The Power of Stitchery

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Yoshiko Wada is a leading expert in Japanese textiles and techniques. Courtesy LongHouse Reserve.

In recent months, LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton has hosted a series of virtual talks led by Yoshiko Wada, one of the leading experts in Japanese textiles and techniques. The final talk in her series, “The Power of Stitchery: Nui Project and Sashiko” will take place on Sunday, April 25, at 4:30 p.m.

In her talk, Wada will present two stitchery practices in Japan, one ancient and one modern, one responding to life’s necessities and the other to the simple act of stitching.

In rural Japan cold winters and harsh physical work required sashiko stitchery, which reinforced textiles thus providing for both functional and decorative needs. Wada will cover a variety of regional styles of the traditional sashiko from the northeast (Tohoku) to the southern island of Kyushu, including fishermen’s donza of coastal regions, Yusa-sashiko of snow country and Harakata-sashiko of Yonezawa’s samurai families.

Conversely, in modern Japan, the stitchery of members of the Nui Project in Kagoshima sustains their sense of well-being, which has been observed by the Shobu Gakuen facility staff as the state of “satisfaction or contentment without a specific goal.” Gallerists and curators of Art Brut praise the objects made by the Gakuen members and present them as art. The LongHouse Reserve tour to Japan frequently visits this unique social welfare facility to enjoy the music, food, garden, and the buildings sensitively designed by William Brouwer.

In this presentation, Wada shows the expressions of stitchers in the two groups who are very different though equally powerful in transforming their lives along with the materials they stitch.

LongHouse founder Jack Lenor Larsen, who died in December, was an ardent admirer of Wada and wrote the foreword to her book, “Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now,” saying, “Perhaps more than anyone else, Wada caused the evolution of fiber focus from cloth structure to the dye patterning that we now recognize as surface design.”

LongHouse Reserve invites viewers to explore the timeless art and craft of fabric and broaden their knowledge of textile design in these conversations with Wada, who Larsen called “a Colossus, spanning east and west, past and future.”

The lecture is $35 ($25 for LongHouse Reserve members). Tickets can be purchased at longhouse.org. A recording link will be emailed and is viewable for 30 days after the event.

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