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KANZASHI CRAFTS. In a new do-it-yourself book, Kanzashi in Bloom, local crafter Diane Gilleland introduces readers to kanzashi — traditional Japanese hair ornaments used for decoration.

From The Asian Reporter, V19, #35 (September 8, 2009), page 13.

Japanese hair ornaments bloom in Portland’s crafting community

Kanzashi in Bloom

By Diane Gilleland

Watson-Guptill, 2009

Paperback, 144 pages, $21.95

By Allison Voigts

I always come back to flowers," writes local crafter Diane Gilleland in her new do-it-yourself book, Kanzashi in Bloom. "When I design beautiful objects, floral elements always seem to creep in somewhere. So it’s no wonder I fell head-over-heels for kanzashi."

Kanzashi are traditional Japanese hair ornaments used to decorate brides, indicate a geisha’s professional status, or celebrate a certain season or holiday. For centuries, Japanese women wore their hair long and straight, without any combs or pins. Kanzashi began to be widely used during the Edo period, from the 17th century to the mid-19th century, as hairstyles changed and women discovered long pins and rods could prove useful if they were attacked or in other emergencies.

But for Gilleland’s purposes, kanzashi refers specifically to hana, or flower, kanzashi made by folding delicate squares of silk in a style known as tsumami. Traditional hana kanzashi are folded into tiny blossoms using pincers, then attached to strings to make flowing trails of flowers. Geisha and their apprentices, the maiko, wear different combinations of kanzashi flowers depending on the season, such as red, white, and green flowers to celebrate the Japanese New Year, or cherry blossoms in April to recognize cherry blossom viewing.

Gilleland, who also produces a regular blog and podcast on crafting, discovered the art of kanzashi online and decided to adapt the rigid traditional rules of hana kanzashi into fun projects that even beginning crafters could do.

"The online crafting community, being the inspiring and creative environment that it is, has found some simpler ways to make kanzashi, and it’s from these methods that I evolved the techniques in this book," she says.

Gilleland suggests novice kanzashi artists use cotton instead of silk because it’s easier to fold and holds its shape well. Once readers have made a few flowers, however, they may want to try a hand at using silk, which the Japanese choose for its delicate look. She also recommends using a hot glue gun to adhere the fabric to a backing (rather than the traditional rice-starch glue) and buttons or beads to add decoration in the flower’s center.

Kanzashi in Bloom outlines three basic petal styles — round, pointed, or pleated — with step-by-step photos and instructions on how to fold and assemble them. After mastering the basic techniques, crafters can choose from one of the 20 projects Gilleland designed for the book or create their own. Some of the designs look as though they could be sold in high-end boutiques, such as the "Stretch & Bloom Headband" or the "Back-to-Back Ornament." Others look more homey and may appeal to older readers, including the "I Heart Tea Cozy" and the "Sampler Wall Hanging."

While the explosion of do-it-yourself crafting both online and in classes contributed to kanzashi’s popularity in the U.S., a return to dying traditions has sparked a renewed interest in the art form in Japan. At the time Gilleland wrote Kanzashi in Bloom, only 15 kanzashi masters remained in the world. And while modern Japanese women will sometimes adorn themselves with kanzashi for weddings or traditional tea and ikebana ceremonies, few have crossed over to wearing them in daily life.

Some younger Japanese artisans, including Kuniko Kanawa, are trying to resuscitate the art with traditional and hip, modern designs that they sell at home and abroad. Kanawa’s kanzashi can be found on the international online store for crafters, <>, and range in price from a $12 hairpin with a single blossom to an elaborate headdress for $500.

Diane Gilleland is holding a book talk and kanzashi-making demonstration on Sunday, September 20 from 2:00 to 3:30pm at the Hollywood Library, 4040 N.E. Tillamook Street in Portland. For more information on the event, call (503) 988-5391 or visit <>. To learn more about Kanzashi in Bloom, visit <>.



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