Barbara Suess, “Temari Techniques” book
June 2, 2012
Barbara B. Suess, Temari Techniques: A Visual Guide to Making Japanese Embroidered Thread Balls. Illinois: Breckling Press, 2012. ISBN 9781933308326.
At a conference of the international Japanese textile community in Kyoto in 2007, I urged participants to publish in English to accommodate those interested outside Japan. At a two-hour talk on Japanese Textiles yesterday in my local community yesterday, I was asked questions about learning to make temari: difficult when the nearest temari-maker is nearly a thousand kilometres away. The fact is that many of us work in isolation, embarking on a self-paced apprenticeship of our own making. This latest addition to the literature by Barb Suess goes a very long way in extending the craft beyond Japan, making information available in a methodical and clear fashion for those of us in the West. It doesn’t replace Japanese books in Japanese, it doesn’t detract from the Japanese cultural experience, but works as an excellent complement to them.
Temari stitchers have for some time relied on a handful of books in English for beginners, but this is the first comprehensive single published source of material for intermediate stitchers, for those who have been stitching for a few years and reached a certain level of competence.
I’m coming to the end of my first five years of temari-making so personally the appearance of this books is very timely. It sheds light on the road ahead. I spent yesterday explaining to my audience the commitment and diligence involved in a traditional iemoto Japanese craft apprenticeship of fifteen years: the first five sweeping the studio floor, the next broaching the craft, the next perfecting it. It’s very comforting to be able to recommend to others Barbara’s first book for beginners and now this book for more complex balls. This 200-page book both reprises the basics and admirably moves its readers to the next level in a way which suits Westerners, who, because of their cultural conditioning, always ask ‘too many questions’ and want mysteries ‘explained’ in words. Western temari-stitchers often find themselves in the difficult situation of having to be both teacher and pupil, while in Japan a pupil can all the more easily find a teacher, so this book is highly recommended.