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A Brief History of Japanese Embroidery

21 Feb 2011 9:33 AM | Anonymous member

By: Robert W. Haven, Associate Professor of Costume Technology, University of Kentucky

In conjunction with the World Exhibition of Japanese Embroidery at the UK Museum of Art, the Department of Art and Asia Center will be bringing an embroidery master, Arata Tamura, from the  Kurenai Kai Embrodery Studio in Japan to Lexington to share the knowledge and understanding of these traditional techniques.

Arata-san is the third generation master embroiderer and principal teacher at Kurenai Kai. He will be on the UK campus for the May four-week summer session to teach a university course in the technique. This will be the first time in history that the technique has been taught in an academic environment.

While in Lexington he will also be offering non-credit introductory courses to the general public.  The instruction will be in English and Japanese. The times and dates to be determined.

The Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta is a part of the Kurenai Kai workshop in Japan and is the principal teaching center for the art in the US.

From the website of the Japanese Embroidery Center in Atlanta (www.japaneseembroidery.com)...

Japanese embroidery (nihon shishu in Japanese) is an embroidery technique that goes back more than one thousand years. Shishu originated in China and was eventually introduced to Japan by Korean artisans; around the same time that Buddhism entered Japan. In its early stages, Japanese Embroidery was only used for decorating items used during religious ceremonies. Over time, as shishu developed its own unique Japanese qualities and characteristics, it took on a more artistic purpose. According to historians, from the early Heian Period Japanese embroidery was primarily used for decorating costumes of the Ladies of the Court. During these early stages shishu was only available to a select group; only the highest ranks of society could afford such costly work. However, after a thousand years' sleep, this cultural heritage, the fruit of countless predecessors, is now available to a wider audience.

The skilled hands of the embroiderer, having a deep relationship with his or her heart, produce a gorgeous world of embroidery. The work not only reflects the state of your inner heart, but it also shows your lifestyle in the way you use the techniques and the way you select colors. There is no way that a vague and superficial life will create work that will touch people's hearts.

When the spirit flows from the hands, it is called "labor." From nothing, the hands start to create wonderful works of art. The hands are the exit of the spirit. The movement of the hands embodies human longings and human beings are formed by the work of the hands. The hands create forms that never existed before, and this art of creation is uniquely human. That is, human hands carve an image of the individual out of vacant space. Humans recognize the level of their own spirit by looking at what they have created with their hands. That is, the hands enable the spirit to emerge as works of art, and it will reflect what is in your heart. As a result, what is in your heart shows in your work, and the hands will reflect what level you are, sometimes joyfully, sometimes sadly.

Since establishing the JEC more than 25 years ago Mr Shuji Tamura has followed in the footsteps of the first master, Mr Saito by introducing the ancient art to Western embroiders. The approach to the work is more than simply learning technique. Mr Tamura explains it as “Nuido”.

By accommodating a cup of tea into "the way," Sado (the way of tea/the tea ceremony) has reached the level of art. In Japan, there are other "ways" such as Kendo, Shodo, Judo, Kado, and all which have attained the height of quality by fusing techniques with the spiritual concept of "the way." Traditional Japanese Embroidery has evolved, in its thousand-year history, into The Way of Embroidery. We have emphasized the connection between the heart and the techniques. As we look toward the new millennium, we will start walking on the path of Nuido™ that is aimed at the fusion between Nui (techniques) and Do (spirit). With our wish to unite all people in harmony, we will introduce Nuido™ to the world.

To that end he has over the past few years developed a “Fractal Project” that brings together the embroidery works of hundreds of stitched from around the world into one unified piece of art. Each motif is the size of a CD embroidered with a design that has meaning to the individual needle worker, reflects global design motifs but worked in the traditional Japanese stitching techniques. This project truly brings people from around the word together in harmony and cooperation. The first public exhibition of this extraordinary work of art will be at the University of Kentucky   Museum of Art as past of the  2011 World Exhibition.

The JEC web site also contains information about the upcoming World Exhibition...

2011 Japanese Embroidery World Exhibtion - Experience 1,600 Years of History

The 2011-2012 World Exhibition will bring the world together in peace and harmony through Nuido, The Way of Japanese Embroidery.  Sponsored by the Japanese Embroidery Center (JEC) and Kurenai-Kai Ltd., the event will display over 100 magnificent works embodying the tradition, skill and discipline of this ancient art. These works - created by over 1,100 people in 19 countries on 5 continents - will be enjoyed by thousands around the world.

Audiences will have the rare opportunity to experience the 1,600 year tradition, culture and heritage of Japanese Embroidery through the displays, lectures, classes, demonstrations and an exhibition catalog at one of these world venues:

    * April-June 2011 at the University of Kentucky Art Museum

    * September 2011 at the OzAsia Festival, Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, Australia

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