Hands gather to create, protect, and sustain community
Tsuyo Onodera, a Master Kimono Maker, has been in the garment industry for more than sixty years, as owner and proprietor of the Aizawa Sendai Kimono Making/Training School in Sendai, Japan. Together with her daughter, Maki Aizawa, she makes haori and hanten, jackets and coats from denim, linen, and cotton, as well as scarves, silk broaches, and other garments. Additionally, they offer home goods including sashiko stitched (a form of Japanese folk embroidery) tea towels and abstract tapestries. Kimonos are often worn in Japan for important public holidays and festivals, and for formal occasions such as weddings and funerals.
In 2021 in Sonoma, California, Maki was inspired to create her own brand “Kamiko.” As founder and designer, she brought together a Women’s Collective of licensed kimono makers in the Tohoku region of Japan, who were trained by her mother, Tsuyo. Her vision is to put a contemporary spin on kimono traditions, creating designs that can be incorporated into everyday use. Tsuyo’s mastery of traditional techniques and Maki’s creativity combine to create contemporary garments and more that preserve the traditions of kimono-making. Using recycled antique kimono silk, and natural cottons and linens, fabric dying is an integral part of the process. The pair use a variety of colors ranging from muted grays to precious indigos to fiery reds. For indigo, they send cloth to be specially dyed in Japan. Once the fabric is dyed, it can be embellished with traditional styles of embroidery such as sashiko or kogin or the fabric can even be hand painted.
After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated part of their home region, This mother and daughter team collaborated with seamstresses and embroiderers in the Tohoku region of Japan. They initiated the Senninbari Project (Senninbari meaning “Thousand Person Stitches”). Maki and Tsuyo created this project to bring together women who had lost everything and teach them sewing skills so they could have a source of income, but even more importantly a connection with others.
Maki Aizawa is committed to preserve a sewing tradition that is being lost and to honor and celebrate the specialized hand skills and techniques of this tradition. She wants to share the philosophy of minimizing waste and creating objects of enduring value that is embodied in the kimono making tradition. The Japanese believe that a garment sewn by many people becomes an amulet, protecting the wearer from danger and enclosing them in prayers.