Friday, January 27, 2017

This Year I Choose Love

It feels to me that this is the year of women. I'm dumbfounded by the fact that women are still having to take to the streets to protest unequal pay, angry about workplace disadvantage after childbirth and the generally sexist treatment and rhetoric being used in recent months. I think women have just had enough.

Why do we still feel bullied in the workplace (often from other women), feel like we are giving up a career when we have children, feel judged for our parenting decisions (to work/ to stay at home) feel guilt about working, feel guilt for parenting when we feel we should be working? No man is judged for their work-life decisions. It's a given that they will continue on the path they set out on. Or change it...whatever. We often have to take a diversion when we decide to become a mother. For some it's a career break, some a career diversion and for others a complete career change. I feel like we have been on a treadmill for the past 100 years. Emmeline Pankhurst must be doing flik-flaks in her grave. Or else, weeping.

This year we choose love. For me this means supporting inspirational women I've connected with over the years both in person and through social media. In this blog series they share insights into their lives as they juggle parenting and running a business that they find meaningful.  Not only do these women work in creative fields, they creatively construct a job to fit around their families. They are surrounded by friends and family who are supportive of their work, which allows them to make a positive contribution (both financially and emotionally). Yes, our lives are pretty hectic at times, but we carry on because we are passionate about what we do. In the words of an upcoming poster on this feature, "I think I skid through on the seat of my pants, balancing plates in my head most days!!" 

I hope you can stop by at the end of each month to read about their fascinating lives.


PS Please share the posts where you can and visit their social media accounts and business pages to show your support.


I grew up in New Jersey, outside of NYC, and ventured west to California to study Anthropology in college. I was lucky to travel when I was young and eventually found myself in Asia.  For the past 15 years I have been living in northern Japan with my husband and our 4 children. 

Raising children in a different culture has been both challenging and illuminating. I particularly appreciate the food culture of Japan and the attitude towards providing healthy food for children, both at home and in the schools. I am always amazed at the colorful and well balanced bentos (packed lunches) that people make and slowly learned how to pack them myself. I wanted to share this part of the Japanese culture that has had such a positive influence in my life. I also love to sew which is why I created my company SORAbento. 

SORAbento offers handmade bento bags, insulated lunch totes and other eco-friendly bags that are based on traditional Japanese designs. These styles cover a variety of shapes and sizes so you can carry a small packed lunch, a larger picnic spread or your latest haul form the farmer`s market. Quite frankly they are suitable for a multitude of uses and you can carry anything you like!

I feel like I offer something unique in the sense that I live in Japan and have infused the style of my bags with a subtle Japanese aesthetic. Wabi-sabi is a word that describes a transient and simple beauty found in nature and its organic imperfections. I strive to create a balance between utility and beauty and hope that the customers find the bags useful in daily life as well as a tiny bit inspiring!

The amount of energy in the current `makers movement` is really encouraging to me. Jess Brown`s rag dolls have been a constant source of inspiration for me. With their unique heirloom look they have a special handmade quality that appeals to me. Another favorite is Sara at Shisodelicious on Instagram. She shares her beautiful bentos that integrate whole foods from Japanese and Western cuisines in a truly enlightened way! I am grateful that there is a sustained interest in buying handmade items and healthy, locally produced food, which lies at the heart of SORAbento.

Despite all of this talk about healthy eating I must admit that I have a huge sweet tooth. I love to bake sweets and share them with friends over a cup of coffee and a good chat! 

Connect with SORABento

You can learn more about SORAbento, life in rural Japan or tips on preparing bentos at my website

You can check out all the bags available for sale at

I am on Facebook at 
(or search directly for SORAbento once on Facebook).

My instagram is sora_bento. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

An exciting delivery

Anyone who follows me on Instagram or Facebook or reads this blog will know about my obsession with all things vintage... and all things Japanese. My most favourite of all things vintage and Japanese is kimono, and all the accessories that go along with it. 

So I was absolutely thrilled when a friend asked me if I would be interested in her mum's old kimono to use in my jewellery designs. Interested?! I almost jumped up and down on the spot and squealed! But instead said, "Yes, yes please that would be fantastic!" And a few days later she dropped off this box...

Want to see what's inside? Really? OK, let's go.

The first thing I found was a lovely cotton yukata. Can you feel my excitement building...?

And then a long haori jacket with the most exquisite lining.

Some fabulous obi for yukata (how much do you love the stripes?!)

And then a stack of large white envelopes. Ever wondered how a kimono is stored? Each one is folded in a special way so that it is completely flat and then stored in a paper envelope like this. My heart was thumping already so I started to open them up one by one...

This deep purple kimono had a shibori (kind of Japanese tie-dye) motif and hand-stitched crosses.

A Jackson Pollock-inspired kimono.

Just look at the tiny splashes of gold outlining on the leaves. Not on all leaves, just a few clumps here and there...

A snowflake-inspired light kimono. The fabric on this one looks like a summer kimono, but I'm a bit confused about the motif. Perhaps this is so that you feel cool in the humid Japanese summer?

I think this purple kimono is my absolute favourite. I love the over-sized geometric design and the deep, deep luscious shade of purple.

A floral kimono with exquisite detail. Look at that painting!

And just when I thought it was getting near the end... 4 gorgeous obi (kimono belt).

I am one lucky designer. Now I have to work up the courage to break these beauties up. Not sure I can do it.

Thanks for reading. 



Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mending the nets: an epiphany

I'm not one to go in for New Year's resolutions, but it's tricky not to when you have a business that has a busy season at the end of the year. It seems natural to take stock of what you have just achieved while you have a breather and think about how you can develop your business. 

It was during one of these development chats with my at-home advisor (read hubby) on a congested drive to Yokohama, that the epiphany happened. He always says that when I discuss business with him, I've already reached my own conclusions and I'm just saying out loud what I've already decided. I think I just need reassurance from the outside that my decisions are sound ones. 

So, the realization was this... for the foreseeable future I will not be running any more workshops. There. Said it. Wasn't so hard after all. 

Over the last couple of years I have fretted, worried, prepped, marketed, booked venues, searched for materials, had no-shows, cancellations, amongst other things that I honestly don't always find very pleasurable. The pleasure only came during the workshops where I met so many lovely people. But it was such a lot of work getting to that point. 

Where I find absolute happiness is when I create, designing new lines, meeting people face-to-face and talking passionately about my work. I never talked as passionately about the workshops, nor really about them at all. It was all a bit of an afterthought, and that's not where I want to be in business. I want more authenticity than that. 
I want to shout about my work from the rooftops, be proud of what I create, give myself time to let the creativity flow.... not fill my head with worry. 

So, right now, fishing season is done and I'm busily mending my nets to get ready for new ideas and the next busy season.

Thanks to everyone who came to my workshops over the last couple of years. I really appreciate your support and it was so nice to meet you.

My Creative Life Guest Bloggers

There are so many fabulous women living creative lives here in Japan. I'm so proud to know so many women who are carving out their own little niche by running amazing businesses, many changing careers to fit around having children... and then never returning.

I think they (we) are brave and passionate souls with fabulously interesting lives. I know their stories, but would you like to find out more?

Each month on this blog I'll be inviting an inspirational creative to guest blog. I hope you can follow along each month.

The first My Creative Life Guest Blogger is scheduled to appear at the end of January.

Mata ne,