The Theater. Very Parco.

Eiko Ishioka was a prolific and revolutionary designer. She contributed enormously to the fields of art direction, graphic design, production, as well as costume design for film, theater and opera. Based in part on her innovative work for the Japanese cosmetic manufacturing company, Shiseido, Ishioka was hired as the chief art director for a new breed of Japanese department store called Parco. The establishment was centered on the philosophy that the Japanese youth needed a platform to establish their identity in connection with the rest of the world, particularly the West.
poster, graphic design, Japan, lithograph, Eiko Ishioka, Parco, shopping, theater, advertising

A Precious Posterior, Preserved for Posterity

The Honey Pop Chair is made entirely of paper. 120 layers of honeycombed, glassine paper. 
furniture, chair, innovative, Japan, paper, conservation

The smaller the better

Wow! I remember thinking that as a youngster, when I first saw the slightly flickering black and white picture on the Sony portable TV at a friend’s house—on the patio. That was the last place I could imagine anything like a television, something I had previously experienced only as a piece of furniture in people’s living rooms.
Portable television, Sony, Japan, Industrial Design, miniaturization

A poetic transformation of industrial waste

The Cabbage chair was created for an exhibition organized in Japan by Issey Miyake, who challenged his contemporaries to conceive of new products for the twenty-first-century. What types of furniture and objects are appropriate, Miyake asked, for people who “don’t just wear clothes, but shed their skin?” He invited Oki Sato of Nendo to find a use for pleated paper, a material employed to process the signature fabric featured in Miyake’s garments. Vast amounts of this material are discarded as a by-product of the manufacturing process.
chair, Nendo, paper, sustainability, Issey Miyake, Japan

An ornate cricket cage

This cricket cage is part of a group from Italy and Japan given to the Museum by the Hewitt sisters, demonstrating their eccentric taste. There is a longstanding appreciation in Japan and Asia of singing insects, such as cicadas and crickets. The custom of visiting places known for the abundance and quality of singing insects has been a treasured seasonal pleasure in Japan, akin to the viewing of cherry blossoms. Among the most valued of crickets was the kirigirisu, esteemed for its rhythmic chirp and as a harbinger of frost.
Cricket cage, Hewitt sisters, Japan, 19th century

Paper Clothes

Paper dresses of the 1960s are memorable but they are hardly innovative.  Japan has been weaving with paper since at least the sixteenth century when woven paper– called shifu in Japanese – was most likely developed by the impoverished rural population for lack of other materials. With few raw materials available, farmers originally cut the pages of ancient account books in order to turn them into woven paper. The ink writing on the paper also remained visible in the finished fabric leaving an interesting speckled pattern.
paper, Japan, textiles, cloth, clothes, clothing

A Sidewall Opens Childhood Memories

My childhood bedroom was decorated with a butterfly motif. I had a canopy bed with a butterfly cover and bedspread and butterfly wallpaper.  In my childhood play I enjoyed having these lovely fairy-like creatures around me with their delicate, transparent wings and fantastical beauty.  In my early science classes I learned about their amazing life cycle and have often found inspiration from the quote “If nothing ever changed… there would be no butterflies.”
Japan, rice paper, butterflies, leaves, silk, shoji screen


Over the last fifteen years I have been fortunate enough to visit Japan a number of times and usually with the goal of researching and finding textiles for exhibitions.  There have been many textile discoveries, but more important has been my privilege to meet the extraordinary textile makers.  These encounters with the artists and designers at their studios, factories or homes have helped me to understand the context for their work and to appreciate what inspires them and why they chose textiles as their medium of choice.
indigo, shibori, tie-dye, Japan

Inside wonders: A Japanese pattern book

Patterns found in nature have influenced human creativity for millennia and continue to inspire designers today. Can you guess what natural forms were used to create the designs in this pattern book? Published in Kyoto by Unsōdō in 1913, its bold calligraphic lines, sweeping curves, and organic forms share characteristics with both Japan’s Rinpa and Europe’s Art Nouveau movements.  However, these shapes were derived in a new and unique way by a scientist, not a designer.
pattern book, Japan, shells

Dancing, Chanting and Music: The Noh Robe

When I first saw this Noh robe I thought about the changing of seasons, though not the change from winter to spring that I am eagerly anticipating at the moment. The robe’s colorful brocaded chrysanthemums remind me of the beginning of autumn. The robe conjures images of the chrysanthemum’s overwhelming beauty during the Japanese fall celebration, kiku matsuri.
Noh, theater, Japan, autumn, costume