knits by sachi

Amezaiku, Japanese candy craft

My sugar bunny for Easter;

I had heard of this craft, Amezaiku, but I had never seen it made in person. During the last trip to Japan, we had an opportunity to watch this amazing work or art.

Amezaiku is a Japanese candy craft. An artist creates a scultpture, using their hands and other tools such as tweezers and scissors. Some are painted with edible dyes.

Animals and insects are common shapes created to appeal to children. Intricate designs are created with expert speed.

This is a very old art created over 1000 years ago. It originates in temples in Kyoto as offerings. The art spread beyond temple in 17-18 th centry and flourished as street performance.

The candy base is prepared beforehand with a starchy syrup. The mixture is kneaded and pulled by hand, and formed into a large ball to be stored until ready to use. At the stall, the candy ball is heated to make it pliable again.

The artist has to pinch up the hot candy mass and quickly roll and mounted on a stick. Our artist used white candy and knead a drop of food colouring. He then pulled, twisted and clipped into form an animal. Speed is essential to the art since the sculpture must be completed before the candy cools and hardens again.

My friend kindly bought my boys one each, my older son chose an elephant, my younger one, a rabbit.
I recorded a video, but the artist did not want it to be shared, so that I will post something similar just to give you the idea.

We were told that the Amezaiku would keep a month without melting. It has been over three months, but the rabbit still looks nice. I do not know what happened to the elephant since my older son took it with him. May be, it has been eaten.

This rabbit is just too precious to eat.

My friend also gave us these sweets. They are for celebrating arrival of New Year with the Chinese zodiac animal motif. This year is the year of rooster.

Rabbit and chicken? Aren’t they perfect for Easter?

Talking about Easter, I have some knitting patterns coming up for this season, and one of them is this; Chicken and chicks in Knit Now magazine.

I have another Easter project coming up in the following issue, too.

Days are getting longer and we are having more sunny days. We have a summer to look forward to. It is utterly fantastic.

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A little about Sake

When I go to Japan, I enjoy Japanese Sake rice wine.
I don’t drink much, but I truly love Sake. Its smell and the taste, how it is served, the occasions associated with, I just love everything about it.

As a child, I thought my dad was strict and a bit scary. I always felt distance between us, but when he had a few Sake on a New Year’s Day, he became talkative and looked truly happy. I loved to see my dad happy.

Being Japanese, I grew up with Sake just like French grow up with wine. I sniffed it and even had a drop or two before I reached to the drinking age. I also loved Sake kasu or Sake lees, the by-product of Sake rice wine.

Sake kasu is what is left after the sake has been pressed out of the mash. It is used in home cooking in many ways to create wonderfully complex flavored dishes. It is used as a pickling agent, to stew fish and vegetables, to make Amazake which is a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol drink. Many traditional Japanese confection and snack companies use a lot of kasu to flavor some of their products. You can find ice cream, chocolate, sweets, cakes and bread flavored with Sake kasu these days.

This is one of them: Sake KitKat.

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When you open the package inside the box, you can smell the familiar smell of Sake. The alcohol content is less than 1% so that anyone can enjoy it.

I like this sweets: Amazake chews. This has somewhat stronger taste of Sake than KitKat but has no alcohol.

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Sake Kasu comes in either hand pressed cheese like texture or mechanically pressed firm sheets.
My mum and I used to enjoy cooking Sake kasu sheets on top of a stove. After roasting, we dip it into sugar and eat it. I was still a teenager then, but Mum allowed me to have some secretly.

Sake kasu sheets contains 8% alcohol, so that you will get drunk if you have too much of it.

Doing something naughty with Mum without telling Dad was a lot of fun! I don’t think I really liked the taste and my pieces had more sugar than Sake kasu itself, but I remember loving the smell of Sake.

During the recent stay in Japan, my older son seemed to start developing the taste for Sake. We tried several different kinds and brands together, hot and cold in small quantities. What I love about Sake is that you can enjoy it at different temperatures. I like it warm.

Sake contains ‘Umami’ which became enhanced when it is heated. It is the same kind of Umami in shell fish as clams. Try steaming clams or mussels with Sake. It is a perfect match.

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I like Sake warm because you can really appreciate the aroma before you take a sip. It is also a safe way to drink alcohol since it is absorbed into your body the same pace as you drink it.

