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A visit to the American Craft Museum in NYC in 1999 set me on the road to artistic excellence. Eleven years ago in my native city of Kamakura, I began making bead jewelry as a hobby.
My visit to the US and to the museum, however, made me realize that beads could be used not only for mere adornment but also as an art form. The exhibiting artist who inspired me so much was Joyce J. Scott, who remains my muse.
Returning to Japan, I learned the technique of bead weaving and embarked upon a series of four beaded pictures entitled "The Four Seasons". The four works describe not only the seasons of the year but also the seasons of life.
As I describe it, the pictures form a continuum: 'When I display the four works, you can find the story: the spring butterflies make people feel the approach of the strong colors of summer, while the summer rainbow along the stream drifts to dye the autumn forest. And when you stand in front of 'Winter', you'll see the stream floating towards you." The last work "Winter" alone is 35" x 47" and consists of 370,000 pieces of Miyuki Delica beads.
While creating the series, I thought that the smoothly textured bead sheets were too sensuous to be contained in frames. I delved into my own heritage and came up with the idea of beaded kimonos. My first was an autumn design and took me more than three years to complete.
More than 1,650,000 beads were used in this work. The kimono was used on a Noh-Stage, a traditional Japanese play, and became the first Noh costume made of glass in the long Noh history. It weighs approximately 30 pounds and is 6 feet tall. The actor had to train his arm muscles and his body for six months before his actual performance!
After that arduous labor of creation, I began employing staff to help me with the weaving. My silver kimono featuring wisteria evokes the guardian spirit of my grandmother, who was a teacher of handicraft and who died in 2000. I remember, when she was buried the wisteria in the cemetery was in full bloom.
The blue kimono depicts lotuses in the pond at the biggest shrine in Kamakura. As lotuses come into bloom early in the morning and close before noon, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. to sketch the pond.
The motif of the orange kimono is the Japanese plum blossom, my favorite flower. The plum trees bloom in the beginning of the year in the cold season and give off a sweet fragrance, I feel a vitality and dignity from the flower.
After completing my kimono series, I began my "magnum opus": a six-panel screen, altogether 70" x 120", and 2,063,738 beads in all! The screen depicts Kamakura, the first capital built by Samurai more than 800 years ago. A city of many temples and shrines, Kamakura has been listed as a World Heritage site for 17 years. It took me two years alone just to draw the design and three years to weave it with the help of three staffers.
When I displayed this screen at the Japanese Embassy in DC last fall, many bead artists from all over the United States came to look at it. When Joyce Scott came to see me, I couldn't believe it. When I was in DC I met many other artists, like Raphael Matias, Elaine Robnett Moore, Rachel Nelson-Smith, Paulette Baron, Carrie Johnson, Ashley Newhard, etc.
I especially remember Ashley, who worked in Accents Bead. She drove me to Baltimore to see Joyce Scott! On our way we talked a lot about beads, hobbies and boys, and she taught me some slang. It was a wonderful time for me!
Many artists advised me to apply for Guinness Record Certification, and after returning to Japan I did so. The whole process took more than 7 months; and Guinness had to open the new category, "Largest 2D Beadwork." So, now I'm a recipient of the Guinness World Record! Soon the screen will be exhibited for the first time in Japan in Kamakura, from December 3 to December 5. The exhibit, the biggest in my career, will be entitled "The World of Bead Art by Miho Kanaya".
I think, I'm an ardent Americanophile, and I plan to visit the US again (I have been here six times already) and to have another exhibit, possibly at the Museum of Art and Design (the renamed American Craft Museum), where my dream began.
The future is limitless for me, I think there could be many more fields of application that nobody has touched yet. I would like to continue producing and exhibiting lots of bead works that no one has created so far.
|Miho Kanaya, Kamakura, Japan|