Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Very Special Petal

With every student stitching a different design Kusano-sensei, Watakabe-san and Ishii-san worked hard to ensure that we all knew how to execute the various techniques on our own piece.

The cherry blossoms on my piece are worked in long and short stitch. Kusano-sensei indicated that she would like me to stitch one of these petals first. Did she know how I have struggled with this technique? Once I had transferred the design to the fabric and twisted some silks, Ishii-san demonstrated how to do the first row of long and short stitch. She began in the centre of the petal and stitched to towards the right. When she stitched the right hand section, she invited me to stitch the left hand section of the same petal.

When I had completed the left had section, Watakabe-san demonstrated how to stitch the next rows in long and short stitch. Again, she began at the centre and stitched the right hand section then invited me to stitch the left had section.

When that was done, Kusano-sensei demonstrated how to stitch the last rows of long and short stitch and again she stitched the right hand section leaving me to complete the left had section.

© Shizuka Kusano/Carol-Anne Conway

As a result I have a very special reminder of the class (as if I needed one) - one petal stitched by Kusano-sensei, Watakabe-san, Ishii-san and myself.

Happy Stitching

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

A Very Special Class

It is a long drive from Manchester to Edinburgh but in May 2011 we thought it was worth the trip to see Kusano-san’s embroidery. By the time we had travelled there and back we were very tired but still on a high from the wonderful work we had seen. When Kusano-san heard that some UK students of Japanese embroidery would be visiting the exhibition, she arranged to be there to meet us. As much as we wanted to know about her work, she wanted to know about us and why we were learning JE. She is a very warm and charming person and we all felt very inspired by her and her beautiful designs.

When we returned to Manchester, tired but still on a high, Jane said if we had found an hour in Kusano-san’s company such an inspiration, imagine how it would be to take a class with her. I think we all went to bed and dreamt of such an opportunity.

Well, it seems that dreams can come true. At the end of June, Kusano-sensei returned to the UK to exhibit her work and teach a five day Special Class in Ferndown. And it truly was a special class. Kusano-sensei designed 24 unique designs, one for each student. We were given a choice of designs ahead of the class and asked to submit our first, second, third choices. All of the designs were so lovely, I would have been happy with any one of them but I was lucky enough to get my first choice, New Moon and Cherry Blossom.

Shizuka Kusano

Kusano-sensei brought with her a selection of Kimono, obi, tapestries and other item for the exhibition. Some I had seen before in Edinburgh but there was also a selection of new work that I have not seen before. The exhibition was set up in the very room where the course took place so during class we were surrounded by beautiful embroideries.


Throughout the week, we covered most of the techniques JEC students are familiar and learnt some slight variations on the methods we already knew. Every day Kusano-sensei delivered one or more short lecture and gave several demonstrations to the entire class. Throughout the day Kusano-sensei and her two delightful assistants, Watakabe-san and Ishii-san, worked tirelessly giving individual demonstrations and guidance to each student.


If I had imagined that taking a class with Kusano-senei would be wonderful then the reality far surpassed my imagination. I learnt a great deal in practical terms but I gained something quite unexpected from Kusano-sensei’s gentle but enthusiastic encouragement. Kusano-senei made me feel like an artist.

"He who works with his hands is a labourer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
- St. Francis of Assisi

Class of 2013

Happy Stitching

Friday, 9 August 2013

Flower Circle – A Circle of Friends

It seemed to me that the Flower Circle was a quick project. In terms of time on the frame, for me at least, it was a quick project. My Japanese embroideries are usually on the frame for a year or more; this piece was on the frame for a mere 2 months and 4 days! So I was somewhat surprised when I totalled my time sheet to find that I had put in 74 hours of stitching. That just shows how 15 minutes here and there, and an hour or two at the weekend can add up!

© Shizuka Kusano/Carol-Anne Conway

The Flower Circle was also stitched by several others and the completed pieces were displayed together in the same room as the recent exhibition of Kusano-san’s work in Ferndown. Since I began learning Japanese embroidery in 2005, the stitchers of those other versions have become some of my dearest friends. We have spent many pleasant hours together; stitching, chatting, pawing over books and the internet, and admiring each other’s work.

© Shizuka Kusano/Carol-Anne Conway

When I returned home with my Flower Circle, it occurred to me that the Flower Circle reminds me of the friends I have made through Japanese embroidery. Although unique and individual, like the flowers themselves we all have one thing in common – our love of Japanese embroidery. Within the circle one flower might be closer to some than others, and some even overlap. Our group is like that, because of proximity or other interests, one person might be more closely associated with another but sometimes more, or all, of us are able to come together. And sometimes life might mean we do not have as much time for Japanese embroidery and our friends as we might like and we fade into the background like my purple flower. But a circle is an amazing thing. It is eternal with no beginning and no end. And made of the right stuff a circle is very hard to break, put under pressure and it may bend and distort but it remains intact.

© Shizuka Kusano/Carol-Anne Conway

I have decided to rename my Flower Circle "A Circle of Friends".

Happy Stitching