To heat Sake, we use porcelain bottle called ‘Tokkuri’. Tokkuri refers to the shape narrowing at the top.
We use the same word for turtleneck. Tokkuri jumper means a jumper with turtleneck.

My Tokkuri is this one my mum bought for me before I got married. It is nicely hand crafted.

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It is certainly another fun element of being a Sake drinker. You can visit shops and craft fairs to look for a Tokkuri and cups for your Sake.

Dad gave my son a set before we left. My son was very happy to receive his first Tokkuri. He will treasure it.

I have this small bottle of Sake in my cupboard now. You can find Sake at Japanese food shop as Japan Centre in London. You can also buy online. I love the cool looking bottle as well as its content.

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I am very interested this one: Sachi

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And this one: Sachi hime (literally meaning Princess Sachi!!)

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Nothing can be any better than this.

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A-level art

A long wait is finally over and the exam results are out.

This is my son’s final piece for his A-levels.

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The photo is not out of focus. It is painted in this blurry style.

The canvas measures 1.5m x 1.0m, and is the largest he has ever done.
I was pleasantly surprised by his rather bold decision. I knew he was more comfortable with A-4 and A-5 sizes.
Large canvas means you have more space to fill in. Pupils are given only 12 hours from start to finish in the studio. You need careful planning and wise time management.

He bought three canvases with 3 for 2 deal at the Hobbycraft and had practiced at home. He had simulated the process, using a similar image.

We all think it was a success.The model is a fellow student from his school. I would love a painting like this if I was her mum, wouldn’t you?

We are invited to the school art exhibition at the end of the last term.

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This is one of my favorites.

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Two years ago when he said he was choosing Art as one of the subjects to study in his Six Form, I just thought it may give him a little peace from more academic studies. He had Maths, Further Maths and Physics. I was half expecting him to drop Art in the second year.

I am glad that he followed his heart and kept it.

I do believe he has a talent, however, I also know the time and effort he puts into his work is enormous. He is always at it and gives more than he is asked for. He has a very strong portfolio.

His art teachers bought some of his work which is very kind of them. Maybe his paintings are worth much more than I know.

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He will be studying architecture in university.

As for me this week, I have another pattern out in Knit Now magazine; turtle family.

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The family consists of five members; mum, dad, big sis, brother and baby. Turtles walk slowly but steadily, and swim incredibly fast. I like turtles.

It has been a good week.

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Baby step to a dream

My builders and an architect.

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Having waited for 5 weeks in agony, my son finally got an interview invitation from the university. This one is his first option.

He applied for the architecture course along with other 1400 applicants.

The applicants were told to submit 5 drawings with specific instructions, and wait. If the school liked your work, you would get invited for an interview.

Only 400 would get invited. If you didn’t, you are out of the game.

I have seen my son’s work and was confident he would get an interview, but we both were getting more and more anxious.

But yes! He got it. He is invited.

Initially, he was looking for automotive design courses. Ever since he was little, he has been drawing cars and had an ambition to become an automotive designer. But at the same time, he had a strong interest in studying architecture.

Just a week(!) before the Ucas deadline date, he finally decided to go for the architecture.

His trip to Kenya may have influenced on his decision. He worked with locals to build a school, which people desperately needed. He engraved the school sign board at the end of the project. Somewhere in a remote place in Kenya, there stands a school sign with his writing on it. I think it is rather nice.

My son says he is not too interested in building fancy or quirky buildings to become a famous architect. He doesn’t need to build another Shard. “I just want to design something to help people live comfortable life.”, he says.

He quite often draws war zones and natural disasters with sadness. I think he is very kind-hearted.

Hiroshima dome where the atomic bomb hit in 1945.

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Tsunami, 2011.
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He also paints spaces and buildings.

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He certainly has great interest in this area.

Choosing your future is really tough, but I wish him very good luck.

He produces lots of artwork everyday. I believe in his talent.

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A day trip to London

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We went to see the exhibit of the National Student Art Competition in London last week end.

This is the second time my son’s work has been chosen. This year, two of his drawings entered the competition.

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It is exciting and motivating for him to see his work nicely framed and exhibited in art shows. We also saw lots of young talent.

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Oh, yes, I am a very proud mum and I want him to know it.

