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  • Kanzashi: Flowers in Bloom Interview with Diane Gilleland

    July 24, 2009 | 1 Comment »


    Diane Gilleland is one seriously crafty lady. She has a popular blog and podcast called Craftypod, she publishes a local Portland crafty newsletter called the DIY Alert, she teaches classes, contributes to magazines and now she has a book called Kanzashi: Flowers in Bloom. This is Diane's first book and it's all about the Japanese craft of making Kanzashi Flowers. What is the world is Kanzashi you ask? Read on as Diane and I talk about what Kanzashi is, it's rich history and how to define your own aesthetic within the discipline of a traditional craft.

    Diane, I am so excited about this book! Where did you get the idea of doing a book about Kanzashi?

    Well, I'm attracted to unusual crafts of all kinds, and anyone who reads my blog knows that I'm constantly hopping from one medium to the next.

    I'd wanted to write a book for a long time, but this same crafty-magpie nature kept me from figuring out exactly what I wanted to do with a book project. Then one day a couple years ago, I had one of those amazing moments of synergy. I was publishing a local email newsletter at the time, and in one of the issues, I added a little item about a Kanzashi-making class I was teaching here in Portland.

    Surprisingly, Kate McKean, a literary agent in New York, was subscribing to my newsletter. She saw the picture of my Kanzashi and emailed me to ask whether I'd ever thought of doing a book on that craft. D'oh! What a great idea, and why had it never occurred to me? (Everything works out for the best, though – I ended up with a great agent!)


    Can you tell me a little bit about the history of Kanzashi?

    Kanzashi are hair ornaments, and they've been in use in Japan since around 1600. Today, you can see them on Geisha and their apprentices, who are known as Maiko. They're also popular as bridal accessories both in Japan and the US.

    Interestingly, there are quite a few styles of Kanzashi, and not all of them are floral. Some Kanzashi have shiny metal dangles. Some take the form of enameled hair pins, some are fan-shaped, and some are bejeweled domes. The style that my book is based upon is properly called Hana Tsumami Kanzashi. "Hana" translates as "flower," and "Tsumami" refers to the process of making them, where you fold silk squares into flower petals.


    What about your history with Kanzashi: where did you first see Kanazashi and what made you want to write a book about it?

    I stumbled onto Kanzashi via the crafty blogosphere. To this day, I cannot remember which website I saw them on first, but I was hooked the minute I saw them. After doing a little exploring (this post on Craftster is a great resource), I found that the traditional process of making Kanzashi was a little too exacting for my hands. So I did more research on the web and in Japanese craft books, and after doing a lot of playing around, I arrived at a method that was much simpler.

    Then I started teaching Kanzashi classes here in Portland, and learned a whole lot more about how crafters of all skill levels might approach this craft. And I also found my students always asking the same question: "What can I make with these flowers?" That question is really the seed of my book.


    Sometimes it can be difficult to have your own aesthetic when working with such an age-old technique? How were you able to do this when writing this book? Was it challenging or did it seem effortless?

    Well, in my case, I was working with a simplified form of the traditional technique, so the simplification made a lot of design decisions for me. I adore the look of traditional Kanzashi – if you want to be blown away, watch this video!

    The traditional method uses silk fabric and a much more delicate process, and the finished flowers reflect that delicacy. The flowers in my book are made with cotton, tweed, recycled sweaters, and even vinyl, so they're less delicate and more fun-looking. I wanted each project design to be something a crafter could look at and think, "I could totally make that!"

    What’s next for you? Any new books or big projects in the works?

    I'm hard at work on my next ebook right now – it's the second installment in my craft blogging series, and it's about building a larger audience for your blog. I hope to release it in mid-August. And very soon, the CraftyPod podcast will reach its 100th episode, and I have some cool plans for that!

    Thanks Diane! For more information about Kanzashi: Flower's in Bloom, check out Diane's website! And stay tuned for a very exciting Kanzashi give-away in a few hours!

    One Response to “Kanzashi: Flowers in Bloom Interview with Diane Gilleland”

    1. Tim Moon says:

      Great interview! I’m surprised I didn’t see this before. I wasn’t aware that Diane was working on another ebook, good info.

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