Teresa Duryea Wong with Yoshiko Jinzenji in Kyoto, Japan

yoshiko jinzenji : master of minimalism

By guest blogger Teresa Duryea Wong, quilter, speaker and author

KYOTO, JP In September, I had a special visit with Yoshiko Jinzenji in her home up in the mountains outside Kyoto. We toured her gorgeous custom-built house and of course, went through dozens of her stunning quilts.

The kitchen in the home of Yoshiko Jinzenji, outside Kyoto.

Needless to say, an afternoon spent digging through these treasures—touching them, running my hands over her impeccable stitching, noticing the million tiny details—was priceless. 

Teresa Duryea Wong visits with Yoshiko Jinzenji

Yoshiko Jinzenji began making quilts around 1970 and in fact, she has recently retired from quilt making and is focusing her creative talent on cooking. Her prolific quilt career over more than four decades, and her incredible vision and innovation, offer contemporary quilt historians a rich legacy.

Yoshiko has finely tuned her minimalist palette and infuses her art with tons of tiny details that give her quilts rich hues and an unforgettable feel.

Yoshiko Jinzenji

For many years Yoshiko maintained studios in Bali, Indonesia and Kyoto, Japan and living in these two countries inspired her to seek out and perfect the art of natural dyes. At one-time, she was practically a one-woman industry who would dye her own yarns, weave her own cloth and make completely original quilts and other items from her own textiles.

Shibori fabric by Yoshiko Jinzenji

Yoshiko’s quilts require patience and personal experience to truly appreciate. Her work is unusual on so many levels and the quiet palette of mostly white, off white and other natural colors is incredibly soothing in a world saturated with color, noise and confusion.

Quilt Detail by Yoshiko Jinzenji

Minimalism is not for everyone. To produce work in this genre requires a great deal of focus and fortitude. The artist has to edit out the extraneous color, edit out too many lines, edit out the clutter. When minimalism is done well, the result draws your eye to the uniqueness that a seemingly limited color set and design can render. You find yourself studying the detail and appreciating the finer points. Yoshiko’s quilts fit this category precisely. She is a master of focus and refinement. And she constructs her quilts in ways that are entirely new and innovative, a process she refers to as “engineering” quilts.

Quilted bags by Yoshiko Jinzenji

Her artwork is in private collections around the world and many museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Nebraska, the Spencer Museum in Kansas, and others.

Teresa’s new book:
Yoshiko Jinzenji is featured in my new book, Japanese Contemporary Quilts and Quilters. Readers will enjoy learning more about her background and how she came to quilting.

My book tells the history of 40 years of quilt making in Japan and how the idea of the quilt was originally imported from America.

My book also introduces dozens of talented quilt artists—former painters, graphic artists, seamstresses and homemakers who have made professional careers in quilting—along with antique American quilts and early Japanese quilts.

The Japanese quilts are stunning and each quilter offers a unique Japanese aesthetic while staying true to their own style of landscape, taupe-ism, applique, abstract, mixed media or fiber art.

Teresa Duryea Wong book, Contemporary Japanese Quilts & Quilters

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  • Patricia Belyea
    Kim—I do not have a way to transmit your question to Yoshiko Jinzenji. I guess it will remain a mystery for a while longer. PB

  • kim
    I have a question for the designer Yoshiko Jinzenji.I recently purchased the rose petal in grey fabric and noticed it looks like a map and was wondering if there is any meaning to the design of this fabric. I wasn’t sure if this is name for a town or island Mostly a curiosity as I love this fabric. Thank you

  • Patricia Belyea
    Barbara—Yoshiko’s quilts are so serene. Quiet times, places and objects are so powerful. Best to you, PB

  • Mary DeRay
    I have been drawn to The aestheticss of Japanese textiles since early 2000 when I discovered sashiko. The minimalistic approach is fasinating. The highlight of my qyuilting journey was a textile tour of Japan this past January. Needless to say I came home even more inspired. Japanese quilters are masters of the needle!

    These quilt offerings of Yoshiko Jinzenji quietly minister to my very soul.

    As a cancer survivor I am now finding that Yoshiko’s type of quilting is a quiet relief from so many quilts that are gloriously coloured. Since having that dreaded disease I now need/require more quiet & introspect; this has proven to be more easily understood & imbued.
    Thank You Yoshiko for helping me find my heart!

  • Jerry
    My first contact with Japanese art was in art school in the early ‘60s. I soon found Japanese textiles and was hooked on the design elements. I’m still a fan some 54 years later.

  • Bonnie
    Yoshiko Jinzenji is my inspiration…but my interest in Japan began in 1991 when our first exchange student came to live with us for a year. I tried some Yoshiko quilting for a challenge group once which only made me more in awe of her work!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Sounds wonderful. Shizuko Kuroha creates such beautiful work!

