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Shizuka Ryokan is hosting Leanne from Kimono House in 2020

Boro at Shizuka Ryokan

Sunday 9th February 2020

Shizuka Ryokan will celebrate Japanese textiles in February when Leanne O’Sullivan returns to teach a one-day boro workshop. Boro is a type of Japanese mending.

Spend a relaxed day with Leanne learning how to hand-stitch, mend & quilt layers of recycled cloth to give them new life in the traditional Japanese way.

Be inspired by Leanne’s personal collection of vintage Japanese boro textiles and discover how boro is being stitched by artisans in Tokyo today. All materials will be provided including vintage kimono cloth with Japanese threads, needles and thimble – everything you need to create your own textile treasures to wear or have in you home.

About the teacher

Leanne first visited Japan in the 1980s, where she lived and worked for 5 years. It was during this time that she became interested in Japanese textiles, and the kimono in particular.

“Whilst living in Japan I was constantly inspired by the extreme contrasts around me—everywhere I looked there seemed to be a mix of traditional and contemporary co-existing beautifully.”

This contrast is evident in Leanne’s pieces, which combine new and vintage fabric, and traditional and contemporary design. These days, Leanne runs Kimono House Japanese Textiles & Craft —where she trades Japanese textiles and craft kits, teaches workshops and exhibits her collection of Japanese textiles.

To learn more about boro you can read the blog post on Shizuka Ryokan’s Japanese culture blog.

Shizuka Ryokan's in-house ikebana practitioner, Trish Ward.

Ikebana : Japanese traditions

I’m at Shizuka Ryokan watching Trish Ward arrange plants in a Japanese ceramic vase destined for the coffee table. It is a Wednesday. Shizuka, closed for the day, is a hive of activity—there are deliveries for the kitchen, a Japanese yoga teacher meeting with the owner to plan a future workshop, a bearded artist up a ladder painting, a gardener, Cleo the dog, Hugo the horse, even a kookaburra on the deck. But despite the mayhem, Trish is calm and focused. She has entered the flow state.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. It dates back to 7th century Japan, when floral tributes were made at Buddhist altars. Later ikebana was displayed in the home. Guests at Shizuka Ryokan are often delighted to discover an ikebana floral arrangement in the tokonoma—alcove—of their room.

Trish is Shizuka Ryokan’s in-house ikebana practitioner and the mother of Shizuka owner Catherine Defina. Trish has been creating ikebana arrangements for over 20 years. She is a member of the modern Sogetsu school, founded in 1927 by Teshigahara Sofu and based in Tokyo.  

Buddhist priests were the early ikebana masters and the art form was heavily influenced by tea masters. Trish says, ‘Samurai warriors used to do ikebana before and after battle to calm themselves. Women were not allowed to do it. It was a men-only thing.’

Plants play an important role in Trish’s life. Her home garden includes plenty of interesting flowers and foliage, ‘That is common among ikebana people. Whatever they grow, they think “ikebana”. The idea is to be able to go into your garden and just pick flowers and arrange them. It is as simple as that.’

Ikebana ties in beautifully with the awareness and appreciation of the seasons that underpins much of Japanese culture.

Norman Sparnon brought ikebana to Australia in the 1960s. Sparnon was born in Melbourne and as a youth became interested in Japanese culture. During World War II, he served in Japan under General Douglas Macarthur. After the war, he stayed in Japan for twelve years, studying ikebana under Kobayashi Sensei of the Einghin School and later with Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School.

Sparnon returned to Australia, and dedicated the rest of his life to cultivating a cultural exchange between Australia and Japan. He lived in Sydney but would travel down to teach ikebana in Hawthorn Town Hall once a month.

Trish spent some time living in Indonesia, where she would see ikebana demonstrations at the American Embassy. ‘I quite liked it but with children I didn’t have time for such things.’ Years passed. Back in Australia, a friend took Trish to the American Embassy in Canberra for an ikebana demonstration and she was enchanted. Trish finally learned ikebana from a teacher called Teresa Feile in the Dandenong Ranges. Feile was a former student of Sparnon.

