Patricia Belyea, a self proclaimed Japanophile, imports vintage yukata cottons. Patricia is the owner of Okan Arts, a design studio and micro quilt shop, in her home in Seattle, Washington.
As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, Yukata – The Summer Kimono of Japan , I met Patrica while she was traveling in the San Francisco Bay Area for lectures and workshops. I was not only fascinated with her incredible collection of hand dyed fabrics, I was also inspired to see how she showcased these very special fabrics into the artisan quilts she creates.
Patricia took some time out of her busy travel schedule to answer a few questions that I thought would interest our readers and to share her beautiful work.
What was it that initially attracted you to these fabrics? I’ve always been a “treasure hunter” when it comes to fabrics. At first, my quilts were made from fabrics found in free boxes at quilting meetings. I’ve also looked for unusual and super-cheap fabrics by the tablecloth section at Goodwill stores. And I’ve bought some vintage fabric on eBay. Once I started to visit Japan regularly, I looked for quilting fabric there.
Once I discovered vintage hand-dyed yukata cottons, I was hooked. They are so easy to love—good quality cotton that’s a perfect weight for quilting, gorgeous hand-dyed colors, and wonderful patterns. I find the colors and designs inspire my artisan quilt compositions.
How has your involvement with yukata cottons changed your outlook on the Japanese and their culture? Before I ever bought a bolt of yukata cotton, I had been to Japan twice and hosted three Japanese home-stay students. So I already had a real interest in all things Japanese.
Getting involved with yukata cottons and quilting has changed the focus of my trips to Japan. Now I seek out textile-related experiences—visiting indigo masters, wandering around flea markets, looking for small shops with vintage fabrics, going to museums, and anything else that touches on my interest in Japanese handicrafts, especially textiles.
What do you see for the future of Okan Arts? My petite cottage business called Okan Arts is synonymous with me! I’m a one-woman enterprise who just keeps dreaming up more things to do.
Right now I’m working on a quilting book that combines yukata cottons and commercial solids in improvisational designs.
I just wrote an article for GenerationQ magazine entitled “A Quilter’s Guide to Visiting Japan.” (Look for it in the November/December issue.) I feel a calling to encourage others to visit Japan so I’m putting together a new Japan Travel section on my website as a resource for individual travelers.
As I’m out of town a lot this summer, I set up a pop-up shop with all my inventory in my local quilting store—The Quilting Loft in Seattle. Making my yukata cottons more accessible has been a good move as shoppers can only visit my home-based shop by appointment–I may do that again as I travel so much. – Patricia Belyea.
Aren’t her quilts amazing? Patricia also enjoys hand-quilting her quilts to add to the artisan feel. Being a big fan of Big Stitch hand quilting, I was immediately drawn to her thread work. She uses colorful pearl cotton to create interesting shapes and line work. I loved seeing her perspective on applying this technique to the large scale prints and large open spaces of the yukata designs.
Thank you, Patricia, for a sharing this unique niche in our wonderful world of quilting. It is always fun to see how personal passions can merge with one’s creative interests.