I seem to be collecting them since I have accumulated eight so far!
This obi is done up in the traditional o-taiko style and is in almost mint condition- there is one small stain on one of the white himo. I have no idea what to wear it with but it's sure cute! ;)
Back of obi

Front of obi

April 19, 2012

Washington DC vacation

Wow, where to start?
I just got back from a whirlwind vacation in DC. We went crazy trying to see a whole bunch of very cool places in only 3-1/2 days! There was much riding of public transportation- and walking. So much walking that my feet hurt after day two and especially after wearing zori for about 6 hours on Saturday. I now need a vacation from my vacation!

But I did manage to go the Japanese street festival that was part of the month-long Cherry Blossom Festival. This year was the centennial celebration. I even managed to meet a few members of the Immortal Geisha website!
The only disappointment was that the famous flowering cherry trees had bloomed early this year...around March 25th. So I didn't see any blooms around the tidal basin. I did see some trees near Cleveland Park the next day, so sorry about the lack of photos of kimono + cherry trees.

On my way to Sakura Matsuri!

To Sakura Matsuri, I wore the same periwinkle and cream vintage hitoe I wore in Phoenix a couple of months ago since the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm and it did not disappoint. I started out wearing a vintage violet shibori haori in the morning but had to take it off after only about an hour or so since it became rather warm quickly. It was bright and sunny day and with all of the pavement of the street fair, it warmed up fast! Plus there was some serious humidity I was not used to.

Dancers from Japan
Sake in a plastic cup

The matsuri was fun but very crowded, so it was difficult to get to see everything on each of the four stages. There was a distinct lack of shade, so we ended up going to the beer & sake garden just to be in the shade; but there were only six chairs! We did finally get to sit for a while and cool off with an adult beverage.
Still looking for a pale yellow or cream juban!

Besides a cute cherry blossom t-shirt and tote bag, I did manage to fine a lovely silk hitoe hakata obi at Kyoto Kimono's booth! I have a feeling this obi will see a lot of use.

Tulips in a bed of fallen cherry blossoms
Despite lack of cherry blossoms, there were many other gorgeous flowers in gardens everywhere we went. Dogwood trees, azaleas, wisteria, tree peony, tulips, and pansies seemed to be everywhere! What a treat for someone that lives in the desert.
Azaleas and hostas

White tree peony

A couple of other notable things I saw on the trip was some fabulous Japanese art: a stunning show of Katsushika Hokusai's Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji at the Sackler Gallery. All 46 woodblock prints in the series are on display, so it's really an unprecedented showing. I was absolutely speechless after I saw Under the Wave off Kanagawa. The exhibit runs through June 17th, so if you are in the area, do go; you will not be disappointed.

The other art show not to be missed is Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Itō Jakuchū at the National Gallery. This is the first time all thirty scrolls have been seen in the United States. The scrolls are so exquisitely painted and designed, the work really leaves an emotional impact on the viewer. The painted birds look alive!

I'm still processing all of the artwork I saw in DC...if you love art museums, it's a fabulous and beautiful city to visit in the spring! 

April 5, 2012

Seasonal colors: Japan versus the Sonoran Desert

Where I live, March, April, and May are the most colorful spring months, with flowering trees, cactus, and wildflowers. Of course Japan also has new growth and flowers in the spring and these colors and motifs figure heavily into kimono seasonal designs: cherry blossoms, wisteria, peach, narcissus, azalea, peony, butterflies, and hollyhocks all come to mind when I think of classic spring images. I think the only thing we have here that I have seen on that list beside butterflies are hollyhocks...and you have to give them a lot of water!

The colors and flowers where I live are very different than those in Japan and that make it a challenge to get into a "spring kitsuke mindset" when you live in the desert. However, looking around in my yard today, I realized our plants are just as beautiful...different but worthy!

According to color expert Shigenobu Kobayashi, author of the fabulous little book Colorist: A Practical handbook for Personal and Professional Use,* states that the colors of spring in Japan during the months of March and April "exhibit 'gentle',  'quiet', and 'dreamy' images, They are delicate, with a strong contrast. And then a spring storm scatters the seeds and petals in the ground. These are simple and clean colors. We are refreshed and fell youthful when the weather is good.'' These are the colors he uses for March and April in his year-long study of the colors in nature at Tokyo University's Botanical Garden:

The spring colors where I live would probably be described as "vibrant", "fresh", and "casual". Here are the colors I associate with spring in my city:

small palo verde

We have only one parallel to a cherry tree I can think of: a native flowering tree that blooms in April known as Yellow Palo Verde, Parkinsonia microphylla. I took some photos today of some of these trees just starting to pop open their blossoms.

