Progress report


These panels still need “boro” patches and “sashiko” stitches. Some of the panels will be stitched together with a sewing machine, and the weight bearing stitches will be sewed together using bookbinding techniques.


I’m getting pretty quick with the sashiko stitches so despite achy fingers and the occasional blood drops on the paper, I feel confident that Untitled (sashiko no donza) will be ready to hang on May 10. If I do get behind, I’ll just sneak into the gallery space like Janine Antoni did with Gnaw and add more stitches to the piece until the show on May 13.

I’m excited!!



I like the way the fisherman’s jackets are on display in the photos above. I just reserved a photography backdrop stand for displaying my piece. The height os adjustable, so I can either use it to suspend the jacket or use it suspend a wooden dowel that runs through the piece. I think using a wooden dowel will enhance the aesthetics of the artwork.


I wish I had someone to take a photo of me at JoAnn’s Fabrics looking through the pattern books with all the old ladies. It totally brings memories back to when my mom used to sew clothes for me. Instead of going to the clothing store, we went to the fabric store to pick out the materials for our school clothes. Being poor is really lame, but having custom made clothing is kind of cool.

Back to the project.

I didn’t find a pattern I liked at the sewing supply store so I did an internet search and found the pattern on the left side. It is for a long men’s kimono and a traditional sashiko no donza is a short jacket. Easy adjustment.

I used the pattern to make a copy of it in Adobe Illustrator. Then I used a projector to get the pattern up to the scale I needed it to be.


I just tacked the paper to the wall, traced the lines and there you have it.

Artist Statement

I spent a lot of time working on the artist statement. I followed the advice of Dr Hersko to explore on my personal connections to the piece. This was not an easy task. I wrote about my parents and grandparents… you can just read for yourself.


John Konno


Untitled (sahiko no donza), 2016


Recycled paper and textile.



Based on the subject of water, Untitled (sashiko no donza) is an exploration of the link between extinction, tradition, and my connection to my family. Traditionally, Japanese fishermen in coastal villages wore these types of quilted jackets in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. Typically sewn by female family members, the garments are constructed from cotton and then dyed indigo. The jackets have added warmth and padding for rowing oars from hand stitched quilting known as sashiko.


The threads of the jacket in Untitled (sashiko no donza) flow out from the garment and on to the floor as a metaphor of my bond to the past through memory and tradition. The threads serve a twofold purpose: they prevent the paper garment from breaking under its own weight and the stitches connect the viewer to the piece as it breaks out from the display and into the room. The fisherman’s jacket is life-sized and wearable, however, should it be worn on the open ocean, the jacket would rapidly break apart and the wearer would be left with only a bundle of string.


Untitled (sashiko no donza) is dedicated to my mom and dad. My father’s family is from Japan and is a descendent of generations of fishermen, sailors, and surfers. We are traditionally connected to the sea and my happiest memories of my dad involve being in, on, or around the ocean. My mother, now retired, worked as a seamstress like her mother. In order to help support her growing family, my grandmother took apart a pair of work pants, drafted a pattern from it, then made her own pants and sold them to workers from the Philippines who came to Hawaii to work on the pineapple plantations. The machine she used to sew the work pants was paid for by installments and prior to that my grandmother had never sewn before. My industrious mother worked long hours using the same skill in order to contribute to the family finances. My parents are the hardest working people I know.


A stitch in time saves nine

I have no idea what that saying means. But I have spent hours… HOURS! making stitches in paper.

I literally fell asleep with the light on and an embroidery needle in my hand and started stitching away the moment I woke up. In the photos above is a machine stitch to repair a paper tear, a WIP photo of a sleeve panel and me sewing away in my bed.

Surrounding: Artist advice

I get to help out Julie Goldstein with her big projects a few times a month as a studio assistant. I learn a lot about her process, color theory, and printmaking. She was also a source for a great idea.

I was actually hesitant to talk about my project with her. She makes art for a living. I was kind of afraid that she would think my idea was silly. But she doesn’t. In fact, before we even got to work, as I am walking up to her studio she said, “I have been thinking about your project.” Then we spent a good half hour looking at websites she found involving “boro”.

“Boro” means ragged in Japanese. These beautiful textiles were made from indigo dyed cotton. Many times the patches are added as a necessity, in order to repair and increase the longevity of a garment. Popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, these hand stitched fabrics are now viewed as valuable works of art.

I am going to use “boro” style patches to repair the tears in the paper I made!


I had plans to dye the sheets of paper. However, the drying time became an issue, so I just went with painting ink directly on to the paper.

I used pigment ink to give the paper the effect of being dyed indigo. I just kind of eyeballed the ratio of ink to water and then brushed the mixture directly on the paper. In the photos above are the raw paper, the ink, the process and the finished product.

making paper

This project is the first time that I have ever made paper. I have seen people do it before and have watched some online tutorials and it seems easy enough. That being said, the following is mainly my process and not a tutorial on how to make paper. This should be viewed as an experiment.IMG_2659

Step One: Soaking paper. I tore the paper into strips and let it soak a little in water. I read that using a lot of newspaper results in a grey paper.


Step two: Blending. I fill the blender halfway with water and throw in a handful and a half of the soaked paper. Many of the tutorials I read online refer to the consistency of the liquid as “pea soup”. I had never had pea soup in my life, but I can imagine what pea soup should look like: thicker than a broth but not quite porridge, as Goldilocks would say, “just right.”


Step three: the screen. The pea soup consistency is less lumpy than pictured above. That looks more like oatmeal. This photo was taken at the beginning of my paper making experiment and the thickness of the pulp probably caused the blender to die prematurely.

Anyway… pour the liquified paper onto a screen partially submerged in water. The shallow layer of water allows the pulp to distribute itself consistently across the surface of the screen.

Next remove the screen from the water and let the access liquid drain from the paper pulp. Using a sponge to pat the pulp also makes the process move along quicker and flattens the paper.


Step four: drying. I flipped the pulp from the screen and onto a layer of newspaper over a beach towel to soak up the extra liquid. I then put down another layer of newspaper and placed a heavy piece of wood over all of it to flatten the paper. In the above image, you can see four different batches of paper pulp. I experimented with the ratio of paper types to see the varying shades. The lighter colors have a lot of printer type paper in the mix. The lighter grey is mostly Cougar Chronicle and the darker grey is mostly colored junkmail, catalogs and coupons, etc.


This is the end result! You can see flecks of colored paper as well as some containing text. There is Chinese homework and parts of Beowulf embedded in the paper, as well as pieces of a cereal box and a book cover in this sample.