I love it when a chance 'click' sends me off on a journey round the net. Reading comments on the blog of a friend of a friend, I came across these beautiful tsumami kanzashi flowers, made by Naomi Graham-Diaz, who sells them on her PuchiMaiko site, and also runs Immortal Geisha, a fantastic info site about geisha and maiko (trainee geisha) culture and dress.
Kanzashi are hair ornaments used in traditional Japanese hairstyles, and the word 'tsumami' means 'to pinch'. These flowers are traditionally made by pinching a small, square-cut piece of cloth, usually fine silk, into bud and petal forms. This Japanese kanzashi site has dozens of breathtaking examples for sale - click on some of the thumbtails and be stunned! Then have a look at Gaijin Geisha's kanzashi, which are a gorgeous modern spin on traditional design.
I really want to learn how to make some - but I bet it's a fiddly business to get right. Apparently they are glued not sewn. Craftster links to a series of kanzashi demo movies which are fascinating. The speed and accuracy with which they work is amazing.
I've decided I want to get two books - an illustrated, factual guide to geisha life - maybe Geisha: A Unique World of Tradition, Elegance and Art, by John Gallagher; and a decent biography of a geisha. I read a little of Geisha of Gion last year when I was doing a History of Costume course and we read the passages about how the maikos and geishas dress. It's the autobiography of Mineko Iwasaki, whose life story was also the subject of Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha (probably the best known of the recent batch of geisha novels and biogs). Geisha by Liza Dalby is supposed to be very good too - her story of how she (an American graduate student in anthropology) became a geisha.
It's lovely to have a new interest! Well, not new exactly - I've always been attracted to Japanese and Chinese decorative art and clothing, but in a very vague, ill-informed way. 'Chinoiserie', I suppose - that mixed-up British perception of what Japanese and Chinese style is (like the interior decor in Brighton's glorious Royal Pavilion, for example). So the enthusiasm is there but not the knowledge - it will be exciting to delve deeper and learn a lot more about it, through reading and by trying to learn some new practical techniques.