Originally I wanted to use the flags of the US and Nihon (Japan) for the themes of this one, as the recipient is very interested in English, and the USA. However, f2 enquired whether I couldn't put pine green into the design. I particularly wanted to have red stripes coming from both sides, but Japan's flag doesn't actually have stripes, just the sun: the striped version is military. Visually attractive, but problematic from an inconographic point of view.
So I shifted the emphasis not only to pine green, but pine trees. Japanese pines are usually represented in a very horizontal format: in the USA, they're reduced to tall, narrow rectangles. Since our state tree is the white pine, I contrasted this variety with what must be admitted is a rather generic Japanese version:
Note also that westerners tend to shift vegetation to a blue cast that isn't very realistic; trees in nature are not emerald green! I had to work pretty hard to pop the Japanese tree forward in the composition, which I did by using dark sequins on the taller tree, and plenty of nice contrasty white (representing snow) on the Japanese tree, which has a bent trunk to symbolize its greater age (and thus ‘stature’).
As the recipient had kindly sent me a book about kumi that included a fascinating picture about hand looping I really wanted to incorporate a piece of kumi in his braid, not just a bradshaw cord. However, I had to use one already made, which limited my color choices. I chose this forest themed braid. It goes with the Japanese pine, but nothing else. So, I attempted to pull the design together—the red, white and blue flap, the purple, green and brown trees, the tan, pale blue and brown braid—with the tassel.
The new owner enquired, were the four pines representative of our family? Or of the forests by our city? I had to admit, I'd simply added the two darkest ones mostly to balance out the composition. I told him I very much appreciated the family interpretation, but could not take credit for it; and that the forests more likely, if they were suggested by anything, it would've been the many forests I've camped in over the years.
It's always very cool when others find ideas in your work you never would've thought of. Indeed, I think what causes art to stand the test of time is precisely this dialog, the fact that the viewers find space for their own ideas and feelings in the work.
Had I more time, I would continue with the patriotic theme, and do an embroidered/appliqued double portrait of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, whom I regard as patriotic heroes: Ms Manning in particular, who has already been nearly forgotten.
Unless otherwise noted, text, image and objects depicted therein copyright 1996--present sylvus tarn.Sylvus Tarn