| May 25, 2006

Feature Article - May 25, 2006

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Feature Article - May 25, 2006

Return to Japan

by InaHunt-Turner

Did you know that the Japanese car company Toyota started out as a textile weaving company or that Japan has the largest shopping centres and department stores in the world? These are some of the facts that Sarah Hale brought back from her trip to Japan. But as fascinating as that sounds, that is not the reason Sarah went to Japan.

She went there with a group of fibre artists to observe and learn a wide variety of traditional styles, to get new ideas, new materials and new inspiration. The group was organized and led by art professor Betsy Sterling Benjamin from the U.S.A.

Out of the group, 12 hailed from different parts of the U.S.A with Sarah being the only Canadian.

This was not the first time that Sarah has been in Japan; right after she graduated from university she went there for two years to teach English.


This time she arrived in Kyoto and stayed with her travel companions at the Hotel New Kyoto, from where daily trips were made to different wax resistant (rozome) artists. Rozome is only one way of batiking. There is silk painting (yuzen), fingernail weaving whereby the fingernail is used extensively to push the threads into place. This is very slow and delicate work with the artist finishing about an inch a day. Imagine working all day and only getting such a small result.

Then there is tie dying, not as we know it but so small that the end result is tiny dots, evenly spaced. Beautiful work!

When Sarah's travel companions went home she stayed behind to visit with some of the friends she had made when she had taught English in the past.

First she took the train to Nagasaki where she visited for a few days with a former student after which she traveled again by train to Tokyo to visit with a former Japanese colleague. Then she went on from there to a place called Kitakata, a beautiful rural area surrounded

by mountains and stayed for six days with another one of her former co-teachers who had fallen in love with a Japanese man, married him and stayed behind.

She also took the cherry blossom train to Kurama-Yama where she visited a Toji temple and a flea market where she was able to purchase a kimono to bring back with her. You can imagine how expensive handmade kimonos are when they are new, considering how long it takes to make one.

Sarah learned batiking over 30 years ago, after which she developed her own style; but to call her a batik artist would be shortchanging her. She does other beautiful work such as painting, wonderful photography and a lot of other art work which is displayed in her studio. While I was there she received a call from Vancouver for an order. So I would say that she is well known outside of this area.

Just one of the interesting people living in this town.

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