Flappers and Monks

Let’s have some fun, break the rules. Wipe our asses with dollar bills. Stop by the whorehouse after a trip to the fish market. Pick up gonorrhea from a movie star. Stay up all night drinking sake. Harass shy girls by pretending to be their lesbian lover. Had enough yet? No? Keeping up with flappers and monks requires an appetite for excess and contempt for hypocrisy few possess. That’s why there’s only one Ikkyu and one Tallulah Bankhead.

Kansai Yamamoto at the V&A; Tallulah Bankhead in a feather headdress
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Ring by Pamela Argentieri; Necklace by Jenniflair; Resin Bangle by Mr. Crap; Earrings by Craft Fields; Bracelet by Polina Belenki; Earrings by Catherine; Necklace by Frank Ideas

The term “basara” emerged in mid-fourteenth century Japan, when the country was split between two imperial courts at war. The ruling elite that came out on top included a group of military men who behaved and dressed in an extravagant and carefree manner, with the implication that it was often vulgar and destructive. It’s an old story: men who get money and power fast like to show off. Ikkyu was born two years after the warring period ended. He was a Zen Buddhist monk who gave the middle finger to organized Zen, frequently calling other monks lazy hypocrites. He was his own brand of basara, writing verses about his fondness for drinking and sleeping around. Not afraid to smash things, both as a child and old man, he proved that tea bowls need to be broken before their cracks become valuable. Ikkyu’s iconoclastic approach to Zen set the groundwork for the wabi style of tea, which rejected the ostentatious displays of basara for a weathered, ordinary, less-than-perfect aesthetic.

Kansai Yamamoto at the V&A; Louise Brooks in pearls
Handmade items to buy: (clockwise) Brooch Pin by Tomo & Edie; Bowl by 01 And Many; Purse by Mayko Bags; Tea Cup by Sheila; Scarf Wrap by Converte; Skirt by Miss Fancypants; Scarf by Rose Quartz; Tote by Sarah Joy

No one thinks of Tallulah Bankhead as a flapper (just as no one thinks of Ikkyu as a monk), but she excelled at all of the term’s most scandalous transgressions. Cocaine and sex fueled a prolific output of one-liners rivaled perhaps only by Oscar Wilde. Like Ikkyu, she was a flashy hedonist, a rare bird before her behavior became today’s typical Saturday night. It’s a good thing these two lived five centuries and thousands of miles apart. Any contact would have certainly caused a nuclear reaction.

La Chasse aux Papillons

Being swarmed by insects was never more stylish.

• Kate MacDowell’s Buzz looks like one of Ovid’s forgotten tales of metamorphoses, the one in which our hero doesn’t merge with nature. Her white porcelain sculptures depict an uncomfortable, even destructive interaction between man and nature.

• This Netsuke, dating back to the 19th century, is a small wood container that would have been attached to a man’s robe to store small personal belongings.

• Elsa Schiaparelli’s Necklace is part of her 1938 Pagan collection inspired by the flora and fauna of Botticelli’s paintings. By framing the metal creatures in clear Rhodoid, she turns the rather unpleasant sensation of insects crawling on your skin into a fashion statement.

• This Praying Mantis and Long-Horned Beetle by Elegant Insects are life size pins made of out sterling silver using the lost wax casting method.

• Connie Luebbert’s Proverbs 6:6 is a Chinese brush painting that reminds you to “go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

• Matteo’s Moth is a detailed watercolor that depicts both sides.

• Mireille Boucher’s Pendant is a beetle cast in sterling silver and suspended from a silver cable chain.

• Bruce Gray’s Giant Ant is Kafka’s dream constructed from acrylic-coated steel. His Bug spreads its steel skeleton wings from a body made of spheres and found objects.

• Madame Tetrallini’s Anthropomorphic Entomology is a tiger-like insect hand-cut from black paper and pinned with an original “Karlsbader Insektennadel Nr. 1.”