Today, there are over 1000 different schools of ikebana around the world and five schools of ikebana in Melbourne, under the umbrella of Ikebana International.

Trish is arranging a West Australian native as we speak. Trish has to select plants suited to the ryokan environment. ‘With the warmth in the guestrooms here, you need things to last.’ She points to a plant, ‘This is the Xanthorrhoea, the Grass Tree, commonly called Kangaroo Tail.’

Australian natives are a recent addition to the ikebana world, previously reliant upon European flowers. ‘There is a change in the whole culture. I think the Japanese use a lot of our natives so that has probably filtered through. But,’ Trish motions to the Grass Tree, ‘they are more difficult to use. There is lots of foliage on them. You’ve really got to thin it out because, in ikebana, less is more.’

Watching Trish thin out Australian native plants in a traditional Japanese way captures Shizuka Ryokan perfectly—a brilliant synergy of the Australian bush and Japanese tradition.

‘I just get lost in it. You fiddle around. And the next thing, an hour is gone. You gradually get an eye for it.’

The ikebana on display at Shizuka is free-style. Aside from Australian natives, Trish also incorporates fruit or vegetables. The spa treatment room at Shizuka is sometimes perfumed by a citrus fruit called a Buddha’s hand, or enlivened by the bright orange of a persimmon. (The weirdest thing that Trish has used in ikebana is the head gasket of an old car.)

Ikebana is very different to western floral art but like other traditional art forms, it is only after you have mastered the basics that you can let your creativity run wild. The old adage ‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them’ applies here. Trish did strict formal arrangements for the first five years. ‘Even though you are doing free-style, you’re still going back to the basics—the shin-soe-hikae.’

Shin-soe-hikae are the three elements of an ikebana arrangement. Shin tends to be the longest branch, soe is medium length and hikae is the shortest and closest to the base.

 We are very lucky to have Trish here at Shizuka Ryokan. She loves ikebana, ‘The colour, the shape, everything. It sort of all goes together.’

Ikebana International hosts annual exhibitions. The Sogetsu School exhibits at the Hawthorn Town Hall every year. You can also see Trish’s work every week at Seasons Restaurant at Cloudehill Gardens and every year at the Royal Melbourne Flower and Garden Show.

SAORI weaving on a loom at Shizuka Ryokan

SAORI: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan, we host retreats and workshops with a focus on Japanese tradition. One such retreat is the SAORI weaving workshop. Several times each year, Prue Simmons arrives fresh from her llama farm and dyeing studio, to teach people the art of SAORI weaving.

In Japanese the word SAORI comes from sai–individuality, and ori–weaving.

The philosophy of SAORI is an interesting one. In traditional hand weaving an irregular thread is considered a mistake. In SAORI things are very different; the weaver is encouraged to make mistakes. 

SAORI weavers follow four slogans:
1) Consider the differences between a machine and a human being
2) Be bold and adventurous
3) Let’s look out through eyes that shine
4) Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

Japan is renowned for the wabi-sabi philosophy, loosely defined as a world view centered on the acceptance of imperfection. The wabi-sabi aesthetic is in evidence at Shizuka Ryokan. For example, upon arrival guests receive green tea in an irregularly shaped Japanese cup. The style of the Japanese pottery is called hagi ware; the cup is rustic and simple looking, with unrefined textures and is beautiful because it is flawed. The philosophy of SAORI weaving is the same. SAORI weavers celebrate accidents, unexpected colours and textures.

Misao Jo invented SAORI in the late sixties. She was weaving an obi, a Japanese belt, and found that one of the threads was missing. Looking at the belt she realised that the mistake was pleasing to behold. She showed it to a person running a weaving factory who dismissed it as flawed and worthless but this did not deter Misao who had an inherent sense of the value of the handmade object. She deliberately made a belt with many flaws and showed it to the owner on an obi shop in Osaka who thought it was wonderful.

Misao thought that the aesthetic quality of the flawed obi must be the result of something hidden within herself. She realised that the obi’s beauty was a result of escaping conventional thinking in order to express herself. The philosophy of SAORI was born.

