Stunning stitchery 



100 Contemporary Japanese Quilts
Indiana State Museum
Through Jan. 2
‘Ichiyo-Raifuku’ (Gods for Good Luck, Ebisuten & Daikokuten) by Chuck Nohara, part of ‘100 Contemporary Japanese Quilts’ at the Indiana State Museum

Imagine opulence. Better yet, indulge in it at the Indiana State Museum. 100 Contemporary Japanese Quilts is an exhibition whose richness in creativity and craft is in a class by itself. Working with centuries-old fabrics handed down through generations in a family and with other acquired traditional textiles produced in Japan, quilt artists designed and stitched works of art best described as works of wonder.

One example suffices: “When I dismissed all worldly thoughts and observed nature carefully, white flowers caught my eye. In Japanese, yamaboshi, the name for the dogwood flower, originates from the similarity of the flower’s shape to the white hood of a monk in training, practicing asceticism. As he journeys down the mountainside in springtime, his white hood leaves behind the image of the dogwood flower.” Look for “Quiet Times,” hand- and machine-pieced, appliqued, embroidered and hand-quilted by Hisae Iguchi. She used a variety of fabrics.

Kayoko Tonegawa, who is now living in Columbus, Ind., hand-pieced, appliqued and hand-quilted silk. About her entry, “Message from the Old Days,” she stated, “Having great respect for these fragile fabrics, the most difficult part of the process was handling and sewing them very carefully.” Tonegawa is a quilting teacher in Tokyo, where she is considered a leader in Japanese textile art.

Photographs and descriptions fail to capture the beauty, imagination and craft in these quilts. Even more amazing is how far quilting has come in Japan during only 25 years since the American tradition of patchwork quilts was first introduced. Japanese culture and landscape are transmitted through the way in which the artist expresses her way of thinking and working.

The installation itself is equally commendable. Ambience is established with portals of a structure in Japan. Sheer fabric backs the free-standing hangings in the middle of the room, providing airiness. Placement lends vibrancy and opportunity for discovery.

Indianapolis is the only Midwest city for this international touring exhibit. Juried by the Japan Handicrafts Instructors’ Organization, the tour was organized by the Asian Art Coordinating Council in conjunction with Japanese collaborator Kokusai Art.

The Japan-American Society of Indiana is an active partner, “to help commemorate the 150th anniversary of Admiral Perry beginning the tradition of cultural exchange between the United States and Japan,” commented Theresa Kulczak, the society’s executive director.

100 Contemporary Japanese Quilts continues through Jan. 2. Call 232-1637 or log on to for exhibit-related programs.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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