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a visit to the house of Kawai Kanjiro was truly inspirational -not only for seeing the artworks of the folk potter himself but really for the chance to enjoy the garden that has been created around the house .

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a very unassuming door sign belies the treasures found within.Typically first appearances were deceptive.. a very closed black entrance way …

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and what was behind the door ? – a magical almost musical box of a house clearly crafted with storage,space  and light in mind.

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from one moment we moved from soaring ceilings to another more intimate series of small collections of text and images .

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simple crafted furniture pieces set like sculptures

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with an economical use of materials and a wonderful resonating patina of age and use

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and then the views through the windows and out into the garden

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from pots , to giant kilns, to artfully organised plants and sculptural pieces

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A lucky cat with some money on his head – a winner !

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and then there was a ghostly gheisha caught through a shoji screen portal !

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a great calmness came upon us as we wandered around this perfectly crafted space

 

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plants carefully chosen seemed to have a particular vibrancy and vigour in this protected space and those plants who arrive by chance also eagerly exploit the situation to their own ends !

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p1000797Pathways , bridges and ways of walking to places are particularly significant in Japan.so it seemed only right that I should talk a bit about these .

In the gardens we visited ,the pathways (often out of bounds it has to be said ) tantalisingly led away up hillsides and out of view .But the construction was so beautiful, exact and precise with just the right sized stones and composition fitting together perfectly.

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larger stones formed the main path way with all the smaller stones fitting in around it to make the perfect route directing your eye down the slope. And then when you intersperse with plants and water the pathways become that much more beautiful.

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there is a sparseness and an equanimity of detail that also appeals to me .

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simple stepping stones also take on a rare beauty of their own.

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but the mystery of a pathway that leads away into  plants is ever tantalising to me and is maybe what makes our Sussex Prairies so enveloping and welcoming !

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and who also doesn’t love a lush planted pathway inviting you into a house ?

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Jean,Jean,Genius

img_1367The aim :

to make the longest strip of denim in the world , or certainly in Sussex to support the Jeans for Genes Charity – Genetic Disorders UK. the charity that aims to transform the lives of children with genetic disorders.We shall create denim covered collecting boxes along the trail around the garden !

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How will it work :

Running as a trail from our entrance right through the garden , sinuously weaving through the borders. Stitched into the piece will be tabs dispensing information and facts about the process of making denim (the good , the bad and the ugly facts ) facts about indigo seeds and the dyeing process , and the story of the wearing of denim work pants by north american pioneers etc… zips, button flies , tags and pockets will create the joints along the way and will add to the fabric wonder.Have calculated the trail will be at least 1km long.Yikes !

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The First Rules I have set myself

  • only to use orange cotton to stitch it all together (Levis used orange stitching which was originally designed to match the copper rivets first used in jeans by Nevada tailor Jacob Davis).
  • the strip will be kept at 7″ wide
  • vow to go and see the  Ian Berry exhibition Gallery Different at Catto Gallery- Ian is famous for making photo-realistic pictures in denim

img_1378Day 1 – Friday 18th November 2016

I make a start with three of our lovely volunteers starting to cut up the first swathe of jeans and a big learning curve begins !

  • The difficulty of cutting up a really tough fabric – you can see why it was the workwear fabric of choice (first casualty -brand new pair of Japanese scissors !)
  • The realisation that I won’t be able to actually use the zips for linking the strips !
  • The discovery that the button waistband fasteners will have to do the job
  • The obvious discovery that bog standard machine needles are not up to the job (second casualty – 2 broken machine needles)(note to self – order denim grade needles for machine )

to be continued……….

There are feasts for the eyes a plenty in Japan from dawn to dusk but take time to cast your eyes downwards to the pavement and you will be well treated .Firstly you notice that Japan is immaculately kept . Tidy and pristine in the extreme . There is no rubbish to be seen anywhere .Streets  are beautifully clean without a scrap of litter . In fact they probably are scrubbed clean on a daily basis.So if you look down underfoot you catch rare treats aplenty.

Here an exquisite  threshold mosaic makes a very simple statement as you enter a property …..

