Last May we had the pleasure of hosting Jenny Jackett, a well-known weaver from Brisbane, for a textile and weaving shumi-stay at our home in rural Nagano. It was the first time for us to host a shumi-stay at our home, “Mokurenso”, which means ‘magnolia house’ because we have a huge magnolia tree in the front with spectacular pink flowers in the Spring. It is a 275-year-old farm house which we have restored – surrounded by rice fields and on the slopes of the rugged 2,900-meter-high Yatsugatake mountain range.
Jenny had a stimulating visit which combined traditional weaving techniques as well as doing a range of interesting activities. Jenny learnt ‘sakiori’ weaving techniques using ‘boro’ rags on traditional farmers’ looms and met and watched a number of local weavers. Also, we visited several silk and textile museums and the famous Itchiku Kubota Kimono museum overlooking iconic Mt Fuji.
Of course, Jenny didn’t spend all her time weaving – we had plenty of time for exploring the countryside, including moss forests, alpine lakes and flower filled meadows, as well as some cultural highlights such as the Matsumoto Craft Fair, Matsumoto Castle and the Suwa Grand Shrine. Jenny loved the food and had a good go at trying many of the local dishes.
Here is the report that Jenny wrote of her Shumi Stay:
I felt so privileged to be staying in the beautiful old home of Kazuko and Phil Ingram in Chino, Nagano. It really was a natural cultural immersion and I loved it. I slept on a futon which was raised with extra mattresses, thanks to Kazuko. The floors were covered with new tatami matting which is softish, natural slightly green coloured straw, stitched and bound into various lengths all about 90cm wide. Several mats fit closely into the rooms and are sensuous to walk on. Shoes are left outside.
The original information had been for a Sakiori Weaving Shumi Stay in Japan. Sakiori is a rag weaving technique where, in Japan, old kimonos are cut into strips and woven into new fabric of various weights depending on the end use. The patterns on the kimono fabric can create unusual repeating designs in the new cloth.
Early in my visit I went with Kazuko to the Amuse Museum in Asakusa, a Tokyo suburb, to see the wonderful Boro Collection. This was a large selection of garments which were padded and restitched, patched and overstitched with reclaimed fabric pieces in faded indigos and fawns. These garments have been passed down through generations. They were like much loved blanket coats.
I had several Sakiori lessons with Nonaka Sensei in her studio. As I was not a beginner weaver I didn’t spend as long with Nonaka as I could have, so we did lots of other wonderful things.
We visited the Jomon pottery Museum where the foundations of the original Jomon houses have been excavated to show at the current ground level. Jomon period was up to 10000 BC and to see original pots was just amazing. The pots are hand-built terra cotta with a rope pattern made with twisted rice stalks, as a common decoration.
There were many other memorable events and beautiful scenes over my time. Japan has such a rich craft history in textiles and ceramics and unique ancient and modern architecture. We visited serene shrines, harmonious gardens and an oriental castle.
This Shumi Stay is quite unique, and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone with craft and cultural interests. Kazuko and Phil are friendly, knowledgeable, considerate and thoughtful hosts. Thanks to them, my trip was an experience that I could not have had any other way.
You can see some of Jenny’s wonderful works here: https://www.textileartisan.com/