Wednesday, May 25, 2022 |
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Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day — teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Such is the adage applied to how Warren Takabayashi came to nihon shishu, Japanese embroidery.
“I went to Japan on vacation and wanted to buy a kimono,” said Takabayashi. “The cost of a traditional kimono was out of my reach.”
When he returned to O‘ahu though, he heard about classes in the traditional embroidery at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. That was over 15 years ago.
This diligent artisan of nihon shishu will be at the Kaua‘i Museum’s Saturday Club tomorrow. Every fourth Saturday the museum has scheduled presenters in the cultural arts. Also present will be artisans of Kaua‘i Bonyu Kai bonsai and PanAmerican MOA Foundation presenting Chanoyu (tea ceremony), kohrinka (flower arranging), as well as some traditional healing arts.
Nihon shishu is a 1,600-year-old needle art that came to Japan via Korean artisans, but originated in China. It is best known for its application on kimono and obi, but has been adapted to many other needle art forms. There are 46 basic techniques stitched with handmade needles.
There are multiple layers to this intricate work. “Every piece starts with the same flat silk thread,” said Takabayashi. “Then you can use several threads twisted together for different textures.”
Takabayashi points to the framed piece before him. “See the maple tree? We want to show its strength.”
He explained how the four layers and twisted threads represent this attribute. Then he points to another maple tree in the landscape with a softer yet brighter sheen. “To show perspective I used a flat thread.”
Then he points out the loose twist of the thread he used for cherry blossoms and comments on the internal movement of certain flowers. “That movement is what we’re trying to convey,” he said.
The subtleties of this art form take years to master. “I’m not a teacher,” he said. “I go to O‘ahu for classes.”
Takabayashi travels a few times a year to receive instruction at the Japanese Embroiderers Guild. “They bring instructors from the Mainland,” he said.
“If there’s enough interest here maybe we can have a teacher come to Kaua‘i,” he said.
Takabayashi has shown his needle work on O‘ahu at a worldwide show at the University of Hawai‘i. “There was shishu from Europe, South Africa and Japan.”
He admits nihon shishu does require a certain focus, but it’s something anyone can do. “It’s just a training of the hands.”
If you’d like to learn more, visit the Kaua’i Museum Saturday where artisans will demonstrate cultural arts specific to Hawai‘i from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• To learn more about Japanese embroidery, call 821-1681.
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