To learn more about the SAORI workshop, or other workshops on offer at Shizuka Ryokan, please visit out Retreats and Workshops page.

ryokan Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lorenzoviolone/

Shizuka Ryokan newsletter

As well as a Japanese culture blog, Shizuka Ryokan publishes a newsletter four times per year. The latest newsletter was published on winter solstice, an auspicious day in Japan. On the shortest day of the year people in Japan take yuzu baths and eat pumpkin for good luck. You can read the latest newsletter here. And if you like what you see, please subscribe. The Spring Equinox is just around the corner!

SAORI weaving on a loom at Shizuka Ryokan

SAORI retreat at Shizuka Ryokan

Thursday 24th – Sunday 27th October 2019 SOLD OUT
Thursday 20th – Sunday 23rd February 2020 Tickets available

Shizuka Ryokan will be rife with creativity and sustainability this October when Prue Simmons returns to teach a three-day SAORI workshop. SAORI is a type of Japanese weaving.

Prue Simmons is the founder of the Dyeing to Weave Studio, and is one of just three SAORI teachers in Australia. She was taught traditional Japanese weaving and natural dye techniques by Toyomi Harada in the mountains on Honshu, Japan.

Prue is interested in sustainability, natural dyes, up-cycling and environmentally friendly textiles. Prue and her partner run White Stone Farm in Central Victoria. On the farm they raise llamas and use their fleece to weave beautiful pieces.

To learn more about SAORI you can read the blog post on Shizuka Ryokan’s Japanese culture blog.


Please note: The October 2019 SAORI workshop has SOLD OUT. Please contact Shizuka Ryokan if you are interested in attending the next SAORI workshop: Thursday 20th February  – Sunday 23rd February 2020

Sashiko: Japanese traditions

At Shizuka Ryokan we have an insatiable appetite for Japanese traditions. Whether it be Japanese cookery, Boro stitching, Sumi-e painting, Calligraphy, Ikebana, Seasonal Yoga Retreats, Sake tasting, Furoshiki, Japanese gift wrapping, Wagashi, Origami, Mizuhiki, Temari, Japanese book binding, Japanese tea ceremony, Kokedama, Kimono wearing, or SAORI weaving–you will find a workshop at Shizuka.

Sashiko

On Sunday, February 10, we were thrilled to host Leanne O’Sullivan from Kimono House for a 1-Day Sashiko Intensive.

Sashiko is a form of embroidery that originated in Japan during the Edo period (1615-1868). Originally, sashiko stitching was used to reinforce points of wear or to darn tears in clothing with patches, making the clothing more durable and warmer. (Japan has a culture of reusing and recycling, and a word, mottanai, which conveys a sense of regret over waste.) By the Mejii era (1868-1912) sashiko was a common form of winter work in farming communties, when it was too cold to work outdoors.

Sashiko evolved to become a decorative quilting and embroidery stitch that features white cotton thread on traditional indigo blue cloth. The word sashiko means ‘little stabs’ or ‘little pierce.’ There are two main styles of sashiko: moyozashi, in which geometric patterns are created with long lines of running stitches—and hitomezashi, where the pattern emerges from the alignment of single stitches on a grid.

The artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), published New Forms for Design in 1824, and many of these designs are used in sashiko patterns today. Sashiko stitching depicts things such as Yarai (bamboo fence),  Uroko (fish scales), Amime (fish nets), Kaki no Hana (persimmon flower) and Hirayama-Michi (mountain passes).

About the teacher

Leanne first visited Japan in the 1980s, where she lived and worked for 5 years. It was during this time that she became interested in Japanese textiles, and the kimono in particular.

“Whilst living in Japan I was constantly inspired by the extreme contrasts around me—everywhere I looked there seemed to be a mix of traditional and contemporary co-existing beautifully.”

This contrast is evident in Leanne’s pieces, which combine new and vintage fabric, and traditional and contemporary design. These days, Leanne runs Kimono House Japanese Textiles & Craft —where she trades Japanese textiles and craft kits, teaches workshops and exhibits her collection of Japanese textiles.


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