Saturday 18 May 2019

more kimono thoughts....

Okay, I'm still waiting for any sort of response from peeps who feel we must stop offending Japanese people by using the descriptor "kimono"...

In the meantime I've been up to other mischief....I just posted this to the blog of Emily Ito who is one the people who originally made the call to action that non Japanese clothes designers should stop using the word kimono because it's an unacceptable cultural appropriation. One of the premises she expressed is that it would be way in which contemporary Americans could make amends to Japanese-Americans who were put in US internment camps in WW2.

Debating on grounds of moral equivalence is often a perilous course....

This is the comment I posted, it is still awaiting moderation, and I offer to eat all my kimonos without wasabi if it gets published....

Emily Ito, may I invite you to reflect on the people who were interned by the Japanese govt in WW2? Do you have an opinion about the 130,000 people of non Japanese race who were detained in camps inside Japan at the outbreak of war? Do you have any opinion to express about the substantially larger number of Koreans and Chinese who were held in concentration camps by the Japanese Imperial Army? Do the people of Japanese-American descent who you call on to support your cause, to make the use of the word kimono an unacceptable cultural appropriation, are they aware of the war crime committed by the Japanese army when they stormed St Stephens College in Hong Kong which had been a military hospital and murdered all the wounded allied soldiers? Are they aware of the 600 detainees who had died in the Stanley Internment camp by the end of the war due to malnutrition, physical beatings and starvation?

Can you acknowledge that in the North American internment camps not a single person died of malnutrition or starvation. Not a single internee was forced into slave labour. Not a single Japanese woman internee was forced to become a sex slave for the army. Not a single internee was beaten or executed in public as way of keeping the other internees in fear and well behaved.

I bring up these historical facts because you have suggested that contemporary Americans should make amends for wrongs that were done to Japanese citizens due to their internment in World War Two (a war that ended 75 years ago)

Kimono, kimono, kimono

Yesterday, after publishing my opinion that using the descriptor "kimono" is not an unacceptable cultural appropriation I was interested to hear the views of others, particularly anybody who disagreed. A number of readers did give feedback on my Boho Banjo Facebook page and all agreed with me that its an unconvincing point of view.

Over on Helens Closet blog I submitted the letter published in bold print on yesterdays blog. Helen had asked for people to give her feedback and the 10+ letters she published are all full of high praise for her decision to change the name of her pattern from Suki Kimono to Suki Robe. Not a single correspondent had a diverse point of view... Half a day after sending my piece I wrote Helen a private email to ask if she would let me know why she didn't publish my submission. 10 hours later as I write this she hasn't acknowledged either of my messages.

So, in the last six months 3 women designers who run small businesses have been severely criticised for using the term kimono in a pattern name. First there was the Wiksten Kimono which became the Wiksten Haori. Then Helens Closet Suki Kimono became the Suki Robe, Papercut patterns Kochi Kimono became the Kochi Coat. These businesses were all subjected to a barrage of angry emails demanding the word kimono be changed. Some of the writers described having links to Japanese culture by blood and marriage and others were European women supporters who believed they should channel righteous indignation on behalf of the BIPOC community.

I did read one well thought out and compelling post about why one woman felt strongly. Apart from what Emi Ito wrote in January (link in previous blog) Saki Jane wrote about her ideas and experiences as a Japanese American on Helens Closet blog. It is about the 6th post down.

In the last hour I had one of the people who strongly supports the view that using kimono is a cultural appropriation direct the comment to me that unless I'm Japanese I have no right to use the word to name anything I design. Still disagree....

I would welcome anybody who wants to express a counterpoint opinion to have a chat with me with a view to publish here. The only requirement is to be a credible argument/point of view expressed without abuse.

In the next week or so I shall get on with designing a new pattern. heh heh hehe *evil cackle* I was going to call this the Jorja Jacket but now I'm sorely tempted to call it Sencha Kimono....

Friday 17 May 2019

is kimono a naughty word?

Hi there everyone

Reading my instagram this evening I was interested to come across a debate flaring in the sewing community again. The independent pattern publishing business Papercut Patterns, based in New Zealand, was criticised for calling one their patterns a "kimono" and there was subsequently a barrage of outraged commentary. Many indignant people demanded that the name must be changed to avoid causing offence to Japanese people.

A few months ago I read an earlier outbreak of this argument directed to the pattern company Helens Closet in regard to her pattern named the Suki Kimono. In the last few days Helen changed the name to the Suki Robe and issued a heartfelt apology on instagram and her blog. Papercut patterns also issued and apology and said they would change the name of their patterns. I read the discussion at the time and had some opinions but decided to keep them to myself because I thought Ito's contention of cultural appropriation was on pretty shaky ground and would soon be intelligently disputed...

