A Glimpse of the Japanese Quilting Community: The Influence of Quilting Schools


From The Quilt Journal - An International Review, Vol. 2, No. 2.


By: Nii, Penny and Kuroha, Shizuko

Editor Notes: While the Japanese had traditionally made a few patchworkand quilted articles such as small patchwork bags and futon, thick, tied sleeping mats and covers, their postwar introductionto the American quilt did not occur until 1975, when an exhibition was mounted at the Shiseido gallery in Tokyo. That exhibition, plus a smaller one derived from it and mounted thesame year at the American Center in Kyoto, and a larger 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, one floor devoted to the history of quiltmaking in America and another tothe aesthetics of quilts, received a great deal of publicity in allmedia in Japan. Those exhibitions, assembled by JonathanHolstein and Gail van der Hoof were followed by many otherswhich brought to the Japanese, in whose culture textiles havealways been honored, a very comprehensive introduction toAmerican quilts. There were exhibitions of antique quilts of alltypes and sizes, including Amish, doll and child's quilts, and contemporary American quilts. In the following years a contemporary quilt movement began and developed in Japan and is now flourishing, manifesting a number of featuresunique to that country. This article explores some of the basic characteristics, and the reasons for them, of that movement.

Author Notes: Penny Nii, who was born in Japan and educated in the United States, was until 1993 a Senior Research Scientist in theComputer Science Department at Stanford University, doingresearch in artificial intelligence. In that field she publishedmany articles and co-authored a book on expert systems, software which is capable of facilitating complex, human-like reasoning. The visual arts were always a parallel interest forher. Penny discovered quilting in the early 1980s, and thoughher research career left her with little time to make quilts, hermost recent effort was accepted for "New Faces," a juried exhi-bition of contemporary quilts organized by the American Mu-seum of Quilts and Textiles. She is now a partner in the Leone-Nii Gallery in Mountain View, California, which exhibits bothantique and contemporary quilts. Shizuko Kuroha is a quiltmaker, author, and teacher in hernative Japan. She discovered quilting during a two-year stay inBethesda, Maryland, from 1975-1976. Upon her return toJapan, she founded the Kuroha Quilt Circle, which has now anenrollment of 200 students in seven Japanese cities. Her ownquilts, which characteristically are made from antique, indigo-dyed Japanese fabric, were first seen in the United States at anexhibition, "Indigo," organized by the Nippon Club in New YorkCity in 1985. In 1989 she was invited to exhibit her circle'swork at the Quilt Festival in New York, sponsored by theMuseum of American Folk Art. Since then her quilts have beenextensively exhibited internationally, notably at the "Feeling 1990" festival in the Netherlands, where her quilt won the 'MostArtistic" award, and in 1992 in South Korea and Taiwan. In1993 she was invited to lecture and teach at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, in conjunction with anexhibition of Japanese quilts.