Japanese in the World -Sashiko Artist, Yuko Wakaoka-
When Yuko told me she makes sashiko I actually wondered what it was and needed to research.
"Sashiko (刺し子, literally "little stabs" or "little pierce") is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan that started out of practical need during the Edo era (1615-1868). Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear or to repair worn places or tears with patches, making the darned piece ultimately stronger and warmer,this running stitch technique is often used for purely decorative purposes in quiltingand embroidery. The white cotton thread on the traditional indigo blue cloth (said to recall snow falling around old farmhouses) gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, though decorative items sometimes use red thread.” (wikipedia)
There are more than 20 different patterns but I will talk about this in another occasion. Here below is an example of how sashiko was used for mending clothes.
Yuko can of course repair clothes but she uses this skill in design. She brought me some small works for our interview. Here you can see different patterns too.
1. What’s your name and which part of Japan are you from?
– Yuko Wakaoka (若岡悠子), from Tokyo.
2. When did you come to Berlin?
3. Why did you decided to come to Berlin?
– I was working for a figure company and making models for casts but I had a burnout
and came to Berlin to have a year off.
4. What is your profession? Can you tell me about your work?
– I’m a Sashiko artist. This was actually my mother’s hobby which she started about 40 years ago. Since I was a child, I saw her doing it and I grew up being surrounded by sashiko. One year, I met a person who was interested in having my mother’s works in her shop, and the people liked them. So I started asking my mother to send me more but it became too much work for my mother. That was when I decided to take it over, it was about two years ago. I kind of knew the technique as I had been watching my mother all my childhood. After some instructions through Skype, I could begin to stitch by myself. I find it's quite meditative and fun. I get so into and time passes very fast.
5. What music do you like to listen when you work?
– Rap. I like “Zazen Boys”.
6. What do you like the most about your work?
– Traditional geometrical patterns, also its process that it always starts with abstract lines and suddenly you see the patterns are all there.
7. What’s now?
– It’s been about two years since I started by myself and I’m making traditional pieces. My plan is to mix sashiko with daily fashion which can be integrate into German culture. In Japan sashiko has been used for practical purpose such as repairing old kimono or strengthen dish clothes, but in Europe, it’s an art piece and rather expensive. I like to make sashiko pattern T-shirts or hats that people can wear daily.
Note: Yuko is planning a sashiko workshop in Berlin. If you are interested, please contact us through the comment.