  • Elaine Quinn
    I first became aware of Japanese quilters when I saw an article about Yoko Saito in Quilt Mania & have been educating myself ever since!!

  • Connie Akers
    I’d love to win your book to learn more about Yoshiko & others.

  • Pamela
    I appreciate all things Japanese: ceramics, tea ceremony and ware, architecture, gardens, food preparation, sashiko and Japanese textiles (of which I’ve been collecting, but have not used yet). Everything seems to be done with care and respect, and the resulting work is always just right. I’m coming to know more about Japanese quilting, and I am most familiar with Yoshiko and also Yoko Saito and have a couple of their books. I would enjoy reading more, and so even if I don’t win this book, I will be purchasing it soon. Thank you.

  • Maureen Johnston
    The spirit of animism is alive in these quilts. Thank you for gathering these gifts for all to see.

  • karen bianchini
    On my first visit to the Connor Quilt Museum in Washington the museum was closed. The very kind volunteer on the front porch allowed me and my husband to go inside to view the exhibits. On show upstairs were fantastic quilts made by quilters from Japan who come to Connor every few years to exhibit their quilts. They study with one teacher for many years. The quilts were so beautiful in their use of color, tiny piercings and themes of family and story quilts. They all were fantastic. I love the color dye depth in Japanese dyed cloth. The color blending was subtle and lovely

  • Joanne
    I was attracted to Japanese quilt making through Japanese art in general, the beauty of indigo fabrics and the every-other-year exhibit of Japanese quilt arts at the museum in LaConner. From there, I discovered Patricia’s wares, and have read books. Now, sashiko intrigues me greatly.

  • Donna Capis
    My introduction to Japanese textiles was in the 1980’s in Seattle’s International District. i used to take the bus to downtown and passed through this part of town. One day I got off of the bus to look in the ships. Rolls of kimono silk and yukata and braids, Indigo fabric and Sashiko thread. I bought my first book of

    sashiko in one of the stores. “Sashiko Quilting” by Kimi Ota, it has been my reference ever since. And it led me to learn about Japanese clothing, textiles and quilting. Your book is one that I will want to add to my collection. Thanks for writing it.

  • Vivian Roop
    Japanese quilts have brought a new perspective to the quilt world. Their use of color, meticulous workmanship and creative ideas have expanded our craft.

  • Naomi Parker
    Wow, I’m so inspired! I love quilting and try to always be as minimal as possible. I’d love to learn more from this book. Thank you for a great post! -Naomi

  • martha thompson
    Japanese quilts are just so much their own selves. Appreciate how the Japanese culture excels at adapting crafts from other cultures in such unique ways.

  • Pam
    Quilters from Japan are so inspirational…they help me look at color and design in new ways and never fail to surprise and delight. This book looks lovely!

  • Laura Marston
    I have recently become more draw to Japanese quilting and would enjoy learning more about the history and evolution of this art form.

  • Nancy R
    My quilting idol is Shizuko Kuroha. Hope you have her represented in your book. I credit her with developing my obsession with vintage/antique Japanese indigo fabrics and developing my interest in quilting. Looking forward to reading your book and discovering other Japanese quilters.

  • Tierney Barden
    Thanks to the internet, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to Japanese quilters; adding books to my bookshelf, pinning to various quilt boards, and influencing my own color palette and dye work. I’d love to learn more about the history of Japanese quilting, quilters, and culture. Your book looks like a must-have for any quilter. Thank you for the generous giveaway.

  • Pm Weizenbaum
    Throughout my life as a quilting aficionado, most of my favorite quilts have been Japanese ones. That proved true in 2014, at the La Conner Quilt Musuem’s biennial show of Japanese quilts, and once again this year at the La Conner Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival. And in a burst of incredible luck, I will be going to the Japanese quilt show in Tokyo this coming January! I can hardly believe my good fortune.

  • Barbro
    I have long admired the intricate and precise work found in Japanese quilting and handwork. Perhaps this book can help me bring new life to my collection of Japanese fabrics.

  • Sherry Roodhouse Black
    I visited the La Conner Quilt Museum many years ago, when I was first getting passionate about quilting, and there happened to be a show by Kitty Pippin. It was my first chance to see Japanese-style quilting and sashiko up close. I was blown away and have loved it since. Some years later, I visited the museum again during a showing of quilts by a group of Japanese quilters—who just happened to be there right then as it was the opening day. One Japanese woman stood next to me as I gazed at a quilt that was so exquisite and moved me so much, I started to cry. As I did so, whispering, “It’s just so beautiful,” she looked at me and also began to weep, and we connected on a level that I will probably never fully understand. She spoke very little English, but I gathered after awhile that the quilt was hers; I think she made it for her daughter, although I am not at all sure about that part. In any event, it was heartbreakingly lovely and the tears of two strangers, mingling as we hugged, is something I will never forget. I suspect that the depth of my response is something that Teresa experienced more than once as she researched and wrote her book. I look forward to reading it.

