Interview: European Obi Artist

Japanese kimono and obi are widely regarded as cultural icons of Japan, and the related arts and traditional crafts associated with them are most often found only in Japan. The kimono has declined in the past several decades, and the industry is struggling.

However, there is a push to save the kimono, which includes the globalization of the art and practice of wearing kimono. Around the world, a handful of artists have stepped forward adding their own spin and aesthetic touch to kimono. Three Magpipes Studio is one such artist. They recently launched a beautiful line of handmade obi that stand out. Located in Europe they are bringing a fresh touch to the world of kimono. We recently were able to interview them, and feel that they are worth getting to know.

What drew you to Japanese kimono? How long have you worn kimono? “I was thrown into the kimono world by accident – a friend of mine sent me a package full of vintage kimono from Japan, so I started reading about it and I fell into it completely. It was about a year and half ago, so not that long time ago – but I met so many people on the way that it seems like ages.”

What made you decide to start designing your own obi? “I am an illustrator and fabric designer by profession, I fell in love with classic Japanese dyeing techniques and kimono motives, and I wanted to make something inspired by it. In the end it drifted completely into my own style but still – I gained lots of knowledge along the way and I still have mountains to learn.”

What are some of your favorite classic Japanese themes in terms of symbolism? “My absolute favorite when it comes to wafuku motives is Ebi, I love the ‘old man of the sea’ – it’s something that would be considered funny here, definitely inappropriate for anything formal and yet in Japanese culture, it carries different meaning. I think all the themes I like are like this – something that shows us to look differently at the things we think we know.”

Other than your website, do you sell in person anywhere? “I have only the website/facebook for now. But if someone would be in Kraków (Poland) and would like to see my workshop – I am usually here to sit, drink tea and talk about kimono .”

How long does creating a design for an obi take? Are there any specific considerations that go into designing an obi? “The fastest design I made took me about a week from the idea to sewing – but I am still learning. Once I have the placement of the designs on the fabric drafted, the most important thing is how the colors will act on the fabric I’ve chosen. I am experimenting with different types of fabrics – from chirinmen crepe to thick weaved, heavy fabrics – the amount of details I can put into the design depends mostly on how visible it will be on it. The thicker the fabric weave the simpler the drawing has to be so it doesn’t disappear in the heavy texture.” 

Please visit the artist’s website, and look at their wonderful products.

Website: https://www.3magpiesstudio.com/ 

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Onigiri Party!

“Join us at the Samuel Ullman Museum and learn how to make onigiri (おにぎり)�! You’ll make various types of Japanese rice balls, learn about Japanese culture, and meet some new friends in the process.
This event benefits TABLE FOR TWO USA’s #Onigiri Action Campaign! Each photo of a rice ball posted to their website will provide five meals to children in need.”

The Japan-American Society Of Alabama is teaming up with the Samuel Ullman Museum to host a family-friendly hands-on workshop dedicated to making Onigiri. This tasty event is a wonderful way to sample some Japanese culture. The Japan-American Society Of Alabama hosts several events a year, including Cherry Blossom Festivals.

  • When: Nov 10th, 2018
  • Where: Samuel Ullman Museum, 2150 15th Avenue South, Birmingham, Alabama 35205
  • RSVP: http://jasaweb.org/?page_id=1548
  • Cost: Free to Society members.
  • Website: http://www.jasaweb.org/ 

Sake 101 – Japanese Sake Tasting and Cheese Pairing Program

“Delve into the world of Japanese sake and explore the flavorful partnership of sake and cheese! Enjoy this unique program introducing the qualities of Japanese sake, presented by Paul Tanguay, accredited sake sommelier based in New York City. Two sessions, hosted by the Japan-America Society of Indiana (JASI) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO Chicago), will be held on Monday, October 29th. Sake and cheese products will be provided by Republic National Distributing Company and Goose the Market.”

The Japan-America Society of Indiana is hosting an event designed to introduce people to Sake. There will be 2 sessions of the sake tasting; one session is for culinary professionals, the other is for the general public. Persons attending this event need to be 21 and older, with valid ID. This is a paid event, and registration in advance is required.

