Quilt Museum’s Fame
Now Spreading to Japan
By Jeff Wick
They may have needed a translator to refine their words, but their love of quilts bridged the language gap between Karey Bresenhan and Yumi Ishigami Thursday in La Grange.
It’s only been open for half-a-year but already the Texas Quilt Museum in downtown La Grange has brought patchwork lovers here from around the world. Thursday, the groundwork was being laid for a wave of Japanese tourists to be the next to enjoy
Ishigami, the editor of the largest quilting magazine in Japan (Quilts Japan, circulation 50,000), was in town along with translator Kim Kiriye and photographer Kanako Miyamoto.
The magazine is planning a major feature on the Texas Quilt Museum for
an upcoming issue. Ishigami is also organizing at least one tour bus of Japanese to visit the museum this fall in conjunction with the International Quilt Festival in Houston.
As part of the project, Ishigami did an extensive interview with Texas Quilt Museum co-founder Karey Bresenhan, who also founded the International
They also viewed and photographed some quilts made by the late Japanese quilter Yukiko Hirano, whose prize-winning quilts have been donated to the International Quilt Association, and will be on display in Houston this fall.
Quilting, it seems, is huge in Japan. But that’s a fairly recent development. Through a translator, Ishigami said quilting in Japan really took off 25-30 years ago, partially sparked by, of all things, the American 1980s television movie “Anne of Green Gables,” which features quilting prominently.
“The Japanese women felt that if they could make quilts, they would like to make them,” said Ishigami, through a translator. Bresenhan said the Japanese actually have a long history of patchwork sewing (sashiko stitch) but just not for quilts.
As Japanese women started making quilts, “their world became wider,” Ishigami said. “Women became more active through quilting. Their social circle grew.” And these quiet, shy housewives suddenly started traveling in groups to Houston to the International Quilt Festival.
“I often see energetic, powerful women who are quilters,” Ishigami said. “I don’t know what came first. They were energetic and powerful so they started quilting, or they began quilting and so became energetic and powerful.”
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