Kumihimo

This summer I attended a workshop at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. As part of the workshop, we has to submit a lesson plan inspired by the objects in the exhibit, From the Lands of Asia: The Sam and Myrna Meyers Collection.

I admit that I planned this lesson in my head before I went to the workshop. I knew the exhibit included Asian costumes and textiles, so I felt fairly confident they would have beautiful kumihimo ornamentation. I was right. I can’t even remember where I first came across this Japanese craft; probably hunting on Pinterest for a textile craft I could use with my 4th, 5th and 6th grade art students. We make our own cardboard looms and weave using inexpensive yarn. My students love it. bracelet loomNow I’m hooked. Here is my lesson plan. Hope you can use it. All the photos are my own.

History of Kumihimo

Asian textilesKumihimo began as a type of finger braiding that was used in China, Korea and Japan. The oldest form of Kumihimo used in Japanese clothing and religious ceremonies is believed to be from the Nara Period (710 to 794 CE). Like many Asian crafts, Kumihimo is all about detail, with many versions having a specific pattern, use and meaning. There are many types of stands made to hold the strings to weave Kumihimo and many types of fibers can be used, like silk, nylon, hemp and even leather.

Translated as a “gathering of threads”, one of the most widely known and studied versions of Kumihimo are the silk Japanese braids used on Samurai armor in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185 to1333 CE) through the Muromachi Period (1336 to1573 CE). The cords were used on helmets and to bind the armor plates together. Each suit of armor could require as much as 250 to 300 meters of braid. Kumihimo was also used to bind the hilts of swords and harnesses of horses used in battle.

With the rise of Buddhism during the Heian Period (794 to1185 CE), kumihimo braids were made by the monks for clothing and to decorate temples.

Kumihimo is still used in Japan today as a part of the kimono. The obi, the wide sash used as a belt on the kimono is secured by a Kumihimo braid called an obijime. Hand-made kumihimo obijime are on the decline because of the invention of machine-made Kumihimo, but obijime are still the biggest use of Kumihimo made in Japan today.

Luckily this ancient Asian craft has been popularized around the world today because of the invention of the foam hand-held Kumihimo looms for braid and jewelry making.

Interesting notes about Kumihimo:

  • Tea storage containers used in the Japanese tea ceremony were often secured with elaborate Kumihimo braids. The knots used were so elaborately tied it was easy to see if someone had tampered with them, so you could avoid be poisoned. Tamper-free packaging, even then.
  • A Kumihimo color pattern of lilac, magenta, blue, green, gold, and an orange specially imported from China was so powerful it could ward off “evil ghosts”. Called “Shōsō-in colors” when these were used in a belt, they were said to ward off bad luck for the wearer.
  • According to Yasuhisa Fukushima, owner of the Fukushima Store (a Tokyo kumihimo shop) and the director of the Association for Tokyo Kumihimo, 90 percent of the products created by Tokyo kumihimo artisans are obijime. “We have tried producing other accessories such as ornaments for keyholders and cords for keitaiand glasses, but these are still minor sellers compared to obijime,” he says.
  • The Japanese national treasure “Heike Noukyou” is a set of thirty-three sutra scrolls that are tied with elaborate Kumihimo braids.

Directions for kongo gumi (strong braid)– makes one 20 – inch necklace (including end caps and clasp):

Basics for kumihimo
Start-up items you’ll need , plus jewelry clasps and bail not shown.

Materials:

  • Kumihimo Foam Loom
  • Four each of two colors – 1.5-yard (54 inches) pieces of 1mm satin cord (I used 1mm hemp cord in the illustrations) – total of eight pieces
  • Eight plastic kumihimo bobbins
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sharpie
  • E6000 industrial strength adhesive
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Tooth picks and paper to apply adhesive and protect work surface
  • Pendant with 6mm or larger bail (not shown)
  • End clasps (5.5 or 6 mm)
  • Binding thread (to bind braid before cutting it)