Origami Geisha

This geisha’s strongest weapon of attraction is her paper folding skills.

• Mademoiselle Maurice’s Origami Installation is a burst of brightly colored origami on a dirty, worn down street in Hong Kong. The rainbow star formation is meant as a message of independence to passerby.

• Kota Hiratsuka’s Mosaic Flowers are slick geometric compositions of folded paper that appear to change shape from different angles and light sources.

• Darbie Nowatka’s Paper Ornaments is a set of eight templates in fluorescent colors and comes with folding instructions.

• Tessa Kendrick’s Origami Ornament is an intricately folded ball of metallic pink and fuchsia papers.

• Sarah Goodell’s Earrings are tiny birds folded from bubblegum pink paper and dipped in a shiny finish.

• Esther and Estella’s Orinuno Bag is a delightful collage of folded flowers made from recycled fabrics.

• Becky Kemp’s Brooch forms a bird from laser cut Baltic birch painted in origami-like sections of color.

• Birgitte Hendricks’ Keyring is a cushion made from turquoise and red Bali Batik fabric.

• Suanne’s Origami Ornament is folded from an outdated Queens bus map and glossed for durability.

• Katie Callahan’s Lamp is part of her Polyhedra Luminaria series of lighting objects folded like traditional origami. The warm orange glow emits triangles of light from the small openings at each corner.

Climbing Fuji

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But Slowly, slowly
– Kobayashi Issa

• Yukio Ohyama’s photographs of Mt. Fuji cover a lifelong commitment to capturing the mountain in all of its guises. Like Monet painting his garden in every possible light and angle, Ohyama knows Fuji in its blood red, golden, and pristine white moods.

• Samantha Bittman’s For Roy and Yayoi creates a mesmerizing optical effect with acrylic dots painted on black and white woven textile.

The Armani Privé Spring 2013 Collection included one sequined gown that looked like liquid latex on the body.

• Katrin’s Brooch is made from four circular layers of red leather.

• Ewa Wisniewska’s Earrings suspend a bundle of red wires from sterling silver stems.

• Liz M.’s Cufflinks are bright red statements framed in sterling silver.

• MK Wind’s Vitalize Ring balances a sterling silver layer between red resin with bold rivets.

• Whitevan’ POP Clock is made of red plywood with some of the natural grain showing through.

• FeinFein’s Ring comes with nine dots of different colors that you can change to suit your mood.

• Makoto Tajiki’s Ring is made of silver with a deep red lining.

• Wasabi’s Handbag combines burgundy leather and brown twill on the outside and is lined with vintage kimono fabric.

Cherry Blossom Pink

After all, do people tire of the cherry trees because they blossom every spring?
– Sei Shonagon

• The Dior Spring 2013 Couture collection covered the pale pink organza silk gown in cherry blossoms, as if the models had been caught in a gust of wind in late April.

• Jun Konishi’s Cherry Blossom Pin and Mariko Yamashita’s Earcuff put a playful spin on the cherry blossom with loops of pink plastic, rose quartz, and pearls. Both pieces were inspired by the cherry blossom trees that still flourished after the tsunami in Japan two years ago.

• If you think cherry blossoms are good enough to eat, they are – just take a look at these Sakura Recipes for all the sweets and drinks imaginable.

• Karen’s Pendant suspends a cherry blossom tree between clear fused glass.

• Marieanne Cavaciuti’s Studs are tiny pink blossoms for those who want a subtle touch of spring.

• Takuyo’s Silk Scarf is hand painted with cherry blossoms outlined in a hint of gold.

• Jessica Reyes’ Hair Stick has three blossoms and a butterfly made of translucent  light pink resin and pink crystals.

• Melissa Dawn’s Earrings are tiny donuts iced with cherry blossom branches – the perfect combination of two very sweet treats.

• Yevgenia’s Herb Pod cover off-white ceramic with hand-drawn cherry blossom branches.

• Papa Toro’s Hamper has a light pink blossom print and sturdy leather handles.

