By Patricia Belyea
TOKYO JP When I walked down through the Tokyo Dome bleachers into the International Great Quilt Festival, the first booth I saw belonged to Yoko Saito of The Quilt Party. Yoko’s famous around the globe for her subdued taupe fabrics and wonderful quilt designs. She was there, mobbed by her adoring fans, signing books thoughtfully for each person.
Next I heard a call of recognition and received an enthusiastic hug. Sachiko Yochida, a Tokyo quilt teacher, recognized me from La Conner. She grabbed my hand and quickly raced me to see the impressive quilts made by her students.
At the top of the page is Sachiko with her quilt, Hearts Are Linked, that was judged into the “60 Show.” Over 50,000 visitors were with me at the Festival’s opening day so getting around was difficult. It was more like flowing from one amazing sight to another.
Further into the rows of vendors I spied Mary Koval, an American who deals in antique quilts. From Bedford, PA, Mary recognizes how much the Japanese love Americana. Mary has travelled halfway round the world for ten years to bring her wares to the Festival.
Quilted handbags were a common commodity throughout the show floor. It seemed there were 50 times more of them for sale than in use by the consumers.
One of the competitions was Bag Quilts. The splendid First Place winner by Chiyoko Nagasue jumped over the top with its beaded handle.
The Bag Quilts chosen for the exhibit displayed ingenuity and precise craftsmanship.
On pink walls throughout the show and then along the back, were community quilts. The block designs, taught on a national TV show, were made by viewers and then mailed in to the Festival. The submission of 9126 blocks resulted in 76 quilts hanging at the Festival.
Five designers were chosen to create displays that featured a celebration. Quilting sensei Akane Sakamoto, in a space painted mustard yellow, stole my attention with her wry quilts and her students’ wacky dolls. Akane, who has 150 students from Tokyo to Hiroshima, chose to celebrate Ancestors in her booth.
The visiting quilt show from Scandinavia featured wool embroidery (no photos allowed). Complementing the international exhibit was an ambitious installation about the Moomins—carefree characters from the books and comics strips by Swedish-Finn Tove Jansson. A replica of their home in Moominvalley, copies of Moomin books and stuffed animals delightfully set the scene.
An incredible array of quilts reproduced black and white Moomin illustrations in color and texture. Here Osami Gonohe recreated this complex scene of pending disaster expertly.
A featured exhibit about Shizuko Kuroha and her work saluted this leading Japanese quilter’s lifetime of achievement. Also a quilt teacher and owner of Nuno Space quilt shop in Chiba, Shizuko spoke to a crowd of attentive admirers.
My favorite of the Grand Prix winners, Second Place Mysterious Letter by Noriko Nozawa, danced with energy and boldness.
Although renowned as an American art form, the Japanese have adopted quilting with vigor and their non-stop meticulousness.
Throughout the Festival, hundreds of quilts demonstrated remarkable design and craftsmanship—all blue ribbons in my book. Here’s a sampling of some quilts that caught my eye.
Many exhibits are not reported here—Traditional Quilts, Framed Quilts, Junior Quilts. Billed as the biggest quilt show in the world, the International Great Quilt Festival deserves a trip to Tokyo to experience oneself.