Set up:

  cord layout

  • Flip foam disk over and mark north, south east west positions with sharpie (avoids the confusion of the numbers on the front until you get the basics down)
  • Measure and cut your eight 54-inch pieces of cord (four each of two colors)
  • Tie knot in one end, place tied end in the center of the hole on the kumihimo foam loom
  • Snap strings into place on loom as shown in photo (one color north and south, one color east and west). Put only one string in each slot.
  • Wrap loose cord on bobbin to within one inch of loom

Basic braiding technique for kongo gumi:

  1. Take top right cord and bring it down to the bottom to the slot just right of the two cords at the bottom.
  2. Take the left-hand cord from the three cords now at the bottom and bring it up to the slot to the left of the one cord at the top.
  3. Turn the disk one quarter turn and repeat steps 1, 2 and 3. Top-right down, bottom-left up, turn.

braid 1

Stop Position
If you stop before you finish your braid, always leave the three cords at the bottom. That way you know when you resume, you take the cord on the left, lift it to the top-left position and then turn the disk.

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Finishing your necklace:

  1. Bind the ends of your braids with beading thread so that they will not unravel before your glue on your closures.
  2. Use a toothpick to apply your E6000 glue to the inside of your closure caps. Be sure to do this over paper to protect your worksurface from any glue.
  3. Insert your braid ends into the closure caps and let them rest for 24 hours.

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Sources:

https://www.kcpinternational.com/2015/02/intricacies-and-uses-of-kumihimo-braids/

http://domyo.co.jp/en/history/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2000/03/04/arts/twisted-tradition-thats-knotty-but-nice/#.Wx1FvEgvxPY

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/GAIi8e97r03CLw

http://www.englisch.kumihimo.de/html/history.html

http://www.ee0r.com/sca/kumihimo/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb5vy8egtQQ

http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat20/sub129/item2292.html

https://www.facebook.com/debra.strandberg.5/videos/1014276002051603/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Footnote

legoIt’s cold here in Mineral Wells, Texas today and we had indoor recess at my elementary school. Part of my recess gear is a tub of Legos, which includes windows, doors, propellers for making planes, wheels, basically any kind of gizmo to fill a child’s imagination.

I’m at my desk listening and watching the kids play, when I overhear one child say, ” See I made a Doctor’s office.” Uh oh. My ears perked up for a possible intervention, but I did not say anything right away. She went on describing how the patient would be lowered through a window onto a slide that deposited them neatly onto the examining table. I’m thinking, ” That would be better than sitting in a germ-laden waiting room.” “This is the doctor. He’s just finished my mom’s examination. ” Now I’m up out of my seat moving in for a full-fledged intervention before any more details emerge, when she says ” Yes Mam, your foot fungus is cured!”

Sorry mom, there are no secrets in the elementary classroom. But it made my day.

Waters

fall-foliage-2942443_1920Today, my heart hurts for a young life cut short.

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

 

Simple

#mwisdthankful

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Today I am thankful for the simple things that can make a teacher’s day.

  • My husband packed my lunch for me.
  • I actually used the right key to my classroom door instead of trying to open it with my car key like I did yesterday.
  • The copier was working and had toner and paper in it when I got there.
  • There are Oreos in the snack machine in the teacher’s lounge.
  • It didn’t rain today so there was no indoor recess, in fact it was beautiful out there today at the bus circle.

Life is good.

Speedy

#mwisdthankful

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You just can not beat kid stories. I am so thankful when they make me laugh.

A  student steps up to the plate with something to tell you with “that” look on their face. (“Oh this is gonna be a good one, you think.” “Swing, batter, batter……”) Every one of these is true. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Yeah, my mom just got a new puppy. It’s real little and hairy, I can’t remember the name but it starts with a P. Oh yeah, it’s a Parmesan.” I said, ” I think you mean a Pomeranian. Yes?” “Yes.” Close, he was very close.

“My mother was in a car accident and lost a leg.” I said, “Oh I’m so sorry. Is she ok now?” Child says “Oh yes, she’s ok now, she has a prostitute.”  I said, ” I think you mean a prosthetic. A leg made for her by the doctor, yes?” “Yes.”

