Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kumihimo Brings People Together

These beautifully Kumihimo braided necklaces have a tradition dating back over 1200 years. They were used originally by Samurai’s to tie scrolls and clothing. Today they are still used by the Japanese for the narrow belt of the wide obi sash that wraps around traditional kimonos and as jewelry, key rings, and embellishments on clothing and dolls.

I really have enjoyed making these braided necklaces and bracelets. The satin cord comes in so many beautiful colors. The technique is not difficult to learn. I really find them relaxing to make and the stresses of the day are forgotten once I get into the braiding of the cord. They really end up being quite a conversation piece.

The ladies that I teach in my jewelry class might disagree if you ask them about making bracelets using the same technique but using wire instead of the satin cord. In the first semester of the jewelry class that I teach at our local high school adult ed program, we made a satin necklace in the ladies' choice of colors. Some finished them off with a pewter pendant or a beautifully decorated silver tube from Thailand. It was their first introduction to the art of Kumihimo and after the initial trip around the special foam disk, they were feeling pretty comfortable with the braid. They left the class with a brand new piece of jewelry to wear the next day and show off to their friends and be able to say with pride that they had made it themselves!

The second semester, where many of the same ladies had returned for another six-week session, feeling more adventuresome, they had insisted that we make a Kumihimo braided bracelet that I has shown them during the first semester, made out of thin silver or gold filled wire. They started with the same enthusiasm as in the previous semester, but that was short lived.

They discovered that the wire was not as easy to work with as the satin cord had been and there was much sighing & complaining going on for the two hours that we were together. This project also required them to add a glass bead to a certain wire strand in each of the braided sections. This also caused them some grief. This project ended up being a "homework assignment" for most of them and probably won't be something that they run out and make another one of any time soon. I assured them that the next one would go that much faster, but I didn't get any takers.

They weren't totally discouraged, though, because most of them are returning in the fall and have already requested another Kumihimo project; this time another necklace with satin cord but adding beads in the center for a different look. They like the technique but don't want to deviate too much....

Kumihimo was also responsible for the meeting of another crafter from my hometown and the two of us collaborating together on seven necklaces that are on both my and her websites. Her name is Sharon Carpenter and she has a business called Kaleidoscope-Kreations. Her website is http://www.kaleidoscope-kreations.com/ She is the designer of beautiful dichroic glass pendants.

Laurie, a previous student of mine, as well as being a good friend, met up with Sharon one day and was admiring her pendants that she had brought to school to show the teachers and staff. Sharon happened to mention that she was struggling with what to put her pendants on to make up as complete necklaces. Laurie knew that I had just finished teaching the class on making Kumihimo cord necklaces and mentioned my name to Sharon, asking her if she knew me.

We had never met before but ironically enough, a week later, we both happened to have tables at the same craft fair. She came over to my table and introduced herself. She asked to see my Kumihimo necklaces and loved the cords and thought that they would be the right size for her pendants. I happened to have materials there to braid with while at the fair (imagine that) and made up a cord that day that we slipped perfectly into one of the bails on her pendant and our first collaborated necklace was created. After that she gave me six other pendants to make necklaces for and they now appear on each of our websites!

I also just finished making Kumihimo bracelets for my niece, who just graduated from high school. She is one of a group of five girls who have been very close friends during their time at high school. Three of them were graduating and going off to parts unknown. They had previously all been on a class trip to Canada for their French class earlier in the year and had really enjoyed themselves. They referred to themselves as "The Canadians".

My sister, Donna, thought it would be a nice idea to give each of them a matching bracelet in the school colors, with a silver Canadian maple leaf charm. On the bracelets of the three that graduated, I put an additional charm with a graduation cap and 2009. Donna gave them to each of the girls after the graduation ceremony; they were thrilled. Even though they will be separated and might go awhile without seeing each other, they just have to wear their bracelet and it will bring memories of their good times to mind.

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