Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: the flora of Menindee

It’s a while since I wrote anything about the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project that I am involved with.

Very briefly…..I am part of a group of botanic artists who, since 2010 have gone annually to Menindee, a small town in outback new South Wales. We are collecting and then painting the specimens collected by Hermann Beckler, the doctor on the Burke and Wills Expedition, in 1860. Our website will give you a good overview while you can read more about my personal experiences on these posts.

As well as collecting and painting all 120 plants on his list, we have always had the dream of having an exhibition of the Project. Last year (or was it 2016?) we were accepted by the Art Gallery of Ballarat!

Since then we, with a big input from the fabulous staff at the Gallery, have been busy with the tasks needed to get the Exhibition up.

  • 40 paintings have been selected, scanned, mounted and framed
  • 4 cabinets with objects showing our themes of Art, Science, History and Country have been organised
  • Essays have been written for the catalogue, along with artist bios and statements about their plants
  • A slide show and narration (including bird song from the area!) has been produced. It will show in the smaller room off the main room.
  • Our Opening has been organised
  • Publicity is well underway

Now, we are about 5 weeks away from the Opening!!!!

So, if you are in Victoria (Ballarat is only an hour’s train ride from Melbourne 😉 ) organise some friends to come to see the Exhibition.  And if you can’t make it tell a friend who lives a little closer. The cafe in the Gallery is very good too!

Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: the Flora of Menindee

25th February to 27th May 2018

Art Gallery of Ballarat

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Detail of my Menindee plant ~ Cullen australasicum

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Wishing you joy

I suspect that there are many of you who, like me, are rather glad to see the back of 2017. It was a year of trouble and strife, and sometimes the only way to stay sane was to turn off the news.

But of course there were many positives too. I loved reading your blogs about your gardens, your creative works and your general ramblings. Even the posts that were despairing about the world were coming from a place of humanity and a desire to see a better world than the one being built around us. In Australia we finally have marriage equality and in Victoria dying with dignity legislation. And then there was the birth of my great-nephew Archie ~ sigh.

So thank you for helping me get through the year and for supporting my art in so many ways.

My wish for 2018 is that we all find joy. Let’s do it and celebrate the things that bring us that joy.

And more on next year…..

I am not a fan of setting goals. James Clear has good reasons why Big Goals don’t work. I am going to do something a little different in 2018, an idea that I have borrowed from Dr Snail over at the Snail of Happiness. Lots of you follow her blog (if you don’t, you should pop over and have a look) so you might remember her 17 in 17 list. She may have borrowed the idea from someone else, but following that trail is not on my to-do list today! I won’t explain the concept; my list should fill you in.

My idea is to include things that I want to do more of. For example, I always mean to get to the movies, but for some reason never quite make it. So now I am going to encourage myself to reach my target of 13. If I don’t make it, then at least I will have seen some. Some were easy to put against a number ~ 18 letters seems to be the perfect number. I am not sure about some ~ making even 3 garments might be a stretch, and baking 8 cakes or biscuits….well. I am allowing myself to put a couple together, such as sometimes combining the walk with visiting a different place.

So, here is my 18 in 18 list.

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On Boxing Day we workshopped my list (don’t you love family involvement?!), which was great because people gave me suggestions; I wouldn’t have thought of a music one. Mum, who loves to record things, suggested that I use a book to keep track of what I have done. So I set one up, because I love to record things too! She also suggested that I illustrate it, but I’m pretty confident that’s not going to happen.

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Every so often through the year I will tell you how I am going. Blogging about it will keep me accountable. And my Mum will expect updates as well 😊

What do you think about new year goals and lists? Some people, like Cathy, have words that keep them focussed for the year. What do you do? What would you put as #1 and #18?

Whatever you do, and how ever you do it, I hope your life is filled with people you love, and who love you back. May you find JOY.

Happy New Year Friends xoxo

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Playing, with purpose

I have been playing with fabrics this year, playing and stitching and fraying, to create abstracted tree tops.

I have been thinking of them as samplers, because then I didn’t have to worry about them being something real, something finished. There were smaller ones (10 x 10 cm) that I liked, larger ones (20 x 20 cm) that lacked tension and then 20 x 15 cm ones that I felt worked the best.

Then, I put a couple of the 20 x 20 ones together and thought “Hmmmm, how about three of them next to each other?” And they worked in a row when they didn’t work as singles. (Apologies for the terrible photo.)

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I put batting behind each square

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and then pinned everything onto the backing material ~ pins everywhere!

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Then it was time to tack it all down

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and hand stitch.

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You can see that I have continued the running stitches between the two panels. It was needed to unify the piece.

