yoshiko jinzenji : master of minimalism
By guest blogger Teresa Duryea Wong, quilter, speaker and author
Update Jan. 2019: Since this post was written, I have written a second book which includes even more information on Yoshiko Jinzenji. Cotton & Indigo from Japan is available online, at quilt shops, and on my website https://teresaduryeawong.com
In October of 2018, I gave a lecture on Yoshiko Jinzenji’s art and quilt life at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was such a thrill, especially since she was there with me for the lecture, which preceded a workshop she gave the next day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.