Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spectacular wedding kimono makes a perfect backdrop for hanging temari

If you've been following my temari exploits for a while, you've seen this photo. I'd like to share with you the story behind this display that now hangs in our living room in Raleigh.

Hanging temari display by Barbara B. Suess

It's huge! But that's OK because the setting is our great room where the ceiling is vaulted - not super high, but enough to give us lots of light and plenty of head room.

I fought for this kimono. When we lived in Yokohama, Japan, during the late 1980s, Takashimaya department store held a sale two times a year. A big sale! One floor was filled with used kimono and wedding dresses that had been in their rentals department long enough. Some were stained or worn a bit. Some were downright ugly, but probably only to my Western eye. There were all sorts of other garments and accessories but it was the wedding attire that drew us to the sale. A group of us gaijin (foreign) gals would get up early and take the train to the store, stand outside in a line, and charge inside up to the sale area when they opened the doors. It was quite a sight to see and so much fun!

Takashimaya also sold Western-style wedding dresses - the big, puffy, ruffly kind worn by Princess Diana. These went for a song (around $25 dollars each) so I got several for my daughter. Just a toddler then, she loved dressing up in these fancy dresses. I cut the bottom off one so it just touched the floor. Others I left long and flowing. Over the years, she and her friends had a ball dressing up.

Playing dress-up
Back to the kimono hanging on our wall. It cost me 10,000 yen, the equivalent of $100 dollars at the time. The metallic copper background and gold and silver embroidery are just stunning. It's filled with auspicious symbolism - cranes and pine trees and cherries and maples. It's heavy as heck and I can imagine how a young bride would strain to stand wearing this as her outer layer. I think I'd just faint!

I made the temari for a show at The Japan Center here in Raleigh in 2011. The curators challenged me to make four of these hanging displays and, thank goodness, helped me with the arrangement of the temari on each of the hangers. I sold the others but kept this one because I just love the colors and the geometric designs. I made the hanger by lashing together five thin pieces of bamboo. The temari are attached with a knot that I found in a book about building bamboo fences. Each string of balls is made with just one strand of #5 pearl cotton - a very long one. I couldn't stitch right through the center of each ball, so stitched into the north pole, around the edge by the equator, coming out at the south pole, where I secured the thread to the ball with a big knot. Then on to the next ball with the same thread.

The curators for the show at The Japan Center told me that one way to figure out an arrangement like this is to pick your favorite piece of music. Then arrange the balls so they mimic the notes on the page. I was really pressed for time when putting this show together so I didn't use this tip but will try it sometime in the future, for sure.

Every time I see this display, I'm reminded of three good times in my life - rushing the Takashimaya sales, watching my daughter and her friends play dress-up, and participating in the show at The Japan Center. Feelin' good!