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The Lion Who Changed My Artistic Path!

It was LOVE at first sight! 

The first time I laid my adult eyes on traditional Japanese Oshi-e was in a bank lobby in northern Japan. My husband (#1) and I were in the city while stationed at the adjacent Misawa (US) Air Force Base in the early 1970's.

I waited in the lobby while he went to secure funds to buy a car from a local dealer. When I saw that image, which I later learned was of the adult/parent lion in a famous Kabuki play called "Renjishi" (or The Two Lions), I was stunned by its' regal appearance and brilliant brocade fabrics.

The technique was like nothing I had seen before. I soon heard it called a "padded picture doll". As soon as possible I needed to know HOW to make one for myself.

After several phone calls (by one of the local bilingual secretaries who worked in the office with my husband), the very woman who created the image agreed to come and teach me on a weekly basis.

This began our 18 month-long challenge to understand enough of each other's language to be able to make my own "padded picture dolls". 

My Sensei, which is the ONLY name I knew her by, was herself a master teacher and artist. She learned the technique over many years of apprenticeship under an older master, and was, apparently, fond of letting me know that there is only ONE way to do things—her way. I was lectured almost every time we met, and often had to redo pieces that did not meet her very high standards.

I learned quickly! I think I completed six or seven large pieces, all of people in traditional clothing. Many were "reenactments" of famous folk tales, or scenes from well-loved plays. I think my teacher often re-did some of my sloppier work, as when the finished pieces were delivered to me, framed and ready for display, things looked much nicer than I remember.

When I returned stateside after nearly 3 years in Japan, I was quickly busy being a young mother and homemaker, and nearly 7 years passed before I took up making my "dolls" again.

But it was not until another 25 years that I learned the proper name for my "padded picture dolls" - it was Oshi-e, (pronounced: oh-she-a) meaning "pressed picture". 

However, the tools and fabrics my teacher brought for me to use each week were unavailable to me in the US. So I began haunting fabric shops seeking out materials that might make believable kimonos, and in the right scale. My frustration over this led me to realize I no longer had to make the traditional Japanese designs, and in 1981 I began to create my own kind of oshi-e—Contemporary Oshi-e.

Fast forward to 2020, and nearly forty years of exploration of the craft has led me on a journey to create so many variations, sizes and approaches, that I truly believe the possibilities are limitless!

With the launching of my first digital course on Contemporary Oshi-e in early 2021, YOU will be able to learn this fascinating no-sew fabric technique where you will be making beautiful finished art right from the first project! Interested? Make sure you join the waitlist located here.



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