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Now, I can hear my quilting bloggy friends thinking “Ah, yes, I wondered when Anne would realise she was a quilter at heart”! There are certainly quilting aspects to this piece, and I have enjoyed putting it together.

I have a question for those quilters (and anyone else who wants to throw in their opinion into the ring 😉 )….. what do I do with the back of the piece? This is what it looks like, so you can see why it needs to be hidden. I am thinking of covering the back with the same fabric, but happy to take suggestions about something else ~ felt? I don’t want to machine sew it, and am sort of happy to hand sew it. But would some form of glue work? I don’t want it bleeding through to the front. Any thoughts very welcome.

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Sacred things

And just in case this morning’s reblog about Trump was too bleak, I am ending the day with this glorious post from Geoff Park. He captures the most stunning birds from Central Victoria. Enjoy!

Natural Newstead

This is sacred habitat.

Aulluvial-terraces Herb-rich Woodland in the Mia Mia, 9th December 2017

This is a sacred tree.

The nest site in a River Red-gum

This is a sacred hollow.

The hollow showing evidence of occupation

Meet the care takers.

Sacred Kingfisher about to enter the nest, 9th December 2017

The female above the nest site

Here’s the male

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One More Step Back Into Darkness …

Remember: Democracy dies in darkness

Sorry to post something like this first thing on Monday morning, but like Jill Dennison, I can’t let this go unnoticed. The links she makes from Trump to Fascism are all too close.

Filosofa's Word

You know how I sometimes say that a headline made me jaw drop?  This headline sent a very cold chill down my spine, and not in a good sort of way:

CDC gets list of forbidden words: Fetus, transgender, diversity

“The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including “fetus” and “transgender” — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”The Washington Post, 15 December 2017  

Vulnerable?  They are not allowed to use the word “vulnerable”??? …

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At last, Marriage Equality

Last week the Australian Parliament voted in a bill to say that marriage was between two people, not just a man and a woman.

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It sounds so simple, but the right-wing in the Parliament put up every possible barrier to stop it. I won’t dwell on that, but rejoice that now all relationships are recognised before the law.

David Marr, a journalist who calls out cant and hypocrisy, was on the panel of The Drum, a current affairs program, when the final vote happened in Parliament. This clip posted  on Facebook shows his pride and emotion, and is interspersed with images of the aftermath in the House of Representatives. It is a moving moment.

Marr is so right to point out that in his lifetime he has seen the change from imprisonment for homosexual sex through to recognition of everyone’s relationships through marriage equality. And he is right to honour the men, women and trans, those warriors, who have fought for rights for the LGBTQI community.

Behind these scenes of jubilation is a long and proud tradition of fighting for rights, from Stonewall and the beginning of the Gay Liberation Front through campaigns to stop discrimination of gay men and increase funding during the AIDS epidemic to Same Sex Marriage. Behind these campaigns, and many more, have been men, women and trans who have been prepared to stand up and demand their rights at home, in their workplaces and in society.

Let’s not forget the suffering too ~ the beatings, deaths, suicides and stunted lives of many in the LGBTQI community.

Rejoice, but remember.

If you would like to watch something uplifting and heart-in-the-right-place-warming these holidays, I would suggest Pride. It is a movie about the support gays and lesbians gave to a mining village during the long miners’ strike in Britain in 1984. This is a great article to give background to the story.

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Pesky possums*

* Warning: alliteration ahead!

Pesky possums have been a part of life in Melbourne for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house next to a park, so we always had possums playing. They loved to chase each other around the roof, sounding like marauding hordes. Then there is the unholy scream they make, enough to chill your bones.

I well remember one time when we were woken by our dog, Galahad barking on the front verandah. We had long ago dropped the “Sir” from his name, as he did not live up to his gentle, ethereal namesake. So image our surprise to find that a baby possum had ousted Galahad from the door mat and was keeping this big dog at bay. I felt sorry for this wee, frightened creature and went to pick it up. My reward was a bite on my finger, and later a tetanus injection that hurt more than the bite! From memory the possum scampered off, and probably grew up to be one of the marauding hordes on the roof.

Then I moved to my own house and I would listen smugly to gardening shows where there were inevitably complaints about possums.

“The possums have eaten all my rosebuds. What can I do?”

“The possums eat the rind off the lemons and leave the fruit to rot. What can I do?”

“The possums…..” “The possums….”

I say smugly because I didn’t have pesky possums. My roses and lemon tree had many other problems, but not possum problems. However, the Gardening Gods do not like smug gardeners…….and you know where I am going with this……..

Yep, I have possums, pesky possums.

