While the dense snows piled up yesterday, I took a most magical walk down memory lane with the discovery of the “Blue & White” blog posting, forwarded to me by Mrs. Olana. Blue & White is the iconic Tokyo shop of Amy Sylvester Katoh and is currently celebrating its 38th birthday! At a time when Japan was rushing to modernism and western goods, Amy embraced the vanishing folk art skills that were the heart of Japanese culture. She founded Blue & White to showcase the hand-made, to celebrate the dearly original ideas of hidden crafts men and women and to find new audiences for their work.
When our young family moved to Tokyo, Amy and I met through mutual friends while our children were in school together. She introduced me to the fascinating world of antique sales held in temples and shrines and, on Sundays, together we roamed Tokyo. Amy is the author of 4, soon to be 5, wonderful books. Each one is imbued with her warmth and her ever-generous enthusiasm as she shares what fascinates her about Japan and Japanese style, the essential and honest truth of objects crafted with love. Her blog achieves the same resonance of spirit.
We had great fun amassing the beginnings of a Japanese guidebook together before the exigencies of my leaving Tokyo for London got in the way. Fast forward a number of years later, another project loomed. Japan Collages. Amy invited me to do a mixed media show celebrating Japanese life in the ‘city-village’ that is Azabu Juban. These schoolgirls were featured on a set of notecards.
The first in the tradition of the hand-made books that I still make today, “Azabu Juban” was my love-letter to this unique area. It was formatted in an 18 page accordion-fold book with yukata fabric covers and hand colored drawings.
The Blue & White blog post that inspired this reminiscence was a delightful compilation of many clever craft projects using the Blue & White annual calendar. Check out the blog: http://blueandwhitetokyo.com/2013/12/05/december-already/. I have a pile of these calendars that mark our lives as expats. Trips, parties, language lessons, visitors, school events…they are all there. It became a challenge to decide how to use the calendars without destroying these memories.
Over the years, the calendars changed shape and even changed the shade of blue. This favorite cover from 1996 is a New Year’s game called Fukuwari, rather like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey…..only this is pin-the-features on Otafuku……
In the end I decided my Blue & White challenge would be to make a blue and white bowl to celebrate my friend’s anniversary. As we did not usually spend July and August in Japan, I sacrificed those mostly empty pages to create the bowl above, using a deep indigo artist’s paper as the background. The technique is much the same as in the container in the last post “Flora for a Young Girl“.