• Dia Szabo’s Bracelet links polymer clay cherry blossoms to an antique copper chain.

Fire Breathing Fabric

We love traditional Japanese textiles, but after investigating the field further we found some contemporary artists who are reinventing the craft in unique ways.

• This Temari is one example of the traditional Japanese craft of embroidered balls, each one more intricate and inventive than the next. They were originally toys made from kimono scraps, but now they stand alone as art objects.

• Junichi Arai’s Cloths are floor-to-ceiling sculptures that combine traditional Japanese weaving techniques with new materials like plastics and aluminums, which give his fabrics a lightness and sheen that surpasses natural fibers. He experiments with varying the texture on a single cloth and can weave completely different patterns on each side of one sheet. The cascading sculptures transcend fabric to become as intense as liquid lava or as subtle as moonlight.

• Arai has worked with several fashion designers, including Issey Miyake. The Issey Miyake Fall 2013 Collection echoed Arai’s playful attitude towards prints by creating optical illusions out of traditional tartans and stripes.

• This Silk Scarf is composed of three vintage Japanese kimono in a cream and burgundy palette.

• Marisa’s Earrings suspends one link of a chain wrapped in kimono fabric.

• Eleanna’s Necklace is made of red and black circles wrapped in cotton, with a silk flower in between.

• This Scarf by Wabi Sabi Wasabi combines a red and white kimono fabric on one side and a herringbone wool on the other.

• Lyndell’s Scarf is knit from cherry red Japanese yarn and a silk-wrapped stainless steel thread that allows the fabric to hold its frills.

• Christine’s Bag has a red flower made from vintage kimono covering its back surface.

• This Fukushi by Link x Lucinda Newton Dunn is wrapping cloth printed with stripes that mimic already wrapped cloth.

• This Hair Clip by Polished Kanzashi has a flower made of chirimen crepe in warm sunset colors.

On Golden Pond

What luck! Here are some koi and goldfish swimming in ponds of gold, paint, resin, paper and wood.

• Matisse’s Goldfish swim among a lush garden that creeps into the water and wallpaper. Even the railing resembles a climbing vine. The compression of all these elements allows Matisse to explore color and composition in the most vibrant way possible. We know he encountered Japanese decorative work, and his vase of goldfish looks like a modern interpretation of this Inrō from the Edo period. Traditional Japanese clothing didn’t have pockets, so inrō were cases that opened into several nesting boxes meant to hold small objects – like a handbag. The stylized waves were made by hiramaki-e, a technique that involved dusting gold powder on the lacquer while it was still wet. Matisse’s vase also has a golden glow reflecting in the nearby plants.

• Riusuke Fukahori’s Goldfish are paintings suspended in resin, but the finished works look so much like real fish that you have to watch this video to believe that they come into being through a meticulous process of layering.

• Aya Wind’s photograph of Goldfish captures dashes of orange-red and translucent tails intersecting.

• BMC’s Watch is made of transparent resin printed with a colorful koi design.

• Sipho Mabona’s Koi are delicate sculptures each folded from one square of uncut paper.

• Suzanna Schlemm’s Koi in Clear Tank depicts the fish in loose brushstrokes swimming in pale blue water.

• Candy Coated’s Koi Swimming is a screenprint in shimmering red and gold inks.

• Justin Rothshank’s Tumbler made of wheel-thrown clay covered with decals of koi and vintage flowers.

• Mochi Liu’s Tea Bowl has a deep brown exterior with black bamboo leaves and a koi fish on the inside, painted by his father Xiaoyong Liu.

• Takuyo’s Silk Scarf is hand-painted with an elegant red koi swimming in waves of blue and grey.

Wind in the Willows

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
– Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows

• This Noh Costume Detail is silk satin embroidered with a sagi, a white egret that features in a noh play of the same name and an episode in the Tale of the Heike. The gold and blue swirls are a more stylized extension of the willow tree, but they could also depict the sagi’s celebratory dance when the emperor gives it the rank of minister.

