Both the United Kingdom and Japan are constituted from multiple islands, each having their different characters, rituals and traditions. Island Nations explores the similarities, links, crossovers and connections between creative practitioners from two academic institutions – Birmingham City University and Joshibi University of Art and Design in Tokyo. Delayed by the pandemic, the exhibition launched in Japan in May 2021 showing a diverse and sensitive range of outcomes with themes exploring the importance of place, climate and our environment evident from the responses.
Dry Vase is a response to our shared love of blossom and the lift it gives us at the start of spring. In Japan the fleeting beauty of the sakura cherry blossom season is marked by the annual Hanami festival. The piece also references the exquisite tending of gardens in Japan. The geometric kimono fabric chosen creates micro-structured formations round the ‘blossom’ chips, in a similar way that pale stones do within Japanese dry gardens. The piece creates a contemplative feel intended as a focal point for reflection on the extraordinary times we are living through and the loss that so many families are having to come to terms with.
It was sent out to Japan with an invitation to use the vase for ikebana – flower arranging. Placing flowers in a vessel has strong symbolic meaning in both cultures and linked to moments of both joy and sorrow. I was interested to see how Joshibi friends would respond to a form that didn’t naturally hold water. Without water, the freshness of any natural elements would be extra fleeting. I like the idea that falling petals and leaves could add further fragments of colour to the piece.
Before sending it to Japan, I attempted ikebana using pruned elements from my allotment. In the exhibition space, it was fascinating to see the different approaches taken and the floral choices made. The ‘conversation through flowers’ will continue when it becomes feasible to have a UK-based exhibition of the work at the School of Art in Birmingham.