My name is Mariko. Kittenette is an account of my life in San Francisco, running a business from my apartment, my interest in film and media, cooking and crafting, and how I got adopted by a stray 5 month old kitten.   Read More




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Neruda Paper Cut

Another paper cut, this time a personal project.

I was watching Jane Campion’s In the Cut when I noticed a reference to a line from Pablo Neruda’s “Love Poem XIV” (from the sublime collection The Captain’s Verses):

I want
to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

In Spanish:

Quiero hacer contigo
lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos.

Something about this line stuck out to me, and I realized that it reminds me of the preoccupation with cherry/plum trees in classic Japanese poetry. I decided to make a paper cut of a cherry tree celebrating hanami season (the Japanese custom of sitting under and enjoying cherry trees in the spring) also including the line of Neruda’s poem. It could also be seen as a reference to the blending of poetry and images in traditional Japanese art.

Neruda Paper Cut

This happened to coincide with the plum tree blossoming in front of my window.

Framed Neruda Paper Cut

Framed, I put a piece of metallic gold paper under it.

I also made a version of it in Spanish (not pictured). Not available for sale in my shop, but I can make you one as a custom order if you contact me.

Traditional Japanese Pattern Design and Studio Kitchenette Backgrounds

I’ve been borrowing my friend’s sewing machine lately, which reminded me to bring back some of the gorgeous Japanese silks that my mom gave me. I found them tucked away in a box that also had some other pretty fabrics that I’d forgotten about.

One thing that I like about Japanese textile design is the large, intricate, and often repeating patterns you can find on them. Making repeating backgrounds (digitally) is one of my hobbies, and I love to design them for my personal projects. For the current Studio Kitchenette and Kittenette backgrounds, I decided to mimic the flowing designs found on many kimono fabrics, which are sewn together in vertical panels that go from top to bottom. As the user scrolls down, s/he sees the pattern moving and changing as if seeing a bolt of fabric being unfurled. Since SK (Studio Kitchenette) is a project portfolio, I drew a cascade of papers that repeated themselves in an S shaped pattern. For Kittenette, I wanted to make it a bit more cute and ornamental since I didn’t have a header that was as intricate and large as on SK. So I drew in some cherry blossom petals falling along with the papers.

You can see the background for Kittenette below. I upped the contrast (the contrast is low on the websites because I wanted text to be easily read over them) and made it smaller.

Flowing Sakura/Paper Background

These were the fabrics I found in the box at home. The first three are silks that were probably for Obi making or for making other ornaments, as I think they’re rather thin for Kimonos. They aren’t very wide but are probably about 3 meters long each- the width is typical for Kimono fabric, which as I mentioned earlier are sewn together in strips. Below is my favorite; I have a thing for florals, especially in this hue of salmony pink. It’s a thin, sheer silk patterned with plum blossoms. One thing that frustrates me is when people incorrectly sell patterns with plum blossoms marked as “Sakura” or “Cherry blossoms.” This is especially rampant on Etsy and makes it hard to search for actual sakura designs. Sakura are traditionally depicted with a “tick” in each petal.

Japanese Fabric

I also held it up to the light so you can see how sheer it is in some places, though it didn’t show up very well:

Japanese Silk

Next, a really cool, modern-looking geometric pattern in silk:

Japanese Silk

Some chrysanthemums. You can really see the similarity to the backgrounds I made here by the placement of the leaves in a flowing pattern.

Japanese Silk

These were the other fabrics in the box that I had completely forgotten about. Some cotton fabrics with other traditional designs. I believe the blue fabric with the morning glory design was given to me by my Great-Aunt in Japan. She made it herself with indigo and the katazome method of dying fabric. My aunt gave us the other fabrics.

Japanese Cotton Fabric

The rest are some remnants from some really cute fabrics that my mom bought in Japan probably in the 80s. I love the pink and yellow strawberry patterned ones.