• For one of his Tree Drawings, Tim Knowles attached pens to the branches of a weeping willow in Victoria Park and allowed the wind to create the tree’s own signature.

• The Mulberry Fall 2013 Collection was inspired by the Old English style of Wind in the Willows. With luxury and ease that would have pleased Mr. Toad, the collection combined tweeds and leather with floral prints reminiscent of his country castle.

• Claire Gaudion’s Willow Bicycle Pannier is a traditional fisherman’s basket from the island of Guernsey.

• Mark McGinnis’ Willows & Boise River depicts leaves dipping into water in black ink on mulberry paper.

• Sonia Girotto’s Teapot suspends a red stoneware clay pot from handles made of willow branches from her garden.

• Marcia’s Fan Chair is made entirely from bent willow branches.

Whose Sleeves?

more than the color of the flower, the fragrance
delights my senses -
whose scented sleeve brushed against
the plum blossoms near my house

• This six-panel folding screen from the late sixteenth century was one of many that reflected the idea of Tagasode (Whose Sleeves?). The phrase first appeared in the Kokinshu anthology, completed in 920. The anonymous poem, written above, refers to the Heian custom of scenting sleeves with incense, and pretending that your lover’s perfume on your own robes was nothing more than the result of picking flowers.

• The Kenzo Spring 2013 Collection was inspired by utility gear and the jungles of Thailand.

• The Margiela Spring 2013 Couture Collection included one piece that started with a hoodie collar but cascaded into a 20s style evening dress.

• Seiko Kinoshita’s Grasp combines paper yarn, copper wire, linen, and wood. Watch this video to see how she works with textiles in her studio.

• Tamami’s Bag is covered in mustard-colored obi fabric.

• Cécile’s Brooch is made of raw silk ribbons layered in brown and chartreuse.

• Jane Porter’s Scarf is made from a pale-yellow vintage kimono with a pattern of colorful fans.

• Michele’s Scarf is chocolate-brown kimono silk with a crinkled texture and beaded stitching.

• Kimokame’s Bag is made of vintage obi fabric in peachy gold with a rich pattern of flowers.

• This Hairpin by Atelier Kanawa is a maple leaf made in a style that dates back to the Edo period.

• Cherie’s Pillows are covered in late nineteenth century Japanese brocade.

• Alexander’s Jacket is made of a complex network of panels in golden and rust-red patterns.

Pop of Poppies

Imagine having Suzuki Kiitsu’s Poppies hanging on your wall so you could look at it on harsh winter days like this one. Perhaps you can’t drink tea and compose poetry with the Edo elite with poppies in the background, but here are a few alternatives.

• Kiitsu’s Poppies suggest that he may have been familiar with Western decorative art, but unlike European artists he didn’t clutter all available space with details. Instead, he leaves a generous area of gold leaf to balance the realistic flowers.

• Stasia Burrington’s Cut Fabric Flower Girls are composed of faint pencil lines and flowers cut from quilt fabric. Wouldn’t we all like to be more floral than fleshy on occasion?

• The Rei Kawakubo Fall 2012 Collection combined the voluminous silhouette of a kimono with modern tailoring for flat, crisp dresses reminiscent of very expensive paper dolls.

• Lucille Martin’s Reconstruction is a cluster of recycled materials and found objects, including vintage fabric and perspex mirrors.

• This Drawstring Bag by Atelier Saley frames panels of Japanese silk in luscious red lambskin.

• Sharon MacLeod’s Bracelet is a set of four bangles printed with a Japanese-inspired floral pattern.

• Claire Quillier’s Teardrop Fascinator is made of red felt embellished with buttons covered in Japanese fabric.

• This Scarf by La Grande Reseda covers one side in blue cotton fabric and the other in fabric with a cherry red and pale blue floral pattern.

• Eileen’s Silk Scarf is made from three different vintage Japanese kimono, one of which has clouds of tiny white flowers.