These trees look really unusual to visitors...they have smooth yellow-green bark and bright yellow flowers that appear before tiny leaves.

Palo verde

Of course these trees are not revered like the cherry tree; we have no palo verde festivals or gifts of trees to various cities. But they are very beautiful and make me feel like it's really spring!
There are three yellow palo verdes in my yard just starting to bloom. A few other plants are blooming as well, mainly cactus and aloes. Check out these colors! We do have many yellow wildflowers and plants flowers, so yellow has to figure into the equation.

Desert marigold
Aloe flowers

huge spikes of yucca

tiny purple wildflowers

Opuntia basilaris (Prickly pear cactus)

Fluffy pink hedgehog cactus

Aloe ferox bloomed in February.

As you can see, our colors tend to be bright, almost garish rather than soft. The light is different here too...we don't have the humidity to create that soft light you see in places like Tokyo, Seattle, and Monterey, etc.

"chenille" opuntia (Prickly pear)

So if I was going to do a Sonoran Desert Spring kitsuke, I would create an outfit featuring yellow, green, and probably coral or hot pink. As for motifs, it would be really difficult to find anything with cactus flowers, green trees, or aloe, so I think going for color would work fine. At least I could get the general flavor.

Green and hot pink
Cream and magenta

I'll have to start gathering some items since I am short of yellow in my collection. I do have a leafy-green iromuji and a magenta and cream sha kimono and lots of items in different shades of pink....a good place to start!

The coordination on the left shows the green iro with a hot pink nagoya obi with a white rose on it- a lovely spring flower; the coordination on the right is a Meisen sha kimono with a magenta ro nagoya obi featuring a karabana floral motif. Both of these would work for a "desert spring" look but I would love to do a whole outfit based on yellow and green someday.

*More about the little book. I'm really into color (I used to be a color consultant for architectural spaces and for marketing) and have a collection of color books. I really love Mr. Kobayashi's books and his approach to finding and using the colors in your own environment. His seasonal study of the garden in Japan is also a fabulous resource for anyone interested in kimono seasonal colors as he uses photos of the garden throughout the year to inspire his color choices. My one critique: the book is really small and the images and color swatches are also small! 

April 3, 2012

Yukata Workshop & Demo

Lots of Yukata to play with!
I  gave a workshop-demonstration for dressing in yukata over the weekend in Phoenix. It went pretty well! There were a few bugs, such as it could have been longer, but overall it was fun. My friend Murray was generous enough to take some photos and Emma was my model.

 This took place at Fushicho Daiko's dojo, which was an ideal location, since there was lots of room and big mirrors. Here are a few images from the afternoon of girlie fun!
Obi and accessories
Tenugui: the towel for any occasion!

There was some show and tell, and I brought many items so people could tell what the difference was between accessories such as a child's heko obi, a young ladies heko obi and an obiage; different types of juban for kimono and yukata, the differences in size of modern yukata versus vintage yukata, plus kanzashi, tenugui, geta, kinchaku, etc. I wanted to show what items looked like and their real names if they ever wanted to buy their own items online. Participants were also given a handout with glossary, sizing tips for buying yukata, and resources such as videos and where to buy.


I dressed Emma in a lovely indigo and white yukata and a yellow and orange cotton hanhaba obi with a hemp leaf and plum blossom design on it.  This was to show how to tie the basic butterfly obi on someone else. After showing how to tie it on myself, participants practiced on themselves. I had them try different obi so they could see the difference in crispness and drape between lined and unlined silk and cotton. Some were really easy to tie, and some, not so much!
The new red Nagoya obi.

Emma had brought a heavy cotton Nagoya obi and wanted to know how to tie it, so I brought an obi makura, obiage, and obijime so I could demonstrate. She is wearing a yukata but it still coordinated pretty well! The obi had a wonderful modern design with silhouettes of vases on it. Usually you don't wear a Nagoya obi with yukata, but since this one is casual cotton, you might get away with it. It was rather heavy though, so it's probably better suited for a nice komon kimono.

I did caution Emma...since this is her first Nagoya obi, she now has gone "over the line" and must buy a kimono, and even more accessories in order to wear it! Now you know why yukata are called the gateway drug of the kimono world.