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Maki Aizawa & Tsuyo Onodera

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. 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. While kimonos are often worn in Japan for important public holidays and festivals, and for formal occasions such as weddings and funerals, Maki’s 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. 

This mother and daughter team collaborate with sewers and embroiderers in the Tōhoku region of Japan. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated part of Tsuyo’s home region, 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. The Japanese believe that a garment sewn by many people becomes an amulet, protecting the wearer from danger and clothing them in prayers.