Sashiko and Illumination

Sashiko and Illumination

As Sashiko became more popular, I started receiving more requests in more diversified ways. The ordinary request is to either offer Sashiko Class to them, or to stitch Sashiko for them as commission work. One day in September 2021, I received an interesting email. This is a off-stage story of Sashiko & Illumination

The title say, “Ask for Sashiko Consultation”, and it continued:

“I would like to have your consultation in a large-scale, artful display: Illumination.”

This request was based on the major misunderstanding of Sashiko introduced in English, that Sashiko indicate some specific geometric pattern. As I always state on my SNS, Sashiko is NOT the word for any specific pattern. If I have to define what Sashiko is, I would say it is a form of (hand) stitching developed in Japan. Each geometric pattern has its own name and stories. We just use the respected pattern for Sashiko stitching.

Unfortunately, this is a very common misunderstanding because there are not enough resources in English and many use Sashiko as the marketing term. In order to fulfill the missing resource, I share a story per day for the last 2 years. However, it isn’t strong enough to be an advocate in this strong & huge trend of Sashiko.

The request to my email box was interesting. However, I often receive similar comments on SNS, which often end up with them minimising my voice, or even ignoring my story. I was tired of the possible reaction saying “oh, just be happy. Sashiko is just the word”. So I was a bit scared of the possible consequences.

I replied to them as nicely as possible to share the Sashiko Stories I carry. Usually, in many cases, since I do NOT offer what they are expecting to hear, the request will not be proceeded. They often just fade away even without saying “Thank you for the reply”. I thought this request was one of those: just not on SNS, to my email box. I was expecting the same: Another waste of my time, but it is necessary in order to accomplish my mission.

The reply was unexpecting one to me, in a good positive way.

They said that they want to learn Sashiko as “Japanese stitching culture”, and then they wanted to use any inspiration they learn from me to create an artful display with illumination. 

Well… if they are willing to learn Sashiko, there is no way to deny their request. All I am asking is their willingness to learn the Sashiko which is NOT yet translated into English. I replied to them that I may not be a good fit and may say something extremely uncomfortable, but I am willing to give it a shot for the first initial meeting. 

My worry wasn’t necessary. After the delightful first meeting with feeling so much respect, I start thinking more deeply with greater confusion. Well, more accurately describing, I asked myself the most difficult question: What is Sashiko anyway?

[Sashiko is a form of hand-stitching to make stitches on the fabric (developed in Japan).]

This is a true statement. I believe no one can argue if it is true or not. Since this is a true statement, in contrast, we can possibly say it is NOT Sashiko if it isn’t stitching. I share my insight that the cloth with a Sashiko-like pattern printed and called Sashiko blanket is NOT Sashiko. However, I thought, isn’t it a form of dualism that I would like to get out?

Then, I start feeling why I feel so “content” after the meeting although their goal is to have an artful “display” with illumination, not stitching. I strongly felt that I would like to be their help if they get inspired by Sashiko. Their willingness to learn & humble to respect the Japanese culture was more Sashiko-like to me than those who hand-stitch pattern pre-printed fabric with caring how “perfect” the stitches have to be (and since they cannot, they immediately start embracing the imperfection) while blocking our voice.

When we look at the outcome, one is Sashiko (even without respecting the Japanese culture behind it), and one is NOT Sashiko because it is illumination (no matter how much they learn from Sashiko Artisans).

Is this my personal preference because I got good respect instead of indifference? Or… I needed to look into what is the feeling wiggling within me.

After many nights of deep thinking, I came to one tentative conclusion. Sashiko is a form of “praying” developed in Japan, and then formed as hand-stitching in their ordinary. It is TRUE and there is no doubt that Sashiko is a “Stitching” Culture. However, that “stitching” must have included the “praying” in their ordinary days. If they understand the significance of this Japanese culture, as long as they say “Sashiko inspired” by Sashiko Artisans story, I believe it carries the spirit of Sashiko more than just simple stitching which looks like Sashiko.

Sashiko and Illumination

Sashiko has to be a form of Stitching.

However, anything besides stitching also can be inspired by Sashiko, even if it is a form of art display. Lighting candles manually (by hands) one by one is a great form of praying similar to stitching one-stitch by one stitch. A similar process of stitching with praying, as if we are stitching to the ground, making the ground of the park stronger, and mend (heal) earth together with praying. 

Outcome is important. How it looks defines the value in many cases. However, in today’s society, the willingness to learn from each other can overcome the issue within diversity: Unfairness and Struggle. 

I believe I could contribute to them to somewhat connect their art display and spirit of Sashiko. I hope many people enjoy the art, that Erin came up with great design with her best willingness to learn about Sashiko.


*For the Article and the detail about the Sashiko and Illumination Event, please visit their website below.

https://longwoodgardens.org/blog/2021-10-12/artform-sashiko-luminary-form

*I introduce how to stitch the same pattern, Seigaiha, as a follow-up materials of Online Sashiko Class. Please consider taking it to fully understand the Sashiko I have been sharing.

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