Treasures from John’s Collection: Sparrows and Bamboo  竹に雀
In 1973, I went to Japan for the first time. It was the peak period for the boom in the Japanese post-war traditional craft revival. This is the period during which the larger world became aware of the Mingei movement. There were exquisite traditional crafts of all sorts to be seen in every upscale department store and exclusive boutique, and it was considered quite chic for women to be seen in kimono.
Initially I went to Japan to study doll making, but found myself focusing most of my energies on textiles, settling on my true love, bingata (紅型), an Okinawan form of folk dyeing very popular in Japan.
A couple of years into my studies of bingata, under master dyer Matsuyo Hayashi, I was casually presented with a stencil. During this phase of my apprenticeship, it was common to use of my teacher’s stencils. However, in this case she allowed me to use a stencil that had been given to her by a fellow artist. The image depicts a rather common theme of sparrows in bamboo.

Mdm. Hayashi had me use this stencil several times in the course of my studies. The first few times, after I applied the resist and prepared the fabric, she would indicate where and how I was to apply each color, correcting my technique as was often required. With time I was encouraged to try my own color arrangements. Below are two samples of my work.
Sparrows in Bamboo Shibugami
Lacquered with Silk Netting
Upon my teacher’s death, I found that this stencil was one of the treasures she left to me.

Sparrows in Bamboo Natural Pigments on Indian Cotton.
I have a weakness for forgetting names and on occasion faces, but I never forget a pattern. Fast forward thirty years – I was surfing on line and came across the haori you see below. Imagine my surprise! Never worn and in perfect condition–I had to have it!
Sparrows in Bamboo Natural Indigo and Prussian blue Pigments on Cotton Denim.
This is the haori that found its way to me after so many years.
When it finally arrived in my studio I wasted no time placing the treasured stencil over the dyed image and…it was a perfect fit! It must have been dyed using my stencil, or one that was carved at the same time by the same artist. I was ecstatic!

This is how my life seems to go – in series of recurrences, on going reminders of kindnesses received.
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