HOW AND WHY I DESIGNED KANJI
Spring is my favourite time of year - when colour and new life begins to appear and the sun starts to give a little bit of warmth and light to the days.
If you’ve read other parts of this site you’ll know I love flowers so it will come as no surprise to you that one of my favourite aspects of spring is the reappearance of flowers after the long dark days of winter. Cherry blossom is one of the first colours that appears where I live, usually in late March - early April and it’s always makes me feel happy and hopeful.
I went to an international school and several of my friends are from Japan. One spring day while I was walking in the parkland at school, my friend Seiko told me about the significance of cherry blossom in Japanese culture and about Hanami as we passed by an amazing stand of Japanese cherry trees imported and planted by Robert Stayner Holford in the late 1800’s in what were once the grounds of his house and the precursor to Westonbirt Aboretum.
She told me that cherry blossom or sakura is regarded as a symbol of hope and renewal as well as serving as a reminder of how fleeting and fragile life and beauty can be. It dates back to Samurai times and there are many legends about incredible displays of cherry blossom on battle fields.
It is a sentiment I like very much - that every spring there is new hope and it is a time of renewal. I therefore decided I wanted to create a collection that would be a celebration of these beautiful flowers and the hope they represent and to infuse it with as many elements of Samurai and Japanese culture as possible.
The how was the tricky bit…. I knew that the first character in the kanji for sakura means ‘tree’ on it’s own - like a lots of kanji characters for ancient entities it is highly pictographic - so I wanted to use elements of the kanji characters for sakura to create the curves of the branches. This part was relatively straightforward after a lot of scribbling… so having defined my curves I had the thought that I could make the cross section of the branches and the tips of each branch have the profile of the blade of the Samurai warriors; the Katana. I also tweaked the main branch curve so that it was more katana-like.
The fluidity of the pieces - especially the script ring - is influenced by the Enso circle as well as the precise and graceful movements required in samurai sword drills and the formation of the ink characters. The flow of the ink was also a factor in this aspect of the design.