The Finnish-Ing Touch

Recently, a friend posted that she was going to be de-cluttering her collection and generously giving some of her pieces away. I fell in love with the rich green colour and charming, almost naive design of this houmongi, and somehow managed to claim it before anyone else did. After nearly a month in transit (what is it with me and mail delays lately?!) it finally arrived safe and sound, and I couldn’t wait until I was able to do something with it.

I don’t know if it’s just my imagination, because of where I got it, but there’s something that genuinely feels very Finnish to me about it. It reminds me of some Marimekko designs, or possibly the background of something drawn by Tove Jansson, Can you not picture a Moomin hiding behind one of the trees?

While it will definitely look wonderful with a more classical, elegant coordination (I’m looking forward to pairing it with my gold Tokaido fukuro obi in the future), I knew that initially I really wanted to play up the fun and quirky quality of it. This tachibana obi seemed like a good choice, since it’s got an almost naive, storybook style to it. Pink accessories made the light pink trees in the hem pop, and a gold kasane-eri was the perfect finishing touch to break up all the heavy green up top. I really love how this all came together, and I hope Jenni thinks I did it justice!

Items used in this coordination

Hinamatsuri 2019!

Today is Hinamatsuri (雛祭, doll festival, girl’s day), a day for girls to celebrate, to set up an ornate display of dolls inspired by Heian emperor and empress, and to wish for love and health in the future. I don’t have a proper set of dolls, but I do like to do a small DIY every year and celebrate by making a sweet, girly coordination on the mannequin.

This year I wanted to feature this green obi with pastel designs, and thought this blush pink houmongi with sagara embroidery of a shifuku (silk pouch to protect tea ceremony tools) with a rabbit on it would be perfect. It’s adorable and feminine and the colours play off the obi so well. Rabbits are also commonly used to represent people in their hina-matsuri doll displays, representing a young girl’s wish for a large family when she grows up. The whole outfit feels sweet, girly, and spring-like, which is exactly what I was going for. The blue beaded obijime was chosen to echo the texture of the embroidery on the kimono, and I tied it in a wisteria knot just because I think it looks pretty.

And of course, I couldn’t let hinamatsuri pass without doing some sort of DIY display. I’ve done origami, perler beads, nanoblocks, and illustration. This year I decided to do some adorable sashiko!

Items used in this coordination

Yellow Iris Ikebana

Winter continues to be horrible here in Montreal, so when I saw these gorgeous white and yellow iris flowers for sale I thought they’d be a great way to bring a little sunshine into my dreary corner of the world.

I’ve always loved irises, they’re one of my favourite flowers. I love how showy and interesting and almost sculptural they are, and I love the absolutely incredible spectrum of colours they come in. They were, after all, very aptly named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Since they have such a wonderful, almost architectural quality, I wanted to create a very modern and fluid-looking arrangement and I feel like I succeeded well here. I really love the flow of this piece, and how balanced it feels. The big waxy leaves (I admit I have no idea what they are, I just liked the way they looked) form a great anchor and textural contrast, as well as hiding the kenzan. I saved the protective outer leaves of the flowers as I was trimming them down, and I think they add the perfect sharp finishing touch. This is one of those arrangements that came without a huge amount of forethought and succeeded in spite (or because?) of it? It just flowed very naturally from beginning to end, and I love the finished product.

Outfit Generator Experiment

A few months back, I coded up a little script to generate some kimono coordination ideas. If you click that link you can play with it as well! I thought it would be fun to use it myself, since I was feeling motivated to play with kimono but wasn’t getting that strike of inspiration I usually start with.

This is the combination I got, so I got to work. Purple iromuji was straightforward enough, since I only have the one. It’s not quite Taisho but it is lined with red and has elegantly long sleeves, so it felt sufficiently vintage to me. All I had to do after that was work on creating an outfit around it.

My original plan was to use this bright turquoise nagoya obi, but against the purple it definitely felt more bold and youthful than “Elegant”. But then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about how gingko are one of my favourite ornamental trees ever and yet I only have one item with them as a motif, and even then it’s a very small, subtle part.

It seemed like the universe was telling me to use that particular obi. It’s fairly modern, but something about the designs and colour palette feel timeless, and the hints of purple in it play very well with the purple kimono. I pulled accessories out of the obi’s colour selection and finally found an opportunity to use this new haneri.

Everything really came together well, I think. I managed to stick quite close to the suggestions the generator threw at me, and the outfit still feels totally wearable, not costumey or ridiculous. I think whenever I’m feeling uninspired, I’ll use the generator again and see what happens. If you use it, I’d love to see what you come up with!

Items used in this coordination

Silk Peony Ikebana

Last year, I made an origami ikebana arrangement as a gift for a friend. This year, I wanted to make something for my aunt that would coordinate with her decor and last a long time.

Everything here came from Michaels. I started with the gorgeous, bold red peony that I knew would be the focal point of the whole arrangement. Typically I’m not a huge fan of faux greenery, but these monstera leaves had way more substance and punch than most fake foliage, and since real monstera leaves are quite shiny and waxy anyway, these look much more realistic than most. All I needed after that was a something with height and airiness to balance the earthy, heavy quality of the flower and leaves. My father actually found these very thin branches with pretty silver beads on them that work as the perfect finishing touch.

Of course, I needed some sort of vessel, and I spent a fair bit of time rummaging around in a few different aisles until I found this one and fell in love with it. It’s an almost-perfect match for my aunt’s wall colours so I knew it would coordinate well and while it’s simple enough not to compete with the flower, the bit of texture makes it very earthy and interesting.

Typically, ikebana needs to be done with live, fresh, seasonal flowers. However, there are always acceptable reasons to deviate from the norm. Overall, I think for a silk flower arrangement this was very successful. And my aunt seemed to like it, which is the important part!