The inspiration behind the tapestries by Aiko Kobayashi Gray
On display in Orinda through October 2021. See more under our Events section, with details here.
We first met Chu at the Jindaiji temple outside of Tokyo during the annual ‘adopt a puppy’ day. Chu was a super- cute tiny blend of Shiba and Akita-inu.
Our daughter, Mari, picked her out of the squirming crowd of little canines, snatched her up and embraced the little 50-day old bundle of fur close to her chest for the next 4 hours. She would not relinquish the poor animal. Finally, after hours of reasoning with our 7-year-old, and detailing in concise and highly logical language all the reasons we could not adopt a dog, we all saddled up and pedaled home.
That evening Chu peed on the rug. But, soon enough, she learned where to do her business and she quickly became a valued family member.
When we moved to California in the late 90s Chu came with us and lived in Walnut Creek until several years ago and the age of 16 ½.
In some of my tapestries you will see a white young dog. It’s Chu, sleeping, running, jumping, flying, barking, howling or smiling.
When I was an Art college student, I traveled for 2 months in Europe with a classmate.
In a small village of Andalucia, at a donkey watering trough, I saw an old and very weathered circus poster plastered on the stone wall behind the trough. It was titled ‘Circo Americano’.
Twenty years later in Japan my memory of that poster in Spain inspired my tapestry titled ‘Circo Americano’. Daughter Mari, born in Guatemala, and 8 years old at the time, collaborated with me on its creation. Her suggestions of the rabbit holding a burning hoop for the lion and the swinging rabbit with flower legs, taken from one of her drawings, were incorporated into the the tapestry. Can you find them?
There was a large loquat tree in a nearby park.
When I would walk with Chu in the morning, I always ate loquat fruit there. Chu liked the loquats, too and would snack with me. We often were not the only ones enjoying the fruit. Sometimes young Mexicans, and sometimes Russians or Indians, would join us and we would share stories of our homelands and the loquat trees we would sample fruit from there.
One day a lady, well-armed with a fruit picking contraption that could reach to the top of the tree, stripped the tree of all its fruit. Our international communication snacking tree was left bare and our gatherings and reminiscing were no more. It was sad to lose such a wonderful place of communication. However, the leaves were splendidly thick, so I took 5 or 6 leaves and made tea.
Maybe the tree missed us too because eventually it died.
Now that part of the park is a frisbee golf course and there are no drug dealers anymore.
In this tapestry Chu-chan is sleeping and dreaming about being under the Loquat tree. Translucent weaving 45×74.5
Writing about my father
Watching it rain when my daughter was about four years old, she said “the leaves are happy with rain” and when the rain stopped, she said “the rain returned to the sky”.
My father passed away shortly after that and I imagined him returning to the sky, the source of life, as Mari had imagined the rain doing.
A new life comes down from heaven, and when the time comes, the soul will return to heaven.
This tapestry is a fairly large screen with two panels. I tried to weave the feelings of this time.
A soul that rises to heaven as if it rains.
Birds head to the ground and fish head to the heavens