Deep Dive into Crafts with Nina Shimaguchi
Asia Society at Home
Discover your newest binge and get to know our staff a little better with the Asia Society Texas Center team's favorite ways to stay entertained indoors! With our Deep Dives we take you on a journey into the obsessions of individual staff members for an in-depth look at a specific art form or cultural production.
Nina Shimaguchi is the Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Coordinator at Asia Society Texas Center. Supported by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership and the Laurasian Institution, the JOI program's goal is to promote awareness and understanding of Japanese culture in America, and Nina is nearing her final month of a two-year appointment in Houston.
Nina is from Osaka, Japan. She is delighted to learn and share more about the unique, interesting, and beautiful culture of Japan while volunteering to teach international students. Born to a piano teacher for a mother, she grew up surrounded by music. She developed an interest in American culture while learning hip hop dance in her early teens, and went on to study International and North American Studies in college. After taking classes for a semester at UW-Seattle, Nina wanted to discover what life could be like living in the U.S. properly, since she fell in love with America.
Why I'm focusing on Craft
I really love making something from nothing. Not all of my crafts turn out excellent, but spending our time crafting is always relaxing and immersive. It is exciting and sometimes surprising to see what you had previously only imagined begin to take shape. It's not necessary to be perfect, but just to attempt to make something with your hands can be immensely satisfying.
As a JOI coordinator, I share Japanese culture with people of all ages. Since anyone can enjoy making things, I believe that arts and crafts can be one of the most engaging tools to teach others about culture. I usually talk about certain topics using a presentation, then offer some kind of crafting activity to let the participants experience the cultural components of the subject. For example, if I talk about the history of manga, at the end of the program I instruct the audience on how to fold an origami Pikachu. I always thoroughly enjoy seeing everyone's smile after they have made something with me.
Check out Nina's guide to supplies for all the crafts in this Deep Dive!
What I am currently enjoying
I am currently enjoying Tsumami Zaiku (つまみ細工). It is a hair accessory for women's kimono (Maiko) traditionally made from a soft Japanese fabric called chirimen. Recently the beauty of this craft has been widely recognized because of influence from Western culture. It is a tiny object and looks difficult to make, but once you know how to do it, it is rather easy.
What I find myself returning to again and again
Keshigomu Hanko means "eraser stamps" in Japanese. In Japan, many still use a seal instead of a signature, and I think woodblock print history is responsible for this fun tradition. The construction method is not that much different than woodblock prints, the main difference being the use of erasers rather than wood. Using a thick eraser to carve into, you can design your own pattern or trace one from a template. Then you carve each groove in a certain fashion to make it into a stamp. Since the stamp itself can last a long time, I have made them for greeting cards or wrapping paper for seasonal celebrations.
Puraban is known as shrink plastic, or "Shrinky Dink," in English. You can design tiny keychains or all sorts of other things. I first tried this craft as an elementary student; I simply enjoyed the idea of big designs shrunk unto a smaller item or keychain. Once I became an adult, my purpose for making shrunk plastic has changed a bit. I have made a couple of different accessories using this craft method. In my former job in customer service at a hotel in Kyoto, I made many keychains and brooches for guests as handmade gifts.
Projects that I am looking forward to
Hanji is a type of Korean paper. Using Hanji to make various crafts can be incredibly beautiful. Initially, I became fascinated by this craft when I saw some items made by a coworker's mom. I was impressed by the potential that paper can be made into almost anything.
I was introduced to Ebru water marbling when the Islamic Arts Society brought in artist Shaheen Rahman to Asia Society Texas Center's Eid Festival last year. Not only the type of art itself was attractive, but also the demonstration — I was completely fixated on it, always curious to see what kind of pattern the process would turn out to create.
A craft person / teacher that excites me is
Mizutamahanco is a keshigomu hanko creator and illustrator. As a lover of stationery, I can't stop looking at her works because not only does she draw and make cute items, she also demonstrates all of her techniques and various stationeries that she employs in her crafts. This makes it easy to try these out on your own.
My wildcard recommendation is
When you hear herbarium, you might think of collecting preserved plants. But in Japanese, a herbarium (ハーバリウム) is something different than you might expect. As there are a lot of Japanese influences in Western culture, it can be difficult to discern which shared items originated where — but this is one that is uniquely Japanese. Years ago, I fell in love with a beautiful flower ornament and bought a couple of them. But I couldn't find my favorite color combination of flowers, so I started making them myself. It's fun and not too difficult to do yourself, plus it can be a great gift for your loved ones.
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, United Airlines, and Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau and Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearts Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.