I’ve brought samples of my sashiko work to various quilt guilds and fabric shops, offering to teach a class or do a talk on the vintage pieces in my collection. So far the responses have varied from the rare “We’d love to have you, how much do you charge?” to the far more common “We already have a sashiko teacher,” which is typically the end of the discussion. Sometimes the stars align just so and the right words get to the right ears and I make a connection.
After showing some of my samples at a meeting of the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild in Oakland, CA recently, I expressed my frustration in trying to find a shop to host me for a sashiko class. Situated as we are on the eastern shore of the Pacific Rim in an area rich with Asian art and culture, it’s hard not to stumble onto a sashiko teacher at every other quilt shop. And yet… From across the room Kristine Vejar, the owner of the shop hosting our guild meeting, replied to my comment with the wonderful words “I don’t have a sashiko teacher for the shop.”
She does, however, have her own indigo vat with home-grown indigo brewing in it. Kristine had also started a project with pieces of shibori she had dyed right there in the shop, but had reached a point with the quilt where she felt stuck. Standing there listening to her talk about it a few days after the guild meeting, I ran my fingers over the unfinished quilt while thinking of all the fun things I could do with it. “Why don’t you take it home and finish it?” she asked, handing me a bundle of extra bits and pieces in varying shades of blue.
With instructions to treat her unfinished quilt top as if it was yardage and to chop it up and resew it as I pleased, I set to work. The cutting table was cleared of clutter and out came the rotary cutter. I set up an ironing board in one part of the studio, one of Mom’s old Singers in another. Stepping over two sleeping dogs as I went back and forth from table to sewing machine to ironing board, I saw the fabric gradually taking shape into something new.
Boro that isn’t made from rags isn’t truly boro, but the word itself has taken on a fresh meaning over the past few years as boro has become vogue among collectors of Asian and textile art. While touring the Amuse Museum in Tokyo last month, I had the opportunity to view and even touch pieces of true boro, rags that had be patched and pieced together until they returned to the threads they were woven from. The boro we make today is for entertainment and our own edification, not for survival as it once was. Does that make one more of an artform than another?