Written by Don Ratzlaff Tuesday, 01 December 2009 20:37
Hillsboro High School and Tabor College product Charlotte Kennedy-Takahashi and husband Yasuhiro Takahashi live 10 months of the year in Japan, where they are successful business entrepreneurs.
But their hearts are also in Hillsboro, where they have created a spacious and tastefully furnished home at 402 S. Main. Charlotte’s mother, Mildred Karnowski, lives in the home year round.
“I think what we’ve done is we’ve gotten things from Japan, and these two people have helped us integrate Asian things into our interior decor,” Charlotte said last week during a holiday stay in Hillsboro.
“These two people” are Diane Claassen and Duane Kliewer, each of whom have their own area of expertise.
Claassen, owner and proprietor of Quilts & QuiltRacks in Hillsboro, has completed two quilt projects for the couple that have transformed traditional Japanese kimono sashes into a quilted wall hanging and a bedroom quilt.
Kliewer, meanwhile, has used his skills as a woodworker to create a compelling display of traditional Japanese blue-and-white plates for the main downstairs bathroom.
Charlotte is a collector of both the kimono sashes, called an obi in the singular, and the blue-and-white plates.
“We have a lot of handicrafts from Japan, and because we had a lot of handicrafts here in Hillsboro, we were interested in this integration,” she said.
Claassen was the logical choice to take on the quilting projects.
“(Yasuhiro) really likes Diane’s quilts,” Charlotte said. “He said four years ago already that he wanted one. Meanwhile, I was collecting things in Japan and was picking up 20 to 30 obis.”
Claassen said the quilting projects the couple suggested immediately interested her as a designer and hand quilter.
“I listened to them, I came over to their home and looked at their colors and decor, and put their personalities into the quilt,” Claassen said.
The large wall-hanging displayed on the south wall of the living room incorporates fabric from nine obis, ranging in age from relatively new to around 100 years old.
“It’s interesting that we have the very old with the very modern,” Claassen said. “We also have the inexpensive with the very expensive. It’s just a full range of pieces she’s collected. I just tried to integrate everything so it would bring it all together.”
The diversity includes the type of material, too.
“She just had every kind of obi and every kind of fabric, from silk to almost an upholstery, and one that’s almost a tapestry.”
Claassen has named the wall-hanging “All Are Precious” because of the variety of colors it integrates.
“I was going to call it ‘Red, Gold, Black and White,’ but then I thought of the little chorus we used to sing as children: ‘Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight,’” Claassen said.
The bedroom quilt, meanwhile, is called “Cultures Combined” because it brings together the Japanese obi and American-style quilting.
“The quilt incorporates five obis with sage and jade sheen cotton in the Louisa pattern by Moda to complement and settle the elegant and busy Japanese designs,” Claassen said. “Sage complements the sage color of the room.”
The quilt has five lines across it, each about a foot wide. Two of the lines are each made from one obi, while the other three lines incorporate material from all five.
“I was going to make all the pieces small, but we kept them big so you can see more of the patterns,” Claassen said. “We do have smaller pieces around the border.”
The quilted pieces were hand stitched by Claassen and Phyllis Richert in the shop of Quilts and QuiltRacks.
“She’s an expert quilter, and our stitches are similar,” Claassen said about Richert. “We work well together because our stitches are similar. I couldn’t get somebody with much smaller or much larger stitches because the quilt would show it.”
Claassen said she couldn’t realistically charge for the number of hours invested in the two projects.
“We make about $1 to $2 an hour,” she said. “That’s why the value of quilting goes all over the place—do you charge for what you do, or do you just enjoy it and charge what’s reasonable?”
Kliewer’s challenge, meanwhile, was to attach the blue-and-white plates, ranging in age from brand-new to antique, onto a wood backdrop that borders the walls just above the corner bathtub.
Charlotte chose the plates to use from her extensive collection and laid them out in an initial pattern, careful to indicate the top of each artistic plate.
Kliewer’s job was to figure out how to accommodate the various heights of the plates and to adhere them securely to the wood backdrop so each plate sticks out about the same distance.
“Each one of these plates had a different height,” he said. “We had to make some holes so everything is somewhat centered and so it kind of looks good. Then we had to make the holes (in the wood) to sink the plates in, and then get them stuck on good.”
Kliewer said he experimented with various silicone adhesives until he had a mixture that he was confident would keep the plates securely attached.
“I?did ask her if any of them had come down yet,” he said with a smile.
Kliewer downplays his involvement with the final look of the project, but Charlotte doesn’t.
“Duane has a very artistic sense,” she said. “If you say ‘this is kind of how I’d like it,’ it sometimes looks a little different in the end than you think it will. But you don’t really care because it’s very well done.”
Kliewer said design adjustments are par for the course with most woodworking projects.
“In my experience, I’ve come to see that a blueprint is something to go by, and a lot of blueprints you hardly ever follow all the way through,” he said. “As you go, you change some things because the other way doesn’t look quite right.”
Claassen and Kliewer have helped the Takahashis on other projects in the house. Claassen has also quilted a table runner for the couple’s large dining room table, using Charlotte’s favorite obi.
Kliewer has built cabinetry and shelving for the house and was the primary builder of an Italian bathroom on the second floor. The latter features a Chinese table that Kliewer created with only a single photograph as a guide.
“The concept is that these two people worked with us so that we have something that is both American and Asian,” Charlotte said of their efforts.
“I think it’s beautiful.”