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The Scent of Seasons

a fragment of textile flower

Nature all around,

Flowers growing,

Colours singing songs

by Jiho

Being hopelessly in love with Japanese art, poetry and meditative aesthetics, and the art of flower arrangement, I cannot help experimenting with textiles and other materials, referring the works to my discoveries of various facts about Japan and the people who inhabit this unique archipelago. Sometimes, love is strongest when it is unspoken – revealed through subtle acts of appreciation. The Japanese are masters in navigating these coded communications, which found their greatest form of expression in the ancient art of “Hanakotoba”. I admire this truly unique language of flowers. Learning such secret senses makes me appreciate nature and all sorts of traditional Japanese arts which make my heart bloom.

silk petals ready to be stitched on canvas

I made a series of works inspired by the book written by Haruo Shirane “Japan and the Culture of Four Seasons”. There I have found much to discover: the references to other works and books devoted to the topic of symbolism and flower arrangement, poetry, drawings, and just the facts which I have never heard about - all that nourishes my interest in Japanese culture and raises my desire to visit the Japanese archipelago even more. I wish to point out that I am an amateur in this topic and, if you find any inaccuracy, please let me know.

silk petals pinned to the background and arranged to be stitched

I feel like Japan is such a rare country in the world, where the role of seasons is particularly cherished. People find sacral sense and beauty at every time of the year, whatever it brings: cold wind and snow or the falling of cherry blossoms.

a twig with a piece of golden leaf glued onto

Also, important is the role of colours. It is essential in telling and representing feelings, denoting rituals and ceremonies, and other events which perception varies in the Western traditions.

magnolia bud with pinned silk petals ready to be stitched on canvas

Some people know that colour can be considered both lucky or unlucky, having a positive or negative significance. In certain situations, colour may even be seen as offensive. For me, it was curious to discover that the origins of the important and symbolic Japanese colours date back to the 7th century. It was the period when Chinese presence was heavy on the islands of Japan. Though the colour meanings are not the same as in China, Japanese colours have their roots in the Chinese philosophies of Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

a piece of fabric prepared with mordant to be covered with golden leaf

Taoism was not a significant philosophy in Japan as it was in China, but in some way, it influenced Japanese culture. Confucianism led to the association of each social class with colour and partly influenced the meaning of certain colours in Japan. The largest Chinese influence on traditional Japanese colour symbolism was the philosophy of Zen Buddhism and the native Japanese religion of Shintoism. Under these animalistic ideologies (in which people worship nature spirits), colours represented the core values of living a pure and modest life.

a hand is holding a piece of golden leaf to apply to the fabric

White, black, red, and blue is considered the only genuine and primary colours in Japanese culture. Gold and silver are associated with nobility and represent precision, masculinity and strength. Other hues also hold symbolic meanings. However, the most traditional Japanese items, such as clothing, architecture and even events - are traditionally represented in the primary colours that preserve the secret language and the symbolism. I have chosen these key hues to apply them in the story about four seasons which I reveal below. It encompasses my impressions of Japanese history, symbolism, the secret language of flowers told by purely authentic materials typically found and used in Japan - silk threads and fabrics, metalised threads as well as organic dyes and other materials given by nature.

a fan-brush and golden dust
four framed pictures represent four seasons

In the dusk,

I saw someone trying to be another one,

Light broke into, there was no one

by Anonymous

As a reflection of one of the seasons, I choose the image of proud lanterns in golden shades of red and orange, which bring colour and light to autumn.

a closeup to physalis flower

Physalis, known as "Hozuki" in Japan, is popular at the annual "Bon" festival as an offering to the spirits of the deceased.

a closeup to the silk leaf

Set on the black background, the “hearts” of the flowers shine with the gold leaf applied onto, reflecting the light and sparkle through the silk mesh that forms Hozuki petals, dyed with saffron and marigolds.

a closeup to the physalis twig

The shiny lanterns are in the embrace of wooden twigs, which abide in the meditation, till the spring wind comes for tossing down the crispy leaves, freeing the place to new foliage growth.


In falling,

It spilled its water —

The camellia flower

by Bashō

"Sasanqua", as one of the most important flowers in Japan, is associated with winter and winter bloom.

a closeup to the composition with camellia

Its flower imagery is often used in Japan in textile decoration, embroidery and Sumi-e painting.

a closeup to camellia golden leaf

The flower itself represents the symbol “humility”, “discretion”, and “perfect love”. Among warriors and samurai, the red camellia symbolised a noble death. Flower red petals were associated with blood honourably spilt on purely-white snow.

a closeup to camellia silk leaf

In the composition, I arrange the delicate silk petals dyed with hibiscus, which form camellia flower. The flower is embraced with green silk leaves coloured with chlorophyllin. Satin leaves are embroidered with silk embroidery floss.

a closeup to camellia silk flower

The flower "heart" is stitched with metallic thread, with "french knots" and "short 'n' long" stitches. The "heart" is textured and reflects light supporting the shine of the covered with gold foil leaves. The clear colours, being spread on the white canvas, form an expression of joy, passion and pure love.

a famed textile composition with camellia

Branches sprout white flames

Fanned by the wind to scent the air

With hope‘s sweet essence

by Anonymous

In Japan, the magnolia flower is called “Kobushi” it represents a love for nature, nobility, perseverance, dignity.

a closeup to magnolia twig

Magnolia is notable in Japan for the timing of its flowering.

magnolia blossom made of silk

Known as one of the first plant species to bloom in the spring, even before cherry trees, it is one of the markers of spring in Japan. As a result, the flowers of Kobushi have historically been important to Japanese farmers, indicating the beginning of the planting season.

magnolia silk flower closeup

In the textile composition, I set the pure white silk habotai and silk mesh petals to form the flower on a black background. Some stay pure white, some dyed with shimmering bronze powder. Magnolia gracefully denudes its silver stamen tuft, swaying among the golden-covered twigs, green leaves embroidered with silk satin floss and, yet unopened flower buds. They send a promising "letter" of rich spring vegetation and fruitful harvest to come.

a framed work with magnolia textile composition


Amid the grass

An iris blooms

by Bashō

A pure summer bloom is “Hanashobu” - the only flower that could be presented to samurai as their sharp leaves reminded the blade of a samurai sword.

a closeup to iris flower

Iris are widely associated with elegance and represent Goddess of the Rainbow and the Messenger of the Gods. In the composition, the iris is made of habotai silk, dyed with beetroot and black currant, those colours are rich and a delight to gaze at.

a closeup to iris green leaf

A shiny golden leaf held straight reminds the construction of a traditional Japanese flower arrangement, where all the elements are assembled in pure concordance - Heaven, Human and Earth.

a framed work with silk iris flower