Japanese Quilt Artists Who Influenced the World

Japan boasts some of the world’s most talented quilt artists, in the world, and quilters seek inspiration from their incredible art. 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.

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

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

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 in Japan, and 250,000 people visit the annual Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival - the largest quilt show in the world. 

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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 advocated by the school. 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.

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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.”

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Now it its 27th year, the National Quilt Museum works to honor today’s quilters by bringing their work audiences around the globe. Its rotating exhibits feature quilts from its own collection of more than 600 artifacts, as well as outstanding national and international touring collections.

The NQS is committed to educational outreach, and its programs annually attract more than 4,000 young people and adults. They have won the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years, making it one of the top tourist attractions by visitor review.

For a full schedule of upcoming exhibits, visit www.quiltmuseum.org/2018.