Sometimes he goes to London on his own to visit galleries and do sketches. This time, he dragged me to several museums. I used to enjoy studying art history when I was young and I have a shoe box full of postcards of paintings. I have been there and done all this and now, I may be more attracted to China Town and M&M World, but it is nice to spend some time in front of master pieces sometimes.

In the second year in 6th form art, students need to write an essay on two artists of their choice. My son has chosen Turner and Richter, both his favorite. We decided to focus on Turner.

National Gallery has five paintings of Turner. They are utterly amazing.

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My son is really fascinated by Turner and the idea of painting elements of the Earth. He didn’t move from these paintings for what seems like an eternity and I needed to sit down.

We also visited Tate Britain.
Tate Britain is a little away from the central Tourist attractions and was much more peaceful and calm. Here, you can see the largest collection of Turner’s in the world.

I found these very interesting.
I didn’t know Turner painted women.

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This one must be unfinished?
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It is too good to be true that we never have to pay admission fees to enter museums in London! There isn’t any city like this. When my boys were young, we enjoyed Natural History Museum, Science Museum and British Museum. A lot!

Art museums used to ban any photographing, but these days, it is permitted for personal, non-commercial use.

And souvenir shops! You cannot forget visiting souvenir shops. It is so fun looking around and I also get a lot of ideas for my craft.

I think I am going to make these with felt fabric myself.

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Crocheted London.These are so cool!

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Art and personalities

Last year, my older son took his GCSEs and this year, his little brother is sitting for exams.

It is interesting that my sons’ personalities are very different although they came from the same parents and raised in the same environment. When they create something, the differences are quite apparent.

A few years ago, they were told to make a cushion cover in textile class. Boys have to know how to sew and cook of course.

My older son is a high achiever and a perfectionist. He tries very hard in all his subjects and has been doing very well in his grades. He made this one.

The front is made with a fabric with simple design.
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It is compulsory to make the other side with a patchwork. His fabric pieces are carefully arranged and stitched together very carefully.
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He got an A on this.

On the other hand, his brother went for a bit more wild in style.
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I see the Japanese national bird, a crane in front of the Yin and Yang design.

And the other side is made with colourful pieces.
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He got a B on this.

Ok, I see his stitches are not so perfect. But I love his fun design. It is more avant-garde and I like that boldness.

For the art GCSE exam, students are told to produce a painting in three days. They spend 8 hours in the art room each day. “Ready, steady, paint!” (and they miss all the other classes during the course)

The students have had learned still life, pop art and portraiture. They can pick any topic they like.

My older son likes portraiture. He have had made plans for his final piece, practiced and even timed the procedures so that he was confident he could finish it in time.
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Three self-portraits. A delicate and a little troubled teenage boy, perhaps? It is carefully done with fine black lines showing different angles of his face. The paintings are added interesting effects, and I think they are very well done.

And his brother? He couldn’t be bothered less. He took a photo with his mobile phone on the day and just painted. He moaned and groaned about the exam being so boring but he managed to produce this.

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Maybe because I am his mum, but I absolutely love this painting. I think he did very well. He painted a tin of curry powder produced in Japan.
It is a bit Andy Warhol, it is hip with Japanese writing on it.

My mum used to say that she did not like her children’s (me and my brother, that is) art work graded. “They are all A stars for me!” she said.

Now I can relate to that very much.

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Gnome inspiration

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I have been enjoying knitting my own little fantasy world lately. I have put aside the issue of proportion to some degree and creating whatever comes to my mind. The very first project was the one above; gnome and their toadstool house.

This house is much bigger than the one I made for the woodland book. I am making gnomes with seasons’ themes and this one is for spring.

I love making gnomes and I know I am not the only one who enjoy making little people.

I have a fantastic book on gnomes and I have gotten lots of inspirations form it. It is “Gnomes and Gardens” written by Nigel Suckling and illustrated by Wayne Anderson.
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I bought this book at National Trust bookshop many years ago. I still enjoy looking at pictures time to time.

The illustrations are amazing and the writing is very interesting. The book discusses their origins, occupations and hobbies, their homes, gardens, and their technology. It even has recipes enjoyed by gnomes.

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Some may think it is downright silly, but I absolutely love this book. I am a great fan of the illustrator. He has done lots of fantasy drawings and his work is utterly amazing.

