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Re-imagining Hokusai, bags inspired by Japanese print

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Best 9 2016

It’s been a bit of a slow start to the year for me especially as I had been so busy up until the very end it’s actually quite an anticlimax.  I kind of expected to hit the ground running in 2017 but instead found myself floundering in a sea of ideas and papers.  There are so many more things I want for Grey Whale this year, not just for myself but for helping to create something positive in the world and it’s time to get more intentional about this.  It doesn’t have to be a huge monumental thing but I truly believe every small step in the direction of good counts.  So some exciting things are in the pipeline but more on that in my next post because for now I want to show you a fun little project I just completed!  

Every year or so The Rijks Museum in Amsterdam holds a huge competition for anyone anywhere in the world to create something- literally anything based on a piece of their collection.  They have a fantastic archive of high definition photos of pretty much everything in the entire museum online and you can use these images as you like.  It’s such an exciting thing and I’ve linked it at the bottom of this post for you to see for yourself!

I knew I wanted to make some bags based on some new and out of the ordinary concepts for me, so I hunted for patterns to start.  Then I came across lots of beautiful Japanese woodcut prints of objects and ephemera.  I chose two prints by Hokusai who is probably best know for his ‘Great Wave’ print.  My favourites were his prints of beautiful and mysterious objects displayed in a casual ‘just dropped’ sort of way like normal parts of everyday life.  I loved sifting through these pictures and zooming in to get all the print details and was amazed to find so many patterns from over 200 years ago that are actually still in use today, though I’ve since been told some are probably much older.  They are unbelievable modern geometric patterns mingled with more loose natural forms and floral motifs which is exactly what I love.  It all needs much more investigation but here are two familiar patterns I found nestled in Hokusai’s work.

The first bag I made for the competition was based on Hokusai’s untitled ‘writing tools’ print.  I thought at first glance that it was a bag but then decided it must be a paper or fabric wrapping.  So I decided not to copy bags already in the prints (and there are quite a few) but to re-imagine other things in the images that could become bags.

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Hokusai Clutch Bag

The second bag I made was based on Hokusai’s untitled ‘box of fish’ print.  Here I saw a round striped bag with a fine leather strap and thought it would be the perfect excuse to have a go at my first round bag.  It was a bit difficult to get my head around the measurements at first because of the roundy nature of the thing but I got there after a few mistakes.  Phew.  I was really pleased with this one so we will be seeing more little round drum bags in the near future :-))

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Hokusai Round Bag

So if you’d like to have a sift through the Rijks Museum in the comfort of your own home then here’s the link to what could be a whole new adventure.  I hope by sharing this you can feel inspired to step outside your comfort zone and be inspired too!

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