  • Loretta Romanko
    When I first started quilting I fell in love with Japanese fabrics… And I started collecting.

    Then I saw a Japanese quilt show in La Connor Wa. that pushed me over the edge….
    I went back to the show 4 times!!!!
    Thank you for the chance to win the book!

  • Elizabeth Eisenhood
    The texture of brush painting, a color sense that can place navy, blacks and taupes in a piece and make them sing (quietly!), the appealing imperfection of a cracked and mended bowl…my dream is to someday make a quilt that reflects a Japanese aesthetic. I appreciate that your book will preserve the work of artists who’ve arisen from this cultural heritage and enriched it with their modern perspective.

  • Sandra Kipper
    I love Japanese textiles and Japanese culture. I have been to the Japanese Quilt show in La Conner for the past 4 years or so. I went to Japan this past May and ever since I returned I’ve been thinking about when I can get back. I loved Kyoto, Nara and the Seto Sea. I hope to visit again and explore more, especially textiles and quilts.

  • Janis oetgen
    I love how so many Japanese quilts take traditional patterns, and r

    Then totally change and add more!

  • melissa sherrow
    HI, I grew up going to the Seattle Asian Art Museum with my docent mother. I have a great love of all things Japanese, particularly Japanese fabrics.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

  • June
    I fell for textiles hard and young—in elementary school to be precise. And when I moved to Kyoto at age 22, in 1980, when it was still possible to buy exquisite kasuri kimono at “shrine sales” for a song, I was in heaven. This interest in Japanese textiles was extended and deepened when I encountered the work of quilter Shizuko Kuroha, which led me to explore some of the other Japanese luminaries of the art. I myself quilt now and take great pleasure in making creations out of Japanese fabric.

  • Pam
    When I first started quilting many years ago, I bought some Japanese fabrics, not really knowing what I would do with them. Just their beauty made me want to own them!

  • Oona
    I know very little about quilting in Japan, aside from the incredible photos from the exhibitions that are posted annually online, but would love to learn more about some of the makers of those stunning works!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Jackie: Hope you get a copy of the book! There is lots of inspiration inside and so many wonderful stories.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Corinne: There is a stunning original fish quilt by Yoshiko Katagiri in my book – made with antique kimono and needle turn applique. Full page color image – one of my many favorites. I think you’d love reading her story and seeing all her quilts, as well as the others. Hope you get a copy!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Carola: I’m honored my book is on your list to buy! It was a labor of love and there is a lot of quilt history in the book as well as the back stories of many of the amazing artists working in Japan today.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Marjory: You’re right so much skill in Japanese quilts. Stunning really. I hope you get a copy of my new book. I think you’d get a lot of inspiration from it.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Jerie: Nice of you to consider you’re neighbor if you win. I hope they get to see the book! It also makes a nice gift and I sell autographed copies on my website, or you can get it from Amazon and quilt stores. Lots of Japanese quilt history in this book.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Tobie: There is so much to see in Kyoto for sure! Hope you get a copy of my new book, I think you’d find a lot of inspiration there.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Susan: I think you’d learn a lot about Japanese quilting from my book. Its really an art history story of how quilting was imported from America and quickly became its own art form. Lots of stories of amazing artists working in Japan today. Hope you get a copy!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Sue: You’re right, there is tons of inspiration from Japan! I know you would love my new book. Hope you get a chance to get a copy!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Margaret: I love the Okan Arts blog too. Great info and story telling. Hope you get the opportunity to get a copy of my new book! Teresa

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Claudette: Congrats on your 3 finishes. The Japanese quilts are quite meticulous. I think you’d enjoy seeing all the work being created in Japan today in my new book. If you don’t win, copies are on Amazon, some quilt stores and on my website :)

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Patricia: You’d love these artists plus all the other stunning quilts featured in my new book. Hope it gets added to your book collection!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    You’ll love seeing all the contemporary and stunning quilts from Noriko Endo, Yoshiko Jinzenji and many others collected in my new book. I hope you get a copy.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Yoko Saito is so talented. I loved sharing her back story, as well as the many other Japanese quilters featured in my new book. I hope you get a copy and enjoy reading it!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Hope you win or that your Christmas wish list comes true! I’m honored that my book is on your list. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Candice: Happy to hear you had the book in your hands! I hope you get back to it soon… and I appreciate your nice comment. The publisher and I worked hard on the design and feel of the book to create something worthy.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Sabrina: You can learn a lot about Japanese quilting from my new book! It covers the 40 year history of how quilting took hold in Japan.

  • Teresa Duryea Wong
    Barbara: There are many great stories in my new book. I think you’d enjoy it. Some are well known to international audiences and some are new. All of them are amazing and very accomplished!

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