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Reiko Watanabe, Silk Scarves

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Born in Niigata, Japan, Reiko has lived most of her adult life in Kyoto. Visual arts have been at the center of her life since childhood. She was licensed to teach Floral Art (Flower Arrangement) by the Sogetsu School of Ikebana at Tokyo in 1966. She also studied a painting technique, nihonga, in which mineral pigments are placed directly on rice paper using a gelatin binder. A nihonga work was displayed at a juried show of miniature works in Tokyo in 1983.


In Kyoto her urge for artistic creation led her to the traditional Japanese art-form, senshoku. She took classes from Tsuneo Yoshioka and at the Tanaka-Nao Vegetable Dye Institute, Kyoto. Living in Kyoto she was constantly exposed to the traditional art that is in evidence throughout that City. The treatment of animals and flowers in her work reflects this influence. The background of Shinto (pantheism) in Japanese thought can, perhaps, be seen also.


Reiko continued her study of textile art at Southern Illinois University. After graduating with an MFA in 1989, she returned to Japan. Her husband passed away a year later. In 1991 she moved to the United States from Kyoto with her two daughters and remarried.


Her fabric paintings were created using a rice-paste resist and either natural vegetable dyes or synthetic dyes, depending on the nature of the fiber. Beginning with a one-person show at the Gallery of the French-Japanese Institute in Kyoto in 1985, her work has been shown at numerous Galleries and Exhibitions over the ensuing years.


When creating a scarf the journey always begins with a fresh mind. I approach the plain white fabric just as though I were beginning a painting on canvas; however, dyeing fabric with wet color adds many restrictions and requires special techniques quite different from painting a canvas. All my scarves are made from high quality, 100% natural cotton or silk. After the image is formed with the wet dyes, the scarf goes through an extended process to set the dye and create wearable art.


Thus every scarf is original and unique and reflects my long journey of artistic exploration. I hope every scarf provides it's wearer with the same pride and pleasure that I have when I first see the finished piece.

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