susan ball faeder: 100 days of amulets

susan ball faeder: 100 days of amulets

JAPANESE TEXTILE FRIENDS SERIES
By guest blogger Susan Ball Faeder of Quilters’ Express To Japan

LEWISBURG PA  The 100 Day Project concept originated in 2007—the idea of Michael Beirut, a graphics design teacher at the Yale School of Art, who charged his students to embrace a daily art-making practice. The only restriction was that the action had to be repeated in some form every day, and that each day’s activity had to be documented for eventual presentation. This concept then appeared on Instagram in the spring of 2013 under the auspices of @elleluna and has since grown into a global movement.

In February of this year, I had just returned from six weeks in Japan where I led my 30th (and last) quilt and textile tour. My calendar was free of work and travel, so the timing seemed as good as it would ever be to dedicate myself to this challenge.

With a start date of April 2, I decided to make small cloth amulets similar to the good luck charms that visitors purchase at Japanese temples and shrines, called omamori. I would use my Japanese fabric scraps and adorn these mini quilts with beads and found objects from around the house, re-purposing things I might have thrown out and consciously embracing the Japanese concept of mottainai (waste nothing).

I imagined that these small talismans could be worn as a brooch or a necklace, pinned to a lapel, tied to a purse, or carried in a pocket. Each would be unique and hold a power for the owner.

Letting my intuition and inner self lead the way, each day I picked up a scrap of fabric, found some others that matched, and sewed them together. I added batting, turned it inside out, and embellished it with a decoration. I took a photo of the completed amulet and posted it on social media with a description. Then I moved on the next day, starting over and not looking back. This was my daily practice for 100 days.

The amulets vary in size between 1.5 to 3.5 inches wide by 2.5 to 4 inches high—fitting into the palm of your hand.

MY SOLO EXHIBIT

I persevered and completed my 100 amulets in 100 days on July 10. It wasn’t until the 100 pieces were mounted together at my solo exhibition, a few weeks later, that I saw them as a body of work.

I was surprised to see that the individual amulets had become a family, each with individual personalities. Perfection, straight lines and square corners were not my goals. Not every one is a star but some are quite charming. A few are very special to me in a sentimental way.

I learned again to trust the process: there were unexpected turns when a piece wanted to go in a different direction. Where I started was not necessarily where I ended up. I couldn’t force something into being; the art showed me what it wanted to be.

I enjoyed sharing the stories on social media—the significance of a particular piece of fabric or the memory attached to a bauble (that I assumed would only matter to me). It led to conversations and contacts with old and new friends online as they interacted with an amulet and offered their admiration and support. This meant a great deal to me.

Most importantly, the value of the experience for me was not in the finished products. It was in giving myself over to the practice of putting my art first before anything else, and seeing what sacrifice was required and how that, in turn, affected and gave back to other aspects of my life.

Making art is a solo expedition with no guarantee. Art mirrors life! Perhaps I took it all too seriously but I am a serious kind of gal. I learned to trust the process and trust my talents. I came to validate my inner self—at least for the time being.

MORE ON SUSAN

Susan Ball Faeder, an American quilter, founded Quilters’ Express To Japan (QETJ) in 1988—combining her love of Japan with her love of quilting. In 1989, Susan invited quilters from around the world to meet their counterparts on a mission of friendship and discovery to Japan, long before quilt festivals even existed in Japan. As the first person to host quilt tours to Japan, Susan is recognized as a pioneer of good will and a road-paver to opening doors within our industry.

As the owner of QETJ, Susan developed and led 30 quilt and textile tours to Japan, one per year, with an aim of teaching quilters about Japanese culture though the vehicle of Japanese textiles. Susan also designed several fabric collections, sold beautiful Japanese fabrics at select quilt shows across the USA, offered workshops, presented lectures, and ran the Japanese Fabric Club for 19 years—delivering Japanese fabrics to the homes of quilters everywhere.

Susan’s artwork—with its distinctly Japanese influence—has been exhibited from New York to Tokyo. Her Arigato Series, using boro collage sewn onto netting, premiered in Tokyo in 2005—pre-empting the current craze for boro and mending. Currently 143 pieces of her most recent work—quilts, sashiko, and fiber collage—are on view in a solo exhibit at the Public Library of Union County in her hometown of Lewisburg PA. The show runs until the end of August 2019.

To view all 100 cloth amulets with commentary +click here 

To visit Susan Ball Faeder’s website and learn about her fiber artwork including quilts, fiber collages, and Japanese sashiko +click here

MORE ON 100 DAY PROJECTS & JAPANESE AMULETS

To read about Michael Bierut and see examples of his students from early years +click here

To learn about the woman who brought 100 Days to the Instagram platform in 2013 +click here

To learn more about the 100 Day Project, the rules (and the non-rules), and how you can register to join the millions who have taken up the gauntlet +click here

To read a fun article about the significance and many types and powers of lucky charms in Japanese culture +click here


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10 comments


  • Mary Jo Buckingham
    I have read and reread “100 days of amulets.” I am inspired by your creativity. But now – as a result of your blog – I am holding myself more accountable to sew/paint daily and not let the busyness of doing other stuff distract me away … Thank you for your exquisite amulets.

  • Glen Baker
    I enjoyed following the 100 days of amulets looking forward each day to see what Susan had created. I was fortunate to be able to travel to Japan with Susan two times! Both of my trips, one in the spring with cherry blossoms everywhere we went, and the other in winter, are firmly embedded in my memory bank. Thank you Susan for sharing your Japan with us.

  • Janet Wright
    What a great article. It gave me much food for thought. I have made “courage” amulets for friends undergoing medical trauma in the past and have searched out books on amulets. this was a fascinating and useful article. Many thanks for always posting something to stretch my creativity.

  • Susan Ball Faeder
    Amulets must be in every country, and in fact, I wonder if we don’t create them as we need them – when we select a certain shirt or a lucky pair of earrings for a certain occasion. We somehow give the objects power. I think it is even more powerful, however, to be thinking about the reason for the amulet while you are making it, infusing it with our spirit during the creation part…

  • Tina
    These are really fascinating, thanks for sharing

  • Betsy
    The amulets are so exquisite in their way and such a reflection of life and meaning. I was just reading how Tibetans in the Gulag made amulets to wear out of amazing found scraps….and the sheer power of that.

    I totally found this inspiring and powerful in a sense.
    Thank you!


  • Susan Ball Faeder
    Thank you, Jamie, for your kind words.

  • Susan Ball Faeder
    Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. S

  • Jamie Scheibach
    Brilliant! So inspirational and beautiful. I enjoyed reading about her journey. Thank you.

  • Marilynn D-R
    Wow, I so enjoyed reading this article, so very interesting! Thank you

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