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5 Amazing Japanese-Inspired DIY Projects

by on Mar 22, 2011

The Japanese aesthetic has been hugely influential in Western art since the time of Van Gogh.  And, you guessed it, this aesthetic continues to be a powerful force in the mainstream DIY and craft culture, even beyond the ubiquity of gorgeous Japanese washi tape and origami.  From traditional techniques aimed at solving quotidian challenges to those pushing the limits of modern craftmanship and art, Japan offers incredible inspiration for DIYers and design lovers.

The DIY geniuses at Honestly…WTF tried their hands at shibori, a textile dying technique, with fantastic results.  See the tutorial here.

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Photo by Honestly…WTF, found here.

A tradition for more than a thousand years, the making of Temari has evolved in purpose and design – from sport to children’s toy to exquisite gift.  Master Temari-crafter Diana Vandervoort offers a How-To here and a fascinating history here.

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Photos by Diana Vandervoort, found here.

Japanese stitching has also been quite visible in the crafting realm.  Sashiko is an embroidery technique that an amateur can tackle.  I find the traditional use of light thread over a dark background (as pictured below) to be particularly striking.

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Photo by Kelly Stevens (buzzville), found here on Flickr.  Check out Kelly’s amazing selection of Japanese fabrics, buttons, notions, etc. at Superbuzzy.

This and That from Japan, Agnès Delage-Calvet, and Susan Briscoe sell comprehensive tutorial and pattern books, and Susan Briscoe and Purl Soho offer great sashiko kits for getting your feet wet.  Handmaiden and Studio Aika have posted great online tutorials.

Also, see yesterday’s post on DIY Panorama Picture Frames for my reappropriation of the Japanese stab stitch commonly used for book binding.

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Photo by me, Lynn Canzano Pyfer.

And check out this homemade ofuro – a Japanese soaking tub – by Splatgirl of Modern in MN.  Photos of the steps are here.  In a Japanese family, the order of who gets to soak in the ofuro is typically in direct correlation to your standing in the household – so kids go after parents!

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Photo by Splatgirl, found here via Curbly.

And finally, I’d like to share a sampling of my favorite artists who deliver amazing works emblematic of the modern Japanese aesthetic.

Kozyndan, an incomparable duo working in a variety of illustrative mediums, have affordable books and posters in their shop.  Kozyndan’s creation pictured below infuses their own unique sensibility into the look of a traditional ukiyo-e woodblock print.

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The Bunnies Fall, 2006.  By Kozyndan.

In a 2007 exhibit called Masters of Bamboo, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco displayed the exquisite work of many master bamboo weavers.  Several of the mind-boggling pieces can be viewed in this gallery.

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Galaxy, 2001. By Honda Syôryû.  Image by Kaz Tsuruta via the SF Asian Art Museum.

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Model for Funabashi Shore Park Exhibition, 1999. By Kawashima Shigeo.  Image by Kaz Tsuruta via the SF Asian Art Museum.

Last but not least, the recently deceased ceramic master Tokuda Yasokichi III produced unparalleled suffusions of color in his pieces.  Joan B. Mirviss LTD, a gallery and exhibition space which specializes in Japanese Fine Art, has gorgeous color-rich photographs of Yasokichi’s work.  Click here to see more images.

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Vase by Tokuda Yasokichi III.  Image via Joan B Mirviss LTD.

Special note:

This post was written prior to the disastrous events in Japan, but I feel I would be remiss if I failed to make any mention of the earthquake/tsunami given the subject matter.  As someone with expertise in international development, I usually know exactly which organizations do the best ongoing development work in the affected country.  However, in the case of Japan, donating to emergency relief organizations is the best way to help at this point.  I have read that the Red Cross is overseeing more than 80 teams on the ground.



created at: 03/08/2011I’m Lynn, the (benevolent) mastermind behind Constitutionally Modern DIY.  I make modern, funky craft/DIY creations that are affordable and accomplishable.  Any average Jane/Joe can make these things, which are particularly well-suited towards urbanites lacking power tools or even a kitchen table.

I’m an Urban Planner by training, and a maker of random items by vocational calling.  My eclectic sense of style derives from constantly coming up with budget solutions to design quandaries or gift giving.

Follow me at Constitutionally Modern DIY

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