I'm back with another installment of "Emi attends another workshop" or something like that, haha. You might remember that I attended a textile exhibition of sorts back in March this year. What I didn't realize is that these Nuno-Haku events happen relatively often (yipee!). I started following their page on Facebook so that I wouldn't miss out on a thing. 

When I had a look on their website, it seemed they were already up to "volume 7" of the series, and this one was a two-parter! Unfortunately, I missed the first week ("In love with skirts weekend" is the literal translation) because I was too busy in the countryside playing paparazzi to my daughter's dragonfly whispering activities, but we came back in time for the second week ("A weekend of weaving, embroidery and crafts" is how I translate it -- albeit very roughly).

There was definitely a little of everything! You could attend a workshop for tapir "doll"-making, a workshop for weaving on a loom (check out that loom! I don't think I would have relished setting it up), a workshop for knitting, and there was even an embroidery demonstration. A lot of them had filled up by the time I got there (because I didn't reserve a spot in advance online). 

Fortunately, I was able to sign up for a fun little button-making workshop sponsored by Sunomoto, which was the one I had my eye on. It looked simple and fun, which is my theme for the summer. Oh, who am I kidding? That is my life motto, haha. 

Turns out it isn't necessarily that simple. But it IS fun! Clay button-making is a lot like making candy, if you've ever made those rolled candies with the images inside. Haha, does that even make sense? I don't know what they're called in English, but in Japanese they're called "Kintaro Ame." (There's a really cool video in this post that shows you the process.) The concept is the same. You roll up the clay into a long cylindrical shape, enclosing different colors to make the image inside the circle. I don't think I'm doing a good job explaining this, so I'll let you look at the pictures. 

We were given a few small pieces of clay and asked to soften and roll them out to a specific length and width. Can you tell what it's going to be? It's a very Japanese image of "summer."

Now, I was doing all right up to the point where we were told to "squish" the rolled clay together to get all the air out. It was during the cutting process that I failed, haha. We were given razors and told to slice our buttons to the width we preferred (it was recommended we go with 2.5mm or 3mm). And for some reason, I was having great difficulty making sure it was the same thickness at the top and the bottom of the circle, much to the amusement of my crafty friend who was with me. Let's just say I would never get a job at a bakery slicing bread, ha ha ha!! 

Can you tell what it is now? If you guessed "katori senko" (or the incense that acts as a mosquito repellent), you would be correct! Whenever I visited Japan in the summer as a child, my relatives lit these up outside to ward off the mosquitoes, and I remember the smell of the incense used to waft in through the screen doors. I always wondered whether they were effective. But they have always been a big part of Tokyo summers for me -- along with fireworks, watermelons, and Obon dancing. More on that in another post.

So in case you weren't convinced that my buttons were indeed wonky, you can see some of the pretty (and evenly sliced!) creations by the other students in the workshop as models of what the finished buttons should look like. (And yes, that's my sad little carrot in the upper left corner next to my buttons. I thought my girls would want some pretend food.) Don't you think this would be a fun activity to do with kids?

This was just a basic class, but apparently there is a whole specialized course you can take if you wanted to learn more advanced techniques. Check out the buttons you can learn how to make!

I think I even heard the workshop leader say that there is an "MBA" course where you can become certified to sell buttons and teach people how to make them! Pretty neat. But after this experience, I might just stick to sewing, hahaha. Thanks for reading, and I hope you're enjoying your summer!

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