Here I am in the Heian Jingu Garden of Kyoto, on the first day of my last tour (Tour #30 in January 2019) in my signature Tour Leader “uniform” of pink hat and purple bag—thus easily spotted in any crowd. My infamous red gloves are in my coat pocket.
Here I am with my Japanese host sister (on the right) and her family in January 2019, celebrating 50 years since I was an exchange student in her home, a meeting that changed the direction of my life.
Quilters’ Express to Japan and Susan Ball Faeder
Quilters’ Express to Japan is a multi-faceted retail and travel-related business established by Susan Ball Faeder, an American quilter whose love for Japanese art and culture spans nearly 50 years! Susan lived in Japan on two separate occasions through scholarships and study, and speaks Japanese fluently. She grew up sewing her own clothing, but joyously “converted” to quilting in 1983.
In 1988, Susan was asked by the top quilter in Japan, Shizuko Kuroha, to come speak to Japanese quilters about the American quilting scene—in Japanese—at the first all-Japan quilt show in Tokyo. Upon returning from that trip, Susan gave a lecture to her American quilting friends showing slides of what she had seen in Japan. This created the foundation of her business: teaching and sharing with each of these two audiences about the others’ culture through quilting. She launched Quilters’ Express to Japan with her first quilt tour to Japan dedicated to promoting international peace and world friendships. Escorting 33 people from 6 countries, she arranged for her tour group to meet with five different groups of Japanese quilters. She continued every year to create, lead, and translate for a total of 30 tours at one per year—all to Japan, all for quilters!
Susan proceeded to expand her business in several directions: QETJ became a known specialized vendor offering Japanese fabrics and treasures at select quilt shows across the USA. She taught workshops on sashiko and presented lectures on Japanese textiles. And she created the Japanese Fabric Club, a mail order club sending bundles of Japanese fabric to people around the world 6 times per year for 19 years. Between 1998–2003, Susan designed fabric “with a Japanese flavor” for the quilt world under the headline Japanesque: 4 collections via The Balson Erlanger Group (Matsuri, Stone Garden, Fujiwara, and Gion) and a 5th group of 24 pieces with Free Spirit Company called “Summer’s Almost Over.” In November 2000, with her own designs as a kick-off point, QETJ sponsored “Hawks and Heroes Quilter’s,” a nationwide contest awarding as Grand Prize a free trip on her 11th tour to Japan. The icing on the cake was that 14 quilt entries from the contest were then invited for a special exhibition in Japan at the Yokohama Quilt Festival.
Quilters’ Express to Japan welcomed visitors to its downtown Manhattan shop beginning in 1991. In August 2005, after 16 years, Susan relocated to Lewisburg, PA and opened a 2nd shop called “The Beckoning Cat” in the historic downtown area; it offered a window into Japanese culture in the local community for 7 years. Susan now accepts customers by appointment at her home studio.
A quilter since 1983, Susan’s artwork has been widely exhibited, both in the USA and around the world. In 2005, Susan was one of 12 non-Japanese artists invited to participate in a unique exhibition, “I Love Japan,” held at the Mitsukoshi Department store in Tokyo, for which she created “The Arigato Series” using vintage Japanese cottons in a hand-pieced collage format. In January 2006, her work was juried into a unique Studio Art Quilt Association for a New York City venue. In 2009, she was the featured artist at Gallery Blu in Harrisburg, PA, where 25 works from 25 years of artwork were exhibited. Now able to devote full-time to the path of art, Susan is honored to be the featured artist for the month of August 2019 at the Union County Public Library in her hometown of Lewisburg, PA. “Japanese Sashiko and Patchwork” will present 40 of her most recent works on display—plus her entire 100 Cloth Amulet Series.