Reading the instagram commentary tonight I learned an acronym new to me - "BIPOC" - and feel embarassed to admit I've been so ignorant of it I had to google it to find out who they were. After working that out I had to rush over to my Etsy shop to check the names of the patterns I’ve published in the last 5 years to make sure there was no name that might offend BIPOCs or potentially anybody else!

Most of the people expressing their outrage and indignation over the commandeering of "kimono" purported to be either people who identified as BIPOC or were channelling with great certainty that their opinions would be representative of the BIPOC community. I invite a properly endorsed person with verifiable credentials from the BIPOC community to please contribute here what their opinions are about people of western extraction who adopt the term kimono to describe a garment they have designed are.

Most of the argument that using the description "kimono" is hurtful and offensive seems to be based on a blog opinion published by Emi Ito of California, who says that her mother immigrated to the USA in the 1960s. 
My Kimono is not your couture

Here are my opinions on this matter, altered slightly from another version which I posted to instagram and on the Helens Closet blog:

I disagree with Emi Ito’s contention that using the name “kimono” to describe a garment is a disrespectful cultural appropriation. In complete contradiction to her opinion I believe it is an absolutely respectful attribution to acknowledge that characteristics of a particular garment have been derived from an Asian dressing aesthetic rather than a European one. I think that if a designer didn’t acknowledge their influence it would be more disrespectful to be in denial of it.

As an artist the cultural appropriation debate has raged in our community for decades so I come from a position of familiarity with it and have often had to consider the issues in my own work.

Are Japanese people as a whole expressing offence at the commandeering of the term “kimono”? Apart from what Emi Ito wrote on her personal blog where else are Japanese expressing their hurt and grievance…? I’m not intending to be sarcastic asking this, I’m genuinely asking to be directed to any place where a significant number of Japanese people are stating that they don’t want people outside their ethnic/cultural group to use the word kimono to describe a garment.

Personally I read using the descriptor “kimono” more as a generic term to describe certain elements of a garment. Thus, I might understand it indicates the garment has styling coming from an Asian aesthetic, such as a crossover front with bands on the edges, wide sleeves, patch pockets and not having western type buttons for closures.  Labelling a garment “kimono” implies it has these styling characteristics, and that the designer has selected that name as a respectful tribute to acknowledge styling attributes deriving from Asia.

The reduction ad absurdum of this argument is that if anybody of western cultural background cannot ascribe the description “kimono” to the styling of a garment without being rude and offensive then perhaps Japanese people shouldn’t be adopting the suit and tie, Japanese women shouldn’t wear trench coats, tutus or Chanel suits (is “trench” a rude appropriation of what WW1 soldiers wore in battle…? Would they be hurt and offended that this description has evolved into something that women now wear as a classic fashion….?). Then perhaps this could be extended to criticising Japanese people who “appropriate” our European heritage crafts such as knitting and crotcheting….?

I enjoyed reading what Emi Ito wrote expressing her opinion that using “kimono” to describe a garment that is designed by a person of western/non BIPOC background is a cultural appropriation. I was curious and open minded to understand her reason for having that point of view. But at this point I’m unconvinced that any genuine offence or issue of cultural appropriation is caused by using the word kimono as a general descriptor.

Thursday 16 May 2019

More Finery

 Another selection of beadwork necklaces from "Finery". These were the earliest pieces made for the exhibition up to a year ago and are rather more conventional in their aesthetic than the mostly cloth pieces I made in the last few months. The piece to the far left is actually mixed beads and embroidery and a close shop was shown in my last blog.

And then a few days ago I did this small image just for fun because I haven't painted for months.
It started as a black and white photograph of 1920s actress Dorothy Sebastian which I altered in Photoshop. Then the altered image was printed on achival paper and pasted to this 20x40x5cm board and overpainted with acrylic paint.

Red Dorothy

Sunday 12 May 2019

"Finery" is launched

I had a wonderful night last night at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Gallery.
Thanks to gallery manager Elissa Emerson and the staff of volunteers who worked hard all week to set up the current shows.

Coat for the Recalcitrant Bohemian Princess hanging at the entrance

The coat looked fabulous apparently effortlessly floating at the top of the narrow gallery space where my works are displayed.

Me standing beside the coat. Gallery manager Elissa Emerson is in the background

the necklace at the lower right was bought by the Max Watters Collection

I was flattered to sell several pieces last night, especially that the permanent collection of the Muswellbrook Gallery, the Max Watters Collection, bought 2 items to add to their permanent collection. Such recognition is a high honour, thank you.

After many conversations with gallery attendees last night I was left wondering how many similar exhibitions there may have been in Australian galleries? Or is this genre of mixed media textile and bead adornment a very unusual thing?