sachiko yoshida :: silk sensei :: Okan Arts
sachiko yoshida :: silk sensei

sachiko yoshida :: silk sensei


By Patricia Belyea

TOKYO JP  When I first met Sachiko Yoshida, she was in America. Both Sachiko and Miwako Kimura had brought their students to exhibit their quilts at La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum. The biennial show, in 2012, was organized by Ako Shimozato.

I met the whole crew at a Welcome Dinner full of shy giggles, hosted by SuSan Riedel.

Miwako, Ako, and Sachiko:
Although Sachiko had only met me once, she recognized me two years later at the Tokyo Quilt Festival. Over the din of Opening Day, I could hear a little voice calling out—Patricia, Patricia. What a fun connection! That was the beginning of our annual meet-up at the Festival.

This year I made arrangements to visit Sachiko at her home. As Jane MacDonald of BeBe Bold was in Tokyo, I invited her to join me for an afternoon trip to Saitama. I knew Jane would love meeting Sachiko as both of them are hand stitchers.

Our visit was delightful. With the help of our mobile phones and Google Translate, we were able to ask Sachiko about her work.

How long have you been quilting? 35 years.

How did you learn? I had teachers in color, stitch, and design.

Why did you start teaching? They said, teach me.

How many students do you have? 36. I like making rather than teaching.

Do you write books? Yes. (Then Sachiko brought out her book, The Works of Sachiko Yoshida.)

What’s the first thing that you teach your students? Buy lots of old kimono.

Do your students share their kimono with other students? No, find for yourself.

What type of batting do you use? 100% polyester

Where do you buy batting? From the manufacturer. We buy it together. We don’t have much room to store.

What are you working on now? A secret. No photos. It may be invited to next year’s Festival. (Jane and I got to gawk at Sachiko’s project-in-progress.)

Sachiko showed us a collection of samplers with the twelve animals of the Japanese zodiac. All the kimono-silk patchwork was hand pieced. You’ll notice that combo of luscious silk and hand stitching in all of Sachiko’s projects.

On the couch, a delightful pile of color and texture awaited our discovery. First Sachiko showed us some kimono in her collection that had not yet been picked apart.

Then we moved to the bottom of the pile—major quilts by Sachiko. I particularly admired the first quilt shown below—Good Morning!—filled with morning glories appliquéd over patchwork, with embroidered details.

Sachiko revealed the secret to the huge range of colors and patterns in her masterworks—her stash! She has cupboards filled with disassembled silk kimono. Both Jane and I were amazed.

Two days later I met up with Sachiko again, this time at the 2020 Tokyo Quilt Festival on Opening Day. Sashiko was giving a talk about her newest quilt, Yuri Pattern, that was hanging in the invitational exhibit. (Yuri means lily in English.)

Take a moment to detect how this quilt design plays with subtle variations in pattern. And the lily appliqués don’t dominate but instead enhance the color-wash composition.

Although Sachiko may seem as gentle as a summer breeze, her accomplished quilts reveal a relentless determination. It’s like the dualism of yin yang. The opposites of demureness and passion dance together in perfect balance. I’m honored to know such a dedicated sensei.

To see more quilts from the 2020 Tokyo Quilt Festival +click here

To see an exhibit of Japanese quilts that Sachiko guest curated at La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum in 2016 +click here

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12 comments to “sachiko yoshida :: silk sensei”

  1. Janet Wright says:

    The last time the Japanese quilters were in La Conner, I got to talk to them. One of the outstanding things was the patience that they used to create. No quick quilts for them. They also start learning needlework from their mothers at the age of 4 or5.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Janet—Getting to meet the quilters at the opening of the Japanese exhibit really enriches the experience. I met a few of Sachiko’s students at her talk at the Tokyo Quilt Festival who I had already met in La Conner. It was delightful, I agree. PB

  2. Tesi Vaara says:

    What a great post! I always enjoy the Japanese quilts when they are on exhibit at the LaConner Museum. Such inspiration.

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Hi Tesi—You are even closer than me to the Museum. Plan to be back this June for the next biennial exhibit. PB

  3. Sherry Massey says:

    Hi Patricia, thanks so much for sharing the work of this lovely woman! Japanese quilters have a way of looking at things that is so different from the West. Will there be a 2020 show of Japanese quilts at the La Conner Museum?

    • Patricia Belyea says:

      Sherry—I understand that the biennial Japanese quilt show will open in June. Please look for the info in the Museum newsletter. PB

  4. Mj Buckingham says:

    Thank you for this inspiring interview and photos!

  5. Renee Atkinson says:

    Incredible talent!! Her details are like whispers of wisdom! Cannot wait for reveal!!

  6. Giuliana Nakashima says:

    This was lovely. Thank you for sharing this