My pesky possums are not pilfering the roses or the lemons (and that is not smugness ~ just give them time!). No they are plundering the vine.  And this is a problem because it is one of our main forms of summer cooling.

You may remember me talking about the vine before. We have ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, and rely on the vine to cover and shade the eastern side of the house. It’s been a great system as the morning sun doesn’t get a chance to beat into the house. But now the possums have come to play, and they just love to nibble the new shoots of the vine down to little nubs.

The weather has been hot this November ~ 36º today. We seem to have gone straight from the cold of Winter to the heat of Summer, without Spring in between. We are missing the covering of the vine.

So, I am trying to out-fox the pesky possums. Surely with some human ingenuity and the rampant growth of the vine I can get the tendrils up the wires. My thoughts are that if I can overwhelm the possums with young shoots some of them will sneak past and take hold. Armed with a ball of string and a rake I have been tying and training, trying to keep the young shoots away from places where the possums can reach out to take a nibble.

This is the state of the vine:

If you look hard you can see the string amongst the tangle of tendrils.

At the moment I think it is nil all, but it’s only half-time! And a long hot Summer ahead of us. I will let you know the final score!

Other gardening news….

It is time for the jacarandas to flower. Again I have written about them before.

I have had a delightful volunteer in the front garden, in among the onions!

A red poppy was a delightful surprise, and I wonder where she came from.

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Another adventure in the pipeline

Much of my time lately has been taken up with painting our hallway. Our house is an older Victorian terrace, with a loooong hall — over 11 metres — and ceilings of about 3 metres. It has been waiting to be painted for quite a few years now. Why it hasn’t happened is a story not worth telling…sufficient to say that the Fella and I made the decision in October that we would do the work. And work we have.

My job is the fiddly bits — the edges where the wall and ceiling meet, and the architraves and skirting boards. These were painted in gloss paint, which had to be sanded, undercoated and two coats of the top colour applied. While these boards are not the originals, I did choose them many years ago to closely match the originals I had to remove. So they are fancy, with fiddly curves and dips to sand.

Now we have lovely clean, white walls and slightly off white architraves and skirting boards. Well, the latter are almost all done. They are painted in a colour called “Pale Lady”. Fortunately the colour was perfect, as I think I would have bought the paint for the name alone. I am sure there are pale Victorian lady ghosts lurking in the house somewhere!

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I had a friend’s birthday morning tea, which I set up in the hall to celebrate!

You can see that the floor is still to happen, so the skirting boards are loose until we get that sorted. Now to the last few pieces of board to sand and paint.

But that’s not the adventure I am thinking about…..

The Monday before the Melbourne Cup Day holiday the Fella and I took off down the length of the Mornington Peninsular. It is the eastern arm that circles Port Phillip Bay and we went to Portsea, right at the tip of the peninsular.

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Why? Well, the local council has an Artist in Residence Programme down there. You may remember my Artist in Residency stay on Flinders Island a couple of years ago, and how that began my obsession interest with melaleuca trees. I am very attracted to the idea of having weeks away from my normal routine, where all I have to do is practise my art.

And imagine doing that in this cottage!

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And the view of the cottage from the lookout

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The view the other way, across Port Phillip Bay to the Bellarine Peninsular.

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We had a sneak peek in the cottage….

and I can see myself working here.

To top it off, the cottage is at the edge of the Mornington Peninsular National Park. The environment is coastal heathland, with trees and bushes to excite my creativity. Now, to get the application in, and cross my fingers that it is accepted, so that this sign will mean me!

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Naoshima, the Japanese Art Island

Lately I have swapped my little watercolour brushes for a big one, to paint our hallway. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t finished telling you about my adventures in Japan. I have also been doing a workshop to help develop my newsletter. Lots to learn, and lots to put into practice.

Meanwhile, back in Japan…..

Naoshima is a little island in the Seto Inland Sea.

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We (my mother, brother and I) needed to get there from Osaka and the shinkansen was the way to go. The JR office was so efficient. Once the clerk knew our destination she tapped on the computer and out came the tickets we needed to get there. So, armed with our trusty JR rail passes and the tickets we hopped onboard the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Okayama. There we changed to a middle-sized train to get to Chaymachi, where we changed to a small local train to Uno. Each connection worked smoothly.

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View from the train

I had debated about where we would stay. You can stay on Naoshima Island, but I thought the ferry ride and then getting to the accommodation might have been a couple of steps too many for Mum. It was the correct decision, especially as I made the right choice in Uno Port Inn.