Japanese Cotton (80s)

So I’m not sure what to do with all this fabric! I’ve decided to just make stuff out of most of it (except the Katazome fabric, which I plan to display someday) and keep some of it as an heirloom. They’re all remnants, so I can’t really make anything serious out of them. I’ll be posting the results here if I ever figure out what to do with them. Any ideas? So far I’m thinking of making some stuff with purse frames.

Nagi Noda: A Tribute

Nagi Noda, (1973-2008) was an artist whose career I used to watch. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about her death until a couple of months ago, as she’s not particularly well known outside of Japan and the music video industry. She was best known for directing music videos for popular J-pop artists like Yuki, Tiga, and Ogiyihagi, as well as doing design work for Laforet, Nike, Hikaru Utada, Suntory, etc.

Her works had a sort of dark humor to them that often referenced their commercial nature by taking it to its extreme. The best example of this is probably a short film she made in 2003 called “Francfranc: a Small Love Story About Alex and Juliet” (Francfranc is a small Japanese chain selling stylish home goods). Rather than a romance between two people, the lovers are the commercial objects themselves: two bug-eyed mugs in a holiday-decorated store wonderland. Even the actors are bizzarely beautifully dressed runway model types. You can see it here:

Another of my Nagi Noda favorites is Yuki’s “Sentimental Journey” video. It’s a physical stop-motion scene involving hundreds of actresses, and shot completely in one take. Coca Cola liked the idea so much that they had her recreate it for them as well. It is somewhat reminiscent of the strange, playful charm of Michel Gondry (think of his video “Sugar Water” for Cibo Matto), with whom she was friends. Here’s the video:

Her other notable works include the well known “Poodle Exercise” video, in which an “ex-fat-girl” speaks motivationally in a fitness video with human sized poodles, the “Horror Cafe” exhibition, with a supporting cast of coffin-clad people, her “hair hats,” hats made of hair shaped into animals and other bizzare shapes, a fashion line she collaborated on with Mark Ryden called “Broken Label,” and the popular Han Panda character.

Sadly she died in September of 2008 from injuries sustained in a car accident. According to the agency through which she worked, she passed away “in her Mark Ryden dress, Chanel boots, perfect make-up with Viktor & Rolf lace black eye lashes.” In a strange coincidence, her Han Panda exhibit takes on a fitting tribute to her death:

See more of Nagi Noda’s work …
Official Website
Poodle Fitness Video,
Monoprix Vegetables, Monoprix Jungle, Monoprix Mascara
Broken Label
Excerpt from Women of Design, Women of Design
Meg’s Precious Video
Giant Han Panda Exhibit
LG The Power of Steam
Interview- starting 7:00

Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman

Visual Acoustics (2009) is Eric Bricker’s documentary on the late photographer, Julius Shulman. The film is a congratulatory piece, and chronologically documents Shulman’s ascent as the superstar photographer of Southern California Modernism, ending with Shulman’s archive being sent to rest at The Getty. Shulman’s photographs have become iconic of the period; his deliberate style of framing and lighting architecture matches its optimistic, lifestyle driven aesthetic. One interesting critique that the documentary makes is that Shulman’s presence is clearly felt in each of his photographs. This is also true of the film, which relies heavily on his narration, presence, and the use of his personal archives. Despite the fact that the film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman, it’s clear that it is Shulman himself, not the narration, that molds his persona and image in the film. Another strength of Visual Acoustics is the excellent commentary. Rarely do commentators of biographical documentaries give such nuanced looks at the history and context of the person’s trade. We are treated to a myriad of media which give us insight into the life of Julius Shulman: footage of him as a young man on television, looks into his photographic archives, even his artistic process in photographing architecture such as the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Stars such as Richard Neutra, Frank O. Gehry, John Lautner, Gregory Ain, and Ed Ruscha also appear in the film.

Thankfully, Bricker did not follow the trend of filming a biographical documentary after the death of the subject. Shulman passed away in July of 2009, and it’s hard to imagine this film having the clout that it does without his strong presence. In it, Shulman weaves the mythology of his life, photographs, and the architecture that gave him his claim to fame.

The film is screening in Los Angeles and other select venues. The Official Visual Acoustics Website also has great information, links, photographs, etc. on the film.

computer cat