P1020592.JPGI had already clocked the delightful love of ornament and pictorial  fancy that abounds in Japan so I wasn’t surprised to see that this playful decorative vibe also extends to the street scene itself .

p1010763Man hole covers are the first thing that are up for grabs for a bit of decorative adornment .P1010784.JPG

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And what about a few decorative pavement tiles thrown in for good measure! I love these two birds which I came upon by pure accident and which were beautifully inserted into an otherwise unremarkable pavement surface.

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and what about a panda tile for good measure ?

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p1000526Shinto shrines seem to be heaving with super luck or bad luck. It’s a gamble isn’t it what your day might hold for you and happening on a shrine on a particular day or at a particular time might just seal your fate for the day,month , year ahead.Pick a lucky spill and draw a site of fortune paper. Then read your fortune. It could be good , very good or pretty bad .

p1000543I have been particularly taken with the fortune telling strips, or Omikuji ,which I have seen tied up on racks at many of the shrines we visited . The ones that are tied up and left are apparently the bad luck fortunes which have been drawn . These are then left behind to finally dissolve ,disintegrate and blow away in the wind . Good fortunes are secreted about your person and are carried away for safekeeping.

p1000542These are not to be confused with the wooden wishing plaques ,or Ema boards ,which can be  purchased for a nominal amount and  hung up at the shrine for general good fortune wishing . Some of these boards can be particularly specific in their directed wishes.

p1010634Stacked up in wishing piles on special rails  they have an extraordinary texture and sculptural quality – whatever the wishes may be and I love the idea that your paper bad fortune finally will blow away and be lost to the winds.

p1010635Cats of course feature heavily in a all good luck scenarios.

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p1010748Its not just size that matters – Space matters in Japan .Finding that luxury of an inch  is precious, so making that every inch count in gardening terms is crucial. And so it is with squeezing your green spaces into an urban environment.

p1000632Looking for a leaf- squeeze it in a brick-thick slither of ground next to your front door.But it has to compete with all the other paraphernalia of life at the same time.

p1000690Looking for that green gasp of texture – shoehorn it into a pot or container artfully cramped on the threshold.There is rare beauty captured in a second.

p1020166Collections of pots seems to work as well to build up a range of textures and variations on a theme – very much a theme of -green.

p1000651And there is of course the very essence of the thing which is all about control and discipline.An ikebana of a paring down to what is essential and what can be taken away until all you can see is the chosen plant or planting. The bare essentials of a garden.

p1010298I admit I feel like I am in a bit of a strait jacket here in this place.Straining against the constraint .Japan – This place of extreme control.I long for our wide open space of Sussex Prairies. I yearn for that voluptuous exuberance of planting again .. oh for that luxury of space.

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Pushing to the Peak

dsc00272a crescendo of awesomeness  is here to greet everyone who is bold enough to visit a prairie garden like ours in the autumn. This is the time when the metallic sheen of the grasses shimmer above the perennials blitz of late colour and the soft subtlety of autumn invites one and all to run tentative fingers through the grassy seed heads.

DSC00372.JPGFrankly this is one of the highlights of the prairie style in our garden where the grasses seem to lend an ethereal wispy beauty above the garden . And there is a special kind of colour and softness added to the borders. This is when everything seems to come together is a final moment of magic. The flowers are on the cusp of falling away with a burst of brilliance caught in low level sunshine , the seed heads are crisp and tight, stems still taut and straight . There is an amazing contrast between the dying and the living and the battle is worthy of a look .

dsc00243It’s all about getting to the summit of spectacle. Many of the big grasses are colourful in the extreme .. dark purples,golds and silvers shimmer high over the tops of the leaves . Many are still yet to flower and wait the perfect moment to do so. Perennials that have spent their energies on achieving a peak of floweriness will continue to do so until the first frost .The garden is awash with colour even now . Blues, golds,purples,fuchsia pinks, deep amethyst colours . Banks of asters explode into a million flower heads catching the sun on their petals .

img_9768Is it because people just seem to give up on garden visiting in the autumn .. what is so important in their lives that visiting a garden just falls off the agenda ? is it the hassling chill of autumn ? is it the threat of  a rainy or cloudy interlude ? is it because the sandals are packed away for another year ? Dew on your boots ? what is it ? why don’t you come and catch beauty’s last breath ? Start in the foothills , and make the bid for the summit , you won’t be disappointed !

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