One child to another: “Well you know, if you use your inhaler when you don’t need to, you can get ammonia.” I said, ” I think you mean pneumonia. I don’t think you can get that from using an inhaler improperly.” “OK, but that’s not what my mom said.”

“Now what was the name of the artist we studied yesterday that used the pointillist technique of painting?” Student, waving hand wildly says, “I know, I know…Sewer Rat!” I said, ” I think you mean Georges Seurat, yes?” “Yes.”

A few years back a student in my 6th grade art class tells this story as his “one Good Thing that happened to you this weekend” story. We are talking about Thanksgiving dinner at the time and this young man says, ” My Dad likes turkey but he doesn’t like to shoot them, so he catches them in a bag.” I let that sink in for a minute and then said, “Really?”  ” Yeah,” he says.

“We have some property that’s fenced in with tin and we corner the turkeys. But this one got out and it chased me and pecked me.” Laughter fills the classroom as he is enjoying the telling and I’m thinking, “Probably so.” He goes on.” So we kept that one as a pet.” “Really , the one that pecked you?” I said. “Yep.” he says. ” I named it Speedy.”

Priceless.

What Does Art Mean?

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#mwisdthankful

Today, Friday November 10th, I am thankful for the experiences my students give me.

As an elementary school art teacher, I get asked a lot about the meaning of art. What does this abstract art mean? What is the purpose of my child taking art? What did the artist mean when he or she painted that? My reply is,” What does it say to you?”

You want to know what art means?

Today it means a tall, timid shell of a girl, with wispy hair, standing at my desk with a paper card in her hand. “Today is my birthday.” she said quietly, not seeking the ranting Happy Birthday song that usually follows that news into a classroom. “Well, Happy Birthday!” I say, “Are you doing anything special?”

“I don’t know.” she says, eyes darting away from my face. I sense I’ve said the wrong thing. “But my Dad made me this.” She is holding out the card. “You want to see?” “Sure.” The card shows a princess in a Disney–style gown; a scroll proclaiming “Happy Birthday Princess” in elaborately hand-drawn tattoo letters. The card is a much folded piece of white paper, the image beautifully drawn in delicate pencil.

“My Dad is in prison. He made me this for my birthday.” Her eyes search my face for any sign of disapproval. I mentally bless this father who loves his child.

What does this art mean?

When I look at this card I imagine time melts away for the artist as he works and the air takes on that super-charged feel at the edge of a storm. That moment when the summer air is replaced with the cool rush edge of the weather and the first round, fat drops splatter your face. This art says all things are possible. It says “Child, you are loved in this world.” It says, Child, wait and see and don’t lose hope. Ever.”

“Tell your Dad I think this is wonderful and he is very talented.” She smiles at the father that is miles away, but here in the room as she folds the card carefully into her pocket.

That is what art means for me and for this child today.

Conversations

#mwisdthankful

freedom-from-fear-1943Our Superintendent challenged us to share reasons we are thankful for our school district, coworkers and community for seven days. I missed yesterday, so this post is for Thursday, November 9th.

I’m thankful for the great conversations my job allows me to have with my students. Thursday, our warm-up activity was to define the main idea behind an artwork. I chose Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom from Fear, one of a four painting series that Rockwell did in 1943. I chose it because the next day was our Veteran’s Day Celebration and this painting illustrates how our armed forces keeps this nation free from fear.

What always surprises me is the children’s gut reaction to this tender scene of a mother and father tucking their children into bed at night. The room gets quiet as they take in the moment. Their responses were all connected to parents. “Maybe the children are sick and the mom is taking care of them.” Seeing the newspaper in the father’s hand, one student said, ” The Dad has been reading them a bedtime story.”  I wondered how many of my children have these moments in their homes. But they all sense somehow that is right that children should be safe. Rockwell is a master of visualizing what is good about people.

It was only after we dug deeper into the history and timing of the paintings that they understood the message of how our Armed Services defend our right to be free from fear. We talked about honoring those brave men and women on Veteran’s Day. A powerful message during these uncertain times.

So today I am thankful to be able to pass on the traditions and history of our great country in conversations with my students.

Image: By Goku iroshima – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16925982