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Its location couldn’t have been better ~ just around the corner from the station, and over the road from the ferry. But it was the Inn itself that made the stay. The staff were welcoming and spoke excellent English. They gave us so much information about the Inn, Naoshima, the ferries, the local area ~ and they made excellent coffee!!

The concept of the Inn is great. Each room had tatami mats but western beds ~ the Japanese vibe without the inconvenience, especially for my elderly Mum. Apparently the upstairs are all Japanese style. Instead of an ensuite each room had a small, private bathroom at the end of the hall. There was a lounge area and cafe for guests. You can see more detail on their website. And a delicious restaurant just around the corner that was still open when we rocked up for a late lunch.

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Naoshima is a small island that was, like country places the world over, languishing. This article explains what happened, 

Naoshima might have been headed for the same relentless decline.

Enter Benesse Holdings, an education and publishing conglomerate based in the nearby city of Okayama. Its best-known brand is Berlitz, the language school company. Benesse’s other claim to fame is its world-class modern art collection, including paintings by Claude Monet, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, as well as many Japanese artists less famous in the U.S.

The former head of Benesse Holdings, Soichiro Fukutake, wanted a special home for the collection, someplace where it would have a local impact and could also be shared with the wider world.

So, nearly 30 years ago, Benesse bought a big hunk of land on Naoshima’s south side. It hired world-famous architect Tadao Ando, and over the next two decades, he designed museums and adjacent luxury lodgings. The buildings follow the natural contours of the landscape. One museum is mostly underground, with open courtyards and skylights bringing in natural light.

It is not the only Art Island in the area, but is the most well-known.

The photos show that it was a rainy day when we went over, but still warm. And the clouds were spectacular! Unfortunately the rain stopped us from seeing everything, especially the art houses. Not really sure what they are, so I can’t tell you about them. But I will go back the see them….and then you can hear all about it! The article I linked to before details some of the benefits for the locals.

Sculpture is dotted around the island. You may know the images of the pumpkins.

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Spots are the theme of the island, with the bus painted with spots too. The town bus takes you over the island to where the big art galleries are. To get to them you hop on a free shuttle bus (the town bus costs Y100, about $1), which winds up the hill and drops you at the gallery you wish to see.

We went to the Chichu Art Museum. Photos aren’t allowed, but the website gives you a very good feel for the place. It is unlike anything I have been to before. And I loved the Monet paintings displayed there

There was a lot to absorb there, so we decided not to see the two other galleries, and headed to town for another late lunch. Lunch turned out to be one of my favourite moments of the trip.

We hopped off the bus in the drizzle, looked around and down a little alley we saw a doorway with an “Open” sign.

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By now we were quite used being surprised by these small restaurants….and this was no exception. It was larger than it looked from the outside. One room had the traditional tatami mats where you sat on the floor. My brother and I could have managed, but Mum may not have got up again! Fortunately the next room had tables and chairs.

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Can you see the menu? Assorted seafood bowl for Y1500 (roughly $15.00) or roast fish for Y1300 (roughly $13.00). Mum chose the roast fish and said it was the most delicious meal. Andrew and I chose the other. The photo shows my meal; succulent fresh, raw fish on a bed of rice, with miso soup and pickles. The green herb in the little bowl to the right was rather like basil (but it wasn’t), to be sprinkled over the fish. The marshmallow-looking things in the miso soup had normal flavour, but a squishy texture. The meal was delicious.

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At the bottom of the miso soup we found these….

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Mystified, Andrew cracked one open to find a morsel of flesh inside. We later learnt that they are barnacles. Well I never!

So we oohed and aahed our way through lunch, overseen by the two ladies (mother and daughter?) who owned it and cooked for us. Then we braced ourselves for the rain outside and scurried for the shuttle bus, due any minute. Just as we got to the stop one of the ladies ran after us, saying that she would take us over the island to the ferry on the other coast. Such a sweet, thoughtful thing to do.

The last thing to show you is the fish on the esplanade at Uno. I could see it from the Inn, and it looked like a large coloured fish. Imagine my delight when I got up close….

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to find out it was made from detritus, much of it from the sea. (Of course, not delighted by the fact that all that rubbish is in the sea.)

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According to the sign it is “Black Porgy in Uno” by Yodogawa Technique.

And next to it is a smaller fish, created as a children’s slide.

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Would I go back? Yes. I would love to wander the little villages on Naoshima, soaking it all up, finding the unexpected. And I would like to visit the other islands too.

Do you have any tales to tell of unexpected delights on your travels?