  • When: Oct 29th, 2018
  • Event Link: http://www.japanindiana.org/english/program/2018/10292018_JASI%20Sake%20Tasting.html
  • Where: Union Station, 300 South Meridian St., Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Japan-America Society Of Indiana: http://www.japanindiana.org/

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Chicago Japan Matsuri 2018

The first ever annual Chicago Japanese Matsuri was hosted this past weekend in Newcity, Chicago. Highlights of this Festival include various stage performances of traditional Japanese arts, martial arts demonstrations, shopping, and of course a lot of great food prepared by some of Chicago’s finest Japanese restaurants.  The shopping experience was varied and ranged from lolita and Japanese street fashion to traditional kimono, manga to t-shirts. With free admission, this event drew in thousands of attendees for only 2 days.  Alternative fashion designers inspired by Japanese fashion were in attendance as well: https://store.lolitacollective.com/ and https://www.harddecora.com/

Jumping in at the Long (Sleeved) End

Suggestions on where to start in wearing kimono from someone who’s been in the hobby for over a decade…

I don’t know if people who attend our panels are actually interested in this topic but I’ve definitely convinced myself it’s information I want to impress upon those new to the hobby whether they want to hear it or not. A lot of this is based on comments I used to see or hear a lot, but maybe things are changing for the better. What I’ve perceived is a difficulty in acquiring all the little odds and ends important for a well put together kimono look. Folks new to the hobby are immediately drawn to the most opulent beautiful kimono and become focused on that one kimono type… the furisode. That first purchase is a doozy! Now that you’ve spend 200$? 300$? More? on your first kimono, what happens next? Do you hunt down a juban with a matching sleeve drop? Do you coordinate out a color pallet for obi and accessories? Do you plan where you can wear that outfit? You’ve spent something like 500$ and all you have is a single outfit. A single FORMAL outfit. How many people reach that point? How many continue on in the hobby and purchase another kimono and obi plus all the accessories (basically all of the furisode accessories won’t carry over to anything but another furisode, MAYBE another formal kimono). What I hate to see happen is this sort of series of events; you fall in love with a furisode. It’s expensive but gosh, it’s the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen! You’ve saved up and buy it. It arrives, and you slip it on and it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever worn. A couple things are missing but you’ll work on it. What kind of obi should you get? What color? The cord thing? Probably any under kimono will be fine. But in the end, the completed outfit doesn’t look anything like the girls in the magazine. Stuff’s puffy that should be smooth, the obi you found seems off (maybe too short?) And your collars are just out of control. Do you continue with this hobby? Or do you cut your loses and sell everything?

What I would rather see is people who jump in at the easier end of things and work their way up, learning and sticking around for the rest of their lives!

So let’s back up. You’re new to the hobby and you have an eye on one of those gorgeous long sleeved kimono. You’ve saved up and you’re ready to go. Pleeaaase please please please, WAIT! (unless 300$ isn’t a big deal for your daily budget, you do you and you probably don’t need to be reading this anyway, enjoy!)

For the rest of us who look at $300 and say “Ah yes, my car payment and a couple grocery trips!” Ask yourself the following questions;

What are your goals in the kimono hobby? Beautiful art for you wall? Repurposing a kimono? Or something you want to wear?

Art on your wall is pretty much a non issue, you don’t need accessories nor do you need to learn how to dress yourself/someone else. This is also a great excuse for buying kimono that won’t fit you or are vintage and not appropriate for regular wear. Proceed.

If you want to repurpose kimono fabric into other craft projects, you can find some pretty cheap fabrics that may have holes, stains or other problems that make them unwearable and I fully support recycling or upcycling those kimono (especially anything that’s late Shōwa era or newer so like 1950+). If you’re spending a couple hundred dollars  to take apart a wearable kimono…. neat…

For those of you who want to actually wear kimono and are not working with a huge budget the furisode should not be your first kimono. Period. Keep it simple. Start with the basics. Get a yukata. Everything you need to know about wearing kimono starts there. If you don’t know how to adjust a single layer of collars or how to fold the ohashori of an unlined kimono you’re not ready for furisode yet! You may even be surprised how much your taste in kimono designs will change as you learn more about patterns, seasons, colors. I have a very different taste in kimono today than I did 10 years ago, I’ll have different tastes 10 years from now too; it’s an evolving, living, breathing hobby and I hope you too will experience the joys of growing as a kimono enthusiast and collector.

Quat

Columbus Kimono