Temari, ‘handball’ in Japanese, has a long and colourful past. Making temari was an entertaining pastime for noble women in the early part of the Edo Period (1600-1868). Originally crafted from the same silk threads woven into elegant kimono, temari were made as pretty playthings. When cotton was introduced into Japan, women of lesser means could afford to make them and the craft spread throughout the country. Crafters of each region added a personal touch, recycling local fibres and dried plants into each ball. Embroidery designs gained a regional aspect with the addition of geometric and floral designs symbolic to each area.

Japanese mothers and grandmothers made temari to give to their young children. The girls and boys loved mari-tsuki, a game played by singing nonsense rhymes while tossing the ball. Celebrations of both New Year and Girl’s Day called for new temari. A gift to a bride symbolized good luck in her new home. Today however, the thread-wrapped and embroidered balls are displayed and enjoyed as works of fibre art.

The friendship between Naho Izumi and Rika Stein bloomed from its beginning a decade ago into a small business they call Temaricious. They are well travelled and have lived in the UK, Germany, Hungary – and now they both call a neighbourhood in west Tokyo home. Combining two ancient crafts (natural dyeing and stitching temari) brings joy to their friendship. Through exhibitions, workshops, and sale of their hand-dyed threads, Naho and Rika connect people of different cultures to beautiful colours, aromas, sounds, and textures of nature.

Hand-embroidered balls from the Sanuki region of Japan first impressed Rika. The craft of temari, popular there from the mid 18th century, almost died out after World War II but was revived in 1952 by Kazuo and Yakeo Araki. The couple researched the art by learning from elders in the community. 20 years later, they established ‘Sanuki Temari Kagari’ as a distinct method of using natural-dyed, cotton threads to embroider designs on a thread-wrapped ball…

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