November 28 - New World
November 30 - The End

November 29 - Towards Perfection


I met Shay Pendray when she came to SLC to teach a class in the late 1980s. She was a great teacher, a teacher who was the best of the best. When a Japanese master came to America she had taken his classes and she loved JE so much that she worked to learn the art and his way of teaching. It took a lot of convincing, but she was able to go to Japan and study for several years, learning from the master, and then, with his permission, bring Japanese Embroidery to America. 

In the picture above, Shay is on the right in bright pink. I spent 10 years of study with the women pictured and we became a formidable class. My dear friend Evelyn is in black standing next to Shay and we still meet monthly for  sushi dinner. Evelyn still studies Japanese Embroidery, but I gave it up in 2002. But, after my first class was in 1991, I was hooked. 


The study of JE comes in Phases. When I began my lessons there were 5 intensive phases designed to teach every aspect of  Japanese technique. One had to be dedicated to learning this amazing art and art it certainly is. All our supplies came from Japan, the obi silk for our ground fabric, the flat, suga silk we used to make our own threads, and the delicate metals we used to embellish our designs. The above design is Phase I, in which I learned to twist my own silk into different weights of thread,  to stitch chrysanthemums petals, cherry blossom petals, and stitch binding cords, all very important motifs in JE. Each phase would take close to the full year we were allotted to finish our piece. 


This is Phase II, a design with many more techniques, more motifs, and more hours needed to complete. In each phase you build upon the lessons of the previous phase and add multiple techniques to your repertoire. We made all the twisted threads, in varying weights needed to stitch the motifs. Some of the techniques I remember were "shippo" (design in the blue cloud), fuzzy effect (white cherry blossoms), shibori (white and red pin tree). 



Because of the varied techniques we learned in the is phase it took almost the full year for me to complete this piece. Each section took hours and hours, maybe 800-1000 hours in all. I stitched nearly every day and dedicated myself to studying books and guides. The only true way was to learn was from the teacher and the only teacher at the time was Shay. We had class over 8 days once a year. Eventually, we decided to add a second lesson, but that meant travel expenses twice a year and even more dedication to the art, and that's what took me out.

I took Phase III, but it was just too much work, took too many hours out of my day. I stalled, but went back the next year because my end goal all along had been Phase IV. I LOVED this design. I wanted to play with color and create my own pansy piece. 


And, after 4 years of study, I did. I may have had a smile on my face with every stitch I took during this beautiful journey. The pansies are stitched with perfectly laid flat silk which creates shine. Without the shine of the silk this piece is nothing. Light changes the color, depending on direction and the laid stitches. That play of light is what brings the pansies to life.


Only one color of orange silk is used in the blue/orange pansy, but the color changes with the direction of stitch. You can also see the change in the pink pansy and the yellow one below. All the leaves were stitched with twisted thread in contrast to the sheen pansies. 


The pansy Phase was my favorite of all the Japanese Embroidery I studied. I started other pieces, and stitched for hours on many designs, even took Phase V, but I gave up on it almost immediately. I had my win, the one thing that had been my drive. The Pansies were mine. Another reason was the expense of learning this art became more than I could bear. I had spent a considerable percent of discretionary income on this journey, one I will never regret, but I knew it was time to change in direction. Shay's motto was we were "Stitching Towards Perfection". Shay, and Japanese Embroidery, taught me so much about life, about the journey, about the process of living. It isn't patience you learn when following a pursuit of this nature, you have that in spades, but it takes curiosity, joy in creation, and dedication. 


WoW! I've not been aware of Japanese embroidery before your post and it's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing this as well as all your other November blog posts - they've been so enjoyable.

Your pansies are incredible and I admire your dedication to this process. I learned some new things about you over these last few posts, too!

I see the shine! When I started reading this post, I wondered if you were drawn to this stitching towards perfection because of your personality at the time, or if your personality has changed and grown because you pursued the process, but it seems like there was plenty of both. I so admire your curiosity, devotion, and joy in creation as evidenced by your beautiful pieces. Thank you for sharing your journey!

So much beauty and precision! Your pansies are glorious.

Wow, wow, wow!!! I have seen Japanese Embroidery and even toyed with picking it up (thank goodness I didn't - lol). Your pieces are each so exquisite and beautiful. Thank you so much for posting this story. Love it. Anxious to hear/read more.

I can see why these were your favorite. Just stunning

Just read all your recent embroidery posts, and my head is spinning. This is such a rich and varied craft. I had never even heard of Japanese embroidery, and I'm am amazed by the artistic skills you acquired. I joined the local Embroidery Guild a year ago, but haven't yet made a meeting. I am a bit intimidated by the complex skills that I have not even begun to master.

I've really enjoyed reading this series of yours.

Oh, Margene. Those pansies! They really are perfection. I love hearing about the process and the materials and the classes. Your work is so beautiful - and I thank you for sharing. XO

So grateful that you shared this journey of yours with us...the pansies are incredibly beautiful and clearly the embroidery is exquisite. I imagine your heart swells each time you look at the piece - with pride and joy...and well it should! So very beautiful and thank you for sharing this journey.

Thanks for the education in JE. Such beautiful pieces. The silk thread is just like a painting in the light.

I am a loss at what to say. Margene. This is simply amazing! Painting with thread... the wonder of it all. Thank you for sharing!

Wow. That is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen! That would have been my "win," as well!! ;) Thanks so much for sharing your JE journey with us. xo

Your work is just stunning, and those pansies, unbelievably beautiful. I used to do a lot of embroidery but pretty much gave it up because of my eyes. Thank you so much for sharing your journey!

Oh my word, Margene, I did not realize how much mastery you had in embroidery. Those pansies, those pansies! All of it is quite beautiful, and yes, it is art. I totally understand why you weren't as motivated after the pansies. How to improve on perfection? Thank you for sharing these and your journey.

Beautiful!! Enjoyed your write up.

Wow, Margene - I had NO idea such an art even existed ... and you were indeed the Pansy Master! thank you so much for sharing the photos and giving us a taste for how it comes together. (wow!)

This is so fascinating! And I can't think of a more perfect flower for you to be able to stitch. Just beautiful.

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