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Fabric and fashion in Japan

Before leaving I researched fabric shops in Osaka and Kyoto. My intention was to buy small off-cuts and fabric to use as background for my embroidered trees. How lucky I wasn’t intending to buy dress material – I could have gone mad! My mental shopping list included vintage pieces, especially in indigo, and I would have loved to find boro fabric. (I am becoming interested in boro material/sewing/quilting, and will talk more about it later. If you are interested this link is a good beginning.)

The first shop to track down was Toraya, in Osaka. Japanese addresses are tricky for the uninitiated so my instructions came from another (English speaking) blogger. This is what I wrote in my book, which seemed perfectly doable on my couch in Melbourne:

Ebisubashi, underground shopping arcade running between Shinsaibashi and Namba stations up the Namba end. Take exit 20 at Namba station, turn right in the street, first right; turn right at ABC Mart; on left.

Mum and I negotiated the subway, with the help of a sweet young woman, and got ourselves to Namba station. Underneath every large Japanese station is a web of shopping malls, with exits leading to hotels, department stores and sometimes even to the world above. We were caught up in this maze and realised that looking for exit 20 was beyond us; we were just longing for a way to fresh air. Eventually, with the help of another woman, we popped up above ground.

A much needed coffee was found at Starbucks. (The coffee-snob in me would never drink Starbucks coffee in Melbourne, but we found in very acceptable in Japan. 😉 ) Out came the map, and, once I had oriented myself, I found out we had come up in exactly the right spot. Right at the entrance to Ebisubashi-Suji! It is a long, very long, covered walkway/mall/pedestrian street, which extended for kilometres up to the area around our hotel.

We were ambling along and then Mum said “Is this the place you are looking for?” I would have walked right on past.

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It was material paradise, with the fabric enticingly displayed in lengths. And there was a second floor. The range was extensive, and the prices seemed cheap while the quality good.

 

 

It was hard, but I limited myself to off cuts. I bought this one because it was the colour and weight for my embroidery work.

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It is obvious why I couldn’t resist this, even thought the background is quite vivid lime.

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And this was an impulse buy. Apron maybe?

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In Kyoto Mum and I passed up an opportunity to visit Himeji Castle to go fabric shopping. (Well, we had seen the castle from the train……!) My instructions were more precise but luck still played a part, as we just happened upon Nomura Tailor’s main store. It is another sewer’s paradise and not for the weak-willed! Again, reasonably priced, good quality and extensive range.

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It was here that I found my scraps and off-cuts, and I had a pleasant time rummaging. This is what I came home with

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and…

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Quite restrained, really.

The second Nomura Tailor shop, in another long arcade, was more for quilters, and I can  imagine many of my quilting bloggy friends having a wonderful time there! I was only tempted by some threads.

Mum on the other hand…. I have to take some responsibility here. As you know, I love a project, whether it is mine or someone else’s. So, when Mum said in Osaka “I am going to buy this material for a table cloth” I did not say “Hmmm, is that a good idea?” I was all for it. When she saw material in Kyoto that would make perfect serviettes my reaction was “Perfect!” She doesn’t even have a sewing machine! I finally put on my dutiful daughter hat (once we were back in the hotel room, not in the store!) and said that I would take the material and sew it up.

She also bought one of those pre-package, very tempting kits that you embroider and make up into a bag. She loves embroidering, and I was happy to make it up for her. It never crossed our minds that the instructions might be in Japanese!

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I mentioned ‘fashion’ in the title. I am never up with fashions and trends, so what I saw in Japan may be common knowledge. I loved the clothes women were wearing.

I had expected to see young women in sailor suit tops and Hello Kitty inspired clothes but I hadn’t expected the simplicity and clean lines that I saw in so many outfits. They were often layered, flowing, lots of wide legged pants, berets and hats, very few florals or bright colours. So comfortable but elegant. The colour of the season seemed to be a mustardy orange colour.

The fabulous fabric stores made me wonder whether many women made their own clothes. I was tempted by a Japanese pattern book, but again, it was, naturally, all in Japanese!

This link will give you a taste of the clothes I was seeing.

Only a couple of regrets…

  • I couldn’t find the handcrafted needle shop Misuya-Bari in Kyoto. The instructions told me to look for a pink shop. I can only hope that the pink shop is now another colour and that the needle shop, which has been in the family for 400 years, is still tucked away somewhere in Kyoto.
  • I didn’t see any traditional cloth. That will require more research for the next trip. The closest I came was when a chap sat next to me at a diner. He had jeans mended in the boro tradition. I would have loved a photo, but felt that a stranger asking to photograph his thigh might be taken the wrong way!

More blog posts to come, as I want to tell you about Naoshima, the Art island, as well as tempt you with some of the delicious food we ate. This is a link to my previous post about the cities I traveled to.

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