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I love his sense of humour. His gnomes are all so quirky, very charming and full of characters.

And here is one of my favorite. He has cleverly drawn a safety pin at the tip of the fishing line. There is our ecological footprint here and you can see its impact on environment. I feel a pang of guilt whenever I look at this picture.

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I knitted my gnome inspired by his drawing.
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Mine is a young boy gnome and has no beard. I wanted to create an adventurous little one.

I am not too good at knitting frogs. I have had many trials and errors, more errors than successes, but I think I did all right with this one.

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I would love to do a book on gnomes someday. There are lots of folktales universally. We have some gnome tales in Japan, too. Maybe I should do a research on gnomes and write some stories alongside the knitting patterns.

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This frog turn out a little too fat. See, I am not too good at making frogs…..

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Torn paper art

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I was going through my bric-a-brac box and found this.

It must have been souvenirs from someone. In Japan, we have a custom to get souvenirs to friends and family when you travel. By the look of the pictures, I think it came from Hokkaido or North regions of Japan. The picture is a head of a wild boar.

I found another one.
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It is a bull. They are both lucky animals and included in Chinese zodiac animals.

I don’t recall receiving them. May be my husband got them from someone. They are colourful and pretty.

These are paper plates decorated with chigiri-e, torn paper art. Japanese Washi paper, similar to mulberry paper is torn by hands and pasted to the paper plates. I think these are meant to be used to serve Japanese confectioneries.

I have tried chigiri-e art myself in the past. It is the simplest art and anyone can enjoy it. Just one thing to remember; do not use scissors at all.

I made some into bookmarks. I added Japanese brush writing for more Japanesey look.

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Just as E-tegami, the picture letter, with this art, you can be clumsy and still make beautiful piece.
It is my kind of art.

Children can enjoy this. It is also widely practiced in nursing homes in Japan.

I found this picture on internet and cannot resist sharing. It is so cute.
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There are some professional artist who specialize in this art. If you think you are no good in painting, you may want to have a go at Chigiri-e art.
You might have a hidden talent. You never know.
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Pencil portraits

This is a portrait done by my 16 year old son.

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My older son has started six form this autumn. He has chosen Maths, further maths, physics and art for his A levels.

I thought adding art was a good idea. It is great to be creative. But it turned out that the art is the most demanding subject of all, and he is always drawing, painting, taking photos and researching.

This summer, he spent a lot of time drawing what he pleases.
I think his favorite is portraits.

I see more and more girls’ portraits like the one in above.

He likes pencil drawing, but sometimes, he uses water colour.

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I think he is very talented.
He wants to experiment adding something more original to his work. There are hundreds of artists who do pencil portraits in similar style. You can turn your photos into drawings with photo editing tools these days. It cannot be done over night, but I want to establish my own style, he says.

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I am looking forward to seeing how his work develops from here.

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World Peace Art Exhibition

My mother-in-law is a fantastic Japanese calligrapher.
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She has been practicing and teaching Japanese brush calligraphy for years. She is very well known, and her work have been exhibited in many places all over the world. She has won hundreds of awards. Yes, she is utterly an amazing person.

In 2012, she came to London for an exhibition. Her work was displayed among many artists in a gallery. She was also awarded one of the top three prizes!

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I am afraid I do not know much about calligraphy, and I cannot read this piece which is written in the ancient style. But I noticed that it really stood out from all the rest in the room, and I was drawn to it. Her work certainly has the charismatic power.

She is 82 years old (although she looks 60) and tiny. You would not believe this powerful piece of art is created by this little lady.

I have recently spoken to her on the phone. She told me of the exhibition coming up in October in Paris. This time, her work will be in the World Peace Exhibition at UNESCO.

Usually, she travels to see her work exhibited. That is another amazing thing about her. She travels all over the world by herself.

She certainly gives me lots of inspirations and motivations to create.

Ever since I have spoken to her, I am thinking about my own future exhibition. That will be another milestone for me and, I would definitely want to make this dream come true some day.

Here is another photo of her amazing calligraphy.

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And here, I am enjoying her work together with my creation.
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The World Peace Art Exhibition will be held from 23 to 29 October in UNESCO, Paris.

I am so proud of my mother-in-law. I am very privileged to know her.

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