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For those of you not familiar with temari, they are the wonderful embroidered balls that are often covered in mindboggling geometric designs or traditional Japanese motifs, such as cranes or 菊 (kiku), the chrysanthemum, often considered the national flower of Japan.
There is something completely captivating about the designs and colours of even the simplest temari, and thanks to the work of Barbara Suess, Ginny Thompson and Mayu ‘Ai’ Mizuta (真由美水田) and many others, there is an increasing amount of English language information available on this wonderful, wonderful craft.
Now before I get to the main part of this review, I have to state that I received a copy of this book as a gift and have studied with the author. However, all the opinions in this review are my own and I have tried to review the book as objectively as I can.
Temari Jiwari and Color Magic (手まり地割りと色のマジッ) is the author, Ai Mizuta’s, second book and is available exclusively as a Kindle edition. If you, like me, don’t actually own a Kindle, don’t worry as you can still read the book online or through the many apps. Here is a guide for some of the options available.
Like her previous book, Temari Jiwari and Color Magic is dual-language Japanese and English, which I absolutely love. Getting to look at pretty pictures, read about crafting and pretend it is language studying all at the same time? Count me in! What I also like is that all the information is there in both languages too. Many dual language books often have the full explanation in Japanese and a few terse statements in English that don’t really capture the full detail of the Japanese explanation. If you’re interested in trying to study from Japanese temari books, which are still really the only print literature available for the more complex designs, this book also serves as a useful phrase reference.
The premise of the book is an interesting one – it is not a step-by-step guide on how to make temari – but rather a manual for understanding ‘temari philosophy’ and with breathtaking photographs showcasing twenty absolutely gorgeous temari.
What do I mean by a ‘temari philosophy’ book? With crafts, I think there are two approaches. One, where you follow patterns exactly and can reproduce the same item but not necessarily understanding the whys of the design you are following. The other is when you have a sufficient understanding so that you can look at an item and dissect it into its constituent stitches and potentially be able to work out how to recreate it from this analysis e.g. comprehending the underlying design philosophy.
For a temari related example, some people might look at a ball and see a nice flower, but other stitches might be able to tell you which jiwari (the divisions of a temari – essentially how you ‘divide up’ the ball into stitching areas) were used or in which order the colours and layers on the ball were stitched.
What makes the approach Ai uses in Temari Jiwari and Color Magic absolutely genius is that trying to follow patterns for making temari is actually really hard. This is because the way designs are usually written is not as a details step by step guide, with the full order and all the elements described in detail but, even a complex temari, will typically only have some diagrams and a third of an A4 page to describe it.
Each of the 20 temari featured in the book has a ‘deconstruction’ page in the back of the book, showing the general geometric shapes, order of working and one or two details. For an advanced stitcher, this is easily enough to copy the design but what I really appreciate about this section is the clarity of the photographs. Most Japanese temari books have their pattern pages in black and white and there are not always that many photographs from different angles to grasp the design well. Here there are beautifully clear, partially stitched close-ups that really helped me to understand the process as many temaris look nothing like the final design while they’re in the process of being stitched. A nice feature of the Kindle version of the book is that there are direct links you can click on for each temari photo to take you straight to the relevant instructions page.
The beginning of the book is devoted to some beautiful photographs of twenty different temaris that do a great job of demonstrating the breadth of different temari designs and just how striking they can be. Ai’s colour choices for each piece have an incredible richness to them and each ball seems to want to pop off the page at you.
I like that there are several photos of each temari from different angles. Ultimately, temari are three-dimensional objects so it can be hard to capture a good two-dimensional representation in a photograph. There are some notes on the size of the finished ball and the divisions used if you fancy having a go at making them yourself.
The layout of the book is incredibly stylish and really works for the intended e-book format too. The page structure is perfectly crisp and clean and works really well to accent the gorgeous photographs of all the temari and is somehow wonderfully aesthetically pleasing in itself. The photograph layout is brilliant and this could almost be one of those oversized coffee table books you leave around as a piece of decoration.
If you’re a beginner looking for a detailed ‘how to’ guide and explanation of all the stitches, this is not the book for you. In fact, the only English language book worth reading on this at present is Barbara Suess’s Temari Techniques, which is an amazing stitch guide but I find the designs included in it a little uninspiring.
If you’re looking for some gorgeous photography, colour inspiration and something to really make you go wow. Temari Jiwari and Color Magic, that’s almost a design piece in itself, is really worth the very modest price. For more confident, independent stitchers the designs are great and I think the deconstruction photographs are a good addition to any bookshelf.
For me, it’s always really nice to see a craft book that brings some information and expertise that are really unique, and Temari Jiwari and Color Magic does just that. It’s beautiful to look it, and in fact I love the photos so much I think it would make an excellent gift for a non-crafter, but I really appreciated the final stitching section and it’s an excellent complement if you’re attempting designs from other books.
Particularly for the price, I think this book is a must by for anyone with either an appreciation of temari or interest in making them. If you want to have a preview of just how amazing Ai’s work is as well, check out her Instagram here and her website too.
Author: Mayu ‘Ai’ Mizuta (真由美水田)
Format: Kindle e-book