Japanese Quilt Artists Who Have Influenced the World

Japanese Quilt Artists Who Have Influenced the World

April 6 – July 10, 2018

This exclusive exhibit features quilts from 17 respected and admired Japanese quilters including Shizuko Kuroha, Keiko Goke, Reiko Washizawa, Suzuko Koseki, Yoshiko Katagiri, and others. Quilts were introduced from the U.S. to Japan around 1980, creating a boom which spread all over Japan, and now their work influences quilters around the world. This exhibition features some of the best Japanese quilts that express Japanese aesthetic senses through design, coloring, and workmanship. The exhibit curator is Naomi Ichikawa, Chief Editor of YOMIURI QUILT TIME magazine.

Quilt: Masoho by Yoshiko Katagiri

When the American quilting tradition first hit Japan’s shores three decades ago, Japanese quilters often looked to the West for ideas. Now, the island nation boasts some of the world’s most talented quilt artists, and aspiring quilters seek inspiration from Japan.

An exhibit exclusive to The National Quilt Museum, “Japanese Quilt Artists Who Influenced the World,” demonstrates how renowned artists like Keiko Goke, Yoshika Katagiri, Suzoko Koseki, Shizuko Kuroha, Reiko Washizawa and others have elevated and innovated the art form.

“The artists featured in this exhibition have made quilts for a long time and have established their own style,” curator Naomi Ichikawa said. “(The artists) express the Japanese aesthetic in various ways, through their design, coloring, workmanship and ethnic characteristics.”

Japan already had a long, rich textile tradition when American style quilting took off there in the 1980s. The pastime became popular in part due to the influence of the “Little House on the Prairie” television series. Trailblazers like Shizuko Kuroha, who took up quilting while living in the States in the 70s, also helped introduce the art form to their native country.

Quilting soon became popular, and it remains so: An estimated three million quilters live there, and 250,000 people visit the annual Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival, the largest quilt show in the world.

Japanese quilts are known for their craftsmanship, and quilters there undergo rigorous, structured training. To become a recognized quilter, one must learn to quilt at an established school, attend meetings regularly, exhibit quilts annually and create a particular style of quilts one’s school advocates. The Japan Handicraft Instructors’ Association provides certification for quilters.

Visitors to this exhibit will see how the island’s fabric arts traditions take new forms in its contemporary quilts. Leading quilt artist Yoko Saito uses neutral tones like taupe in “FAGELPIPA,” a piece that invites viewers to consider the nuances of each color. Indigo, or “Japan Blue,” also makes an appearance, building on a dyeing practice that began in the 8th century.

Japanese fabrics also come into play, as in Sachiko Yoshidi’s “Red and Violet,” inspired by an image that came to her after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The piece uses crepe fabrics from children’s kimonos to express the idea of connectedness in a time of disaster.

Fans of both art quilts and traditional American quilt designs will appreciate the work of Keiko Goke, who’s known for her extraordinary, instinctive use of color. She uses irregular piecing, applique, embroidery and other embellishments in “My Double Wedding Ring” and “Flowers to Everyone’s Heart.”

The exhibit of 26 quilts runs through July 10, and will not be shown anywhere else in the United States.