Carla and I decided to be partners for a project in our Japanese language class in grade 8. We had spent months learning to read, increasing our vocabulary and trying to nail pronunciation of a language that native-English speakers can’t always wrap their tongues around. So we were excited when our teacher told us we could do a project on anything we wanted that had to do with Japanese culture.
We decided we were going to make an obi — the beautiful, decorative, wide belt that is tied around the waist on top of the traditional kimono. But we weren’t just going to buy Japanese-looking fabric from the store and tie it around our waists. No. We (well, let’s be honest, Carla) was going to paint an intricate floral design on a piece of fabric that we were going to sew to the exact proportions.
I stood with the blank obi wrapped around my waist while Carla, sitting on the edge of her bathtub, carefully painted a floral design. When she was finished, I had the design tattooed all over my stomach because the paint had soaked through the cheap fabric we’d bought, but the obi looked beautiful.
Later in high school we used to sit in physics class and design dresses — grad dresses, red carpet dresses, wedding dresses. We’d sketch them on scrap paper we were supposed be using for math equations. Most of us were doing it just to have fun and to pass the time. But I always felt that Carla was somehow more serious than we were about these drawings, that this meant something to her.
Here’s a video she and her friends made for their design class at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver.