This is a bit of a departure from my usual content in this section. Typically, the Art Gallery posts are reserved for traditional art or art I’ve received of myself in kimono and you’ve probably noticed this is neither ;)
One thing you may not know about me is that I am a huge fan of Sherlock, the BBC’s modern Sherlock Holmes remake. A while ago, a fan group I’m in arranged a challenge to re-imagine the main characters in a different time or cultural setting, so I did both. I had fun trying to keep the general feel and colour scheme of their clothing without making it feel overly anachronistic. And of course John Watson’s Sig Sauer P226R has been replaced with a set of swords.
And yes, that is my tumblr URL along the side. Feel free to follow me, but it’s a very incoherent blend of personal posts, fandom things, cute animals, and food posts. Nothing remotely like this blog.
A few years ago on my birthday, I went to dinner with my folks and some family friends. I had a wonderful time, the food was delicious, and I got some lovely gifts.
Leslie is the daughter of my father’s godmother. Bear with me, I know this is starting to sound like the beginning of an urban legend, but it is well and truly relevant. My grandmother and I share a birthday, and I believe inherited a lot of my fascination with the Japanese aesthetic from her. Her apartment was so tastefully furnished and had a lot of beautiful Japanese antiques and art pieces. I think they had a profound impact on me when I was a young girl, more so than I realized until recently. Kay, Leslie’s mother, was my grandmother’s dear friend when they were young, and was my father’s godmother. Leslie is family, even though not related by blood.
Kay purchased these beautiful woodblock prints while travelling in Japan with my grandmother many years ago. As far as I can tell, they were carefully lifted from a hand-bound book, each one has holes along one end of the page. The labels on the backs of the frames credit them to Utagawa Kunisada and date them to the mid-1800s. I have been unable to find other copies of these two prints anywhere on the internet so I can’t back the veracity of the claims, but they seem reasonable.
Imagine my shock when Leslie passed these on to me for my birthday, knowing how touched I would be, and how much I would appreciate them. All the gifts I got were incredibly thoughtful and I appreciated them all, but I was well and truly flabbergasted by these two simple but beautiful prints, due to the way they tied so many facets of the relationship between Leslie, her mother, my grandmother, and myself together so beautifully.
I paid more for this (in Gaia Online game currency) than I generally would for a commission, but Lutherum‘s style and skill level were absolutely perfect for what I had in mind. He did an incredible job of replicating all the details of the outfit, especially considering how ornate and fussy this particular kimono is. He was also already familiar with proper kimono and kitsuke, so I didn’t have to explain details or anything, which was nice. I also really love how the artist merged his own personal style with a more traditional sumi-e painting style, and sort of desaturated the colours to give the piece a more cohesive feel.
This incredibly cute artwork was done by an artist with the incredibly cute handle of Sleepy Time. I let her choose the outfit she wanted to draw so I was thrilled when I received this one – if you’re a regular reader you know how much this furisode means to me. :)
I really like the interpretation of the designs on the kimono. It may not be entirely accurate but it’s such a fussy thing to draw that I think these designs were a wonderful compromise. She also put a lot of effort into making sure all the details were included, even the embroidery on the haneri and the lace tabi. I also think the face is completely adorable!
My aunt and I have a particular bond in my family. First, I should mention that my mother and my aunt are identical twins, so growing up my relationship with my aunt (and conversely, my cousins’ relationship with my mother) may have been somewhat different from a normal aunt-niece dynamic. I honestly have no way of knowing for certain since I have no other point of comparison, but sometimes it felt more like having two mothers and several sisters.
We also seem to share certain things that nobody else in the family does to such an extent – my aunt is a civil engineer and interior designer, and while I am certainly nowhere near as capable or qualified, I’ve always loved decorating, the artistic aspects of interior design, and had I had more of a brain for math I probably would have tried to be an architect. We’re also both more prone to health problems than most of the other people in the family, who mostly seem to be fit as the proverbial horses.
I guess what I am trying to say is even though I don’t see her as often as I did when I was little, we connect on some level, and she always seems to have a knack for finding things I would appreciate. When I was younger she often gave me art supplies to try to encourage my artistic side (which I shamefully admit I have been horrible and neglected since then). For Christmas this year I asked for a very strange and specific camera lens adapter and it was decided it would be better if I went to buy it myself, so I could make sure I was getting the right model. My aunt, however, was not comfortable with the idea of me having nothing to open, so she gave me this gorgeous set of four prints of Kumadori, or Kabuki stage makeup. They are absolutely stunning. Naomi has brought to my attention that they seem to be inspired by the tradition of oshiguma:
There is a delightful custom associated with the use of kumadori, that of oshiguma. The actor takes a silk cloth to make a “print” of the make-up on his face with after the play has concluded. This is considered a souvenir of the very essence of the performance and is highly prized as a collector’s item.
After the “yay opening presents!” hubbub subsided, I managed to catch my aunt aside and ask where on Earth she’d gotten them, because I’ve never seen anything like them. She looked at me sheepishly and confessed that a friend of hers had received them as a thank-you gift while contracting with a Japanese company, had passed them on to her, and she in turn had passed them on to me. I was so touched. Now some of you may think ill of re-gifting, but to me this wasn’t so much a re-gift as the passing forward of a really beautiful treasure, ensuring they finally found a home with someone who would appreciate them. The previous owners were simply fostering them until they found their forever home!