Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kuniko Kanawa. I was born and raised in Japan and now I live in Los Angeles. I am a certified Kimono consultant of the all Japan Kimono Consultant Association and also an authentic Tsumami Kanzashi artisan. I was accepted as a private pupil in the summer 2007 and was professionally trained by one of the only 15 acknowledged Tsumami Kanzashi artisans in Japan.
Tsumami Kanzashi is the historical Japanese handcraft carried by refined skillful artisans. Therefore it absolutely cannot be acquired in short period of time, especially without proper training. While you may see many imitation Tsumami Kanzashi made by non classically trained hobby crafter online, you can surely find the truly authentic
Tsumami Kanzashi with traditional expertise at my shop.
I also study dyeing Kimono designs by Bingata / Katazome which is the traditional Japanese method of dyeing fabric, using a resist paste applied through stencil. The term is divided form a combination of Kata (pattern or stencil), and Zome, from the verb Someru (to dye).
Beside Kimono handcraft, I have been selling Chiyo-gami jewelry and fused glass jewelry on Etsy.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I teach Kimono classes, sing opera / R&B, pursue Geisha / classical Japanese dance, and study Macrobiotics to become a macrobiotic counselor. I also enjoy very much to hang out with my friends and talk about art, music, spirituality, LOHAS (Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability), history and politics etc.
What first made you want to become an artist?
This is a very interesting question to me because I never thought about “wanting to become an artist.” By the time I realized, I was already an artist as I was pursuing Japanese culture and traditions because I strongly wanted to preserve Japanese culture which our ancestors developed throughout our long history and which is disappearing today. I sincerely wanted to inherit the will of my ancestors cherishing our culture to pass it on to the future generation.
However, if I have one reason that led me to start creating Japanese crafts, it was “wearing Kimono.” I needed hair ornaments, bamboo basket purses, Obi broaches and so on to match my Kimonos, so I thought myself, “Why don’t I try making them myself? It will be fun, and I can save some money, too.” (Because they could be very expensive if you purchase them)
Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).
I make many kinds of Japanese crafts, but if I am to describe about my Tsumami Kanzashi (Japanese long ornamental hairpin), I always visualize the design, then draw it on the piece of paper. From this step, I calculate the numbers of petals, determine the measurements and materials, then write all of them down on the same piece of paper.
Next, I cut the Kimono fabric precisely.
Prepare the rice starch on the wooden board.
Pinch the pieces of square Kimono fabric to construct petals.
30 minutes after the petals absorb enough starch, I place petals on
the base to construct the flowers.
Dry them, add pep / beads, then finally construct the Kanzashi.
If you are interested in how I make them, you can visit my YouTube or see my articles in the Storque.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
While I cherish many kinds of handmade possessions, I especially cherish traditional Japanese handmade possessions because they are unbelievably precisely made, refined and most importantly, they are brought up from mother nature.
The traditional Japanese handmade professions that I have a great respect are: spinning silk thread, dyeing / weaving Kimono designs, Japanese embroidery, Kumihimo Braids, Tsumami Kanzashi, Katana (Japanese sword), Netsuke (the miniature sculptures for Japanese men to hold personal belongings such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines.), Tougei (Japanese ceramics), Lacquer ware, Bamboo Basketry, Wooden chests, Washi (Japanese paper), and so on.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites (besides Etsy).
1. The passport of the beauty by Mr. Norio Yamanaka, a chairman of all Japan Kimono consultant association.
I am talking about this book a little in my YouTube video.
2. Soudou Reihou (etiquette) text book: the etiquette comes along Kimono life.
3. Be magnificent, strong, and beautiful: Reviving Japan starts with Japanese constitutional amendment
4. Living Green by Greg Horn
5. 365 Ways to Save the Earth by Philippe Bourseiller
1. Hidden Blade by Yôji Yamada
2. The Sea is Watching by Kei Kumai
3. The Last Samurai by Edward Zwick (I LOVE Ken Watanabe)
4. The Big Blue by Luc besson (I LOVE Jean Reno)
5. Fearless by Ronny Yu
1. Kimigayo (Japanese national Anthem)
2. We Are the World by USA for Africa
3. Un Bel dì Vedremo from Madama Butterfly by Puccini
4. La Sonnambula by Bellini
5. Verdi Requiem
2. The world of Japanese hairstyles (in Japanese)
3. The traditional crafts of Japan
4. Kushi macrobiotic academy (in Japanese)
5. Whole Foods Market
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
My advice to new Etsy artists are, to strive your mastership, evolve your expertise, and do your very best to make your clients happy with the quality of your pieces and your customer service.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
This may sound funny, but my favorite feature is “Last” button when I edit my items. Having this feature helped me a big time to save my time since I am super busy person!
How do you promote your work?
Here are the lists of how I promote my work:
1. Wearing my own pieces when I go out so that people can see and ask about them.
2. Wearing Kimono when I go out. Many people come to me and start asking questions such as why I wear Kimono, or what I do for living, etc.
3. Handing out business cards as much as I can.
4. Blogging. I am quite busy so I rarely update my blog, but I would say blogging brings you good exposures, such as myspace, blogspot, etc.
5. Promote on YouTube and flickr.
6. Have a booth at Japanese / Asian theme festivals or craft shows.
7. Posting on the forums.
8. Post advertisements at the Japanese cultural center and so on…
In ten years I’d like to be…
In ten years, I would like to being very happy with my family, possibly having my macrobiotic restaurant / classes, singing in my restaurant to entertain customers, constantly operating Kimono shows to share the beauty of Kimono, having more and more Kimono students so that this culture will be passed on to the future generations, teaching my handcrafts to my children, and having Tsumami Kanzashi exhibitions, having very successful Etsy shop with millions of sales!