Category Archives: Japan

Nautical netsuke?

I was just having a look at some netsuke (Items which were designed as toggles on the robes of japanese monks, often carvings of animals or people) on google images earlier today and I noticed this great octopus carving – I don’t think I’ve ever come across sea creature carvings before. So I’ve been having a search to find more!

I first came across Netsuke when I was looking round the Victorian and Albert Museum as part of a school GCSE art trip and instantly fell in love with them. I would quite like to own some one day but they can be fairly pricey items so that wont be very soon unfortunately… usually they’re carved in ivory or bone, but sometimes wood and amber are used.

This amazing cuttlefish was actually made this year by Russian artist Sergey Osipov – I really like his work as it’s so detailed and he uses metal and amber inserts for detail

This one is pretty strange –  it has been described on the website I found it on as:

“A stag antler netsuke of two mythical sea creatures and an octopus
19th Century
the creatures of human form, one creature held aloft in the octopus tentacles, incised signature — 1½in. (3.9cm.) high, (one foot with losses to toes).”

I think this may be a representation of Ningyo,  – 人魚, or “human fish” which I mentioned a few posts ago when writing about japanese Yokai. I think they were traditionally quite ugly-looking, and I remember Ningyo being described as something along the lines of ‘cross between a carp and a monkey’ which is certainly what this looks like.  I wish I had £600 to spend on netsuke… this is what this is estimated to sell for.

 I like this one but I cant find much info on it apart from that it’s currently in Kyoto

This piece features rather an angry upside down sea beam in the backpack of an old fisherman.

The last couple of images I’m posting are those I’ve found on the International Netuske Society website just because I think they’re great and hopefully will give you some idea why I like netsuke so much!

Really nice Kirin to finish!

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Little Stabs

Quite a good while ago I was talking to a friend of mine who was running a rag rugging workshop at Project Space Leeds for ReMade – we were looking at a cushion that happened to be present at the time, and as she is currently doing her reasearch on the subject of fashion and textiles she knows a lot about it and mentioned that the decorative embroidery on the surface of the cushion is something called  Sashiko stitch, a japanese form of reinforcing fabric. I have since found out that the name literally translates as “little stabs.”

I think it is really attractive technique – it was originally used in japan to reinforce fisherman’s robes against wear and tear. The cushion in question had the stitches running in many lines adjacent to each other across it which I especially liked , but I can’t find a good example of this on the internet

My friend Alicia uses this stitch to embroider cardboard and in some of her other works

I tried to use this technique along with blanket stitch when decorating a felt flower I made for my sister recently.

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Filed under Brooches, Japan


Clearly Tanuki is the winner –


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Umbrella Ghost

About a year or so ago I came back from South East Asia and blogged a little about about Yokai; demons from Japanese folklore. I’d seen some descriptions of them in the Kyoto Manga Museum and had taken a liking to them.

The other day I was looking through my boyfriend’s film collection and spotted something called ‘Yokai War’ which we ended up watching . It has reminded me how much I love Japanese monsters and got me thinking I probably want to make some textile or plush Yokai my self… or possibly construct them from paper clay and fabric…

Here’s some of my favourites:

Obviously I love Kappa as it’s one of the most famous and annoying of the Yokai. Kappa lives in water is generally horrible but quite likes cucumbers.

Kitsune are foxes who can shape shift into humans and grow multiple tails. Once they are at the age of 1000 they gain their ninth tail, silver fur, and become gods.

Ningyo are Japanese mermaids. They aren’t very similar to their western counterparts – in fact they’re horribly grotesque and look more like a monkey crossed with a carp.

Kasa-Obake has to be one of the strangest – it is an Umbrella Ghost that has come alive after 100 years of being neglected. Think about it next time you end up loosing an unbrella…

This would be a pretty good Halloween costume… if I have time I’ll do it!!

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Cat Commissions 2010

Happy New Year!

I was asked to make a few Christmas presents during 2010; cats, foxes and sausage dogs were in demand.

This is a cat my friend commissioned me to make for his girlfriend; I was just instructed to make a tabby cat and this is what I came up with



When asked where she thought it came from the reply was ‘Japan?’

I think he works quite well as a sofa cushion. I am planning to make a few more to sell on the net and at more craft stalls


Filed under Cats, Friends, Japan, Plush, Textiles

Satsuma Gift

I found this drawing amongst my things today – I painted this in Vietnam and it was sent back to York to be in an exhibition. The paper is from vietnam and the paint and paintbrush I used were from Japan. The subject however was inspired by a man we briefly encountered in China who gave every one in my tour group a satsuma while we were waiting on a station platform and then went on his way.

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Filed under China, Illustration, Japan, Travel, Vietnam

Kyoto International Manga Museum

Back in England!

Today I am e-mailing the Kyoto International Manga Museum about an exhibition of Japanese Folklore I saw in August while we were there.

Japanese Folklore is heavily influenced by Shinto and Buddhism, as these are the two main religions in Japan. It features some of the most surreal characters and story lines I’ve ever come across, and I got particularly excited about some of the ‘Yōkai‘ or monster spirit characters, as they have the ability to shape-shift, have supernatural powers and tend to be pretty irritating – for example, there is one character who hides in trees above paths that travelers often tread,  transforms him self into a giant disembodied head, and falls out of the tree infront of said traveler to terrify him. There is another character who has a giant eye instead of a bottom, and uses this to terrify people in a similar fashion by pulling down his trousers when they least expect.

Often these characters are a mixture of human and animal, and some can originate from as exotic locations as ‘The Capital of The Moon’ so there’s no end of fun to be had reading  about them.

This is ‘Kappa’; a kind of humanoid child sized amphibious river spirit. Kappa inhabit ponds and rivers in Japan and like to fart loudly and look up lady’s Kimonos. Kind of looks very similar to ‘Ponyo’ from Miyazaki’s new film of the same name, but where as Kappa are quite happy just being Kappa, Ponyo is a goldfish who wants to be a human girl. (Sigh, awesome)

I was really impressed with the KIMM – not only does it have an absolutely phenomenal library of Manga new and old, it has a complete history of how it developed and a tonne of interactive  stuff like this:

You can also enjoy a beer outside on the astro turf – complete with fake dirt!

Want to go back to Japaaaan.

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Filed under Folk Lore, Friends, Illustration, Japan, Travel