Living in Ambleside my fascination with Japan developed through meeting many Japanese visiting the Lake District. Having trained as a Textile and Surface Designer I was also fascinated by the designs and colours of Kimono fabric and also Washi and origami papers.
In the 90’s we actually had a Japanese group in Ambleside made up of Japanese ladies who were employed in the local businesses like Mountain Goat and Dove Cottage in Grasmere. We taught each other songs. We sang and taught The Hokey Cokey in Japanese, they taught us the Sukiyaki Song. We had Damson (not cherry) blossom parties and also moon viewing parties. Then of course we had to learn a bit about making sushi and drinking sake!
I went on to learn the language as well as I could and then to finally visit Japan a few times, arriving home with a suitcase crammed full of paper and pens from Itoya my favourite Japanese store.
I like to draw with Rotring pen and work in to Japanese paper to add a splash of colour.
Although I do a lot of pen and ink drawing I do also have some of my designs printed on fabrics. These I then use for Cushion covers, Fabric by the length and also scarves.
The Designs above were inspired by a temple door I had seen in Tokyo and also Mount Fuji viewed from the top of Mount Komagatake Ropeway near Lake Ashi and Hakone. I liked the little wisps of cloud floating past.
I also loved this little building at the top of the Ropeway for inspiration too. Bitterly cold but the air was so clear and the views of Fuji San were stunning.
Currently I am exhibiting at the wonderful National Trust Property Allan Bank in Grasmere. A percentage of sales go towards the upkeep of this fantastic and very different National Trust house, what an amazing place to hang my work.
We had a lovely opening night with Prosecco and of course National Trust cakes!
On display are works of art that I designed for the property which use pen and ink and Japanese paper.
It was difficult hanging things as the walls are typical for a house of this age and not exactly level.
The property is open seven days a week and although the exhibition was meant to be on for two months due to popularity has been extended to end of June.
If in Grasmere do pop up and have a look, a chance to buy an original work of Art and also support the National Trust. You might be lucky enough to see the resident red squirrels too. And if you feel inspired by my Art work or the view, there is an art room at Allan Bank for you to draw and paint in too.
All the above works are originals. I do have some Risograph Prints on sale too in a Limited Edition of 50.
So often I hear people saying they hope to visit Japan to see the Cherry Blossom. The only problem is if you are travelling to Japan on a budget this is possibly the most expensive time of the year to visit.
Less known but just as beautiful is Plum “Ume” Blossom and although there may be crowds it is a much more relaxed affair.
My favourite place to see the blossom is Hanegi Park in Setagaya-ku Tokyo. With 270 red plum trees and 380 plum trees at the last count, in a lovely little park a few minutes walk from Umegaoka Station on the Odakyu Line. Just follow the crowds.
The Festival has Koto instrument performances, Haiku classes, and more plum food and drink than you could ever imagine. The plum tea is my favourite. Taking place late February to early March I can highly recommend a visit.
Many artists set up easels around the park.
I waited till I was back home to draw but I always feel inspired after seeing the blossom.
And as always Japan has gifts for the season. Beautiful packaging.