The needle & thread and the embroidery techniques is something that we all can learn, no matter age, gender, religion or ethnic background – being so much related to math and geometry.

Yet is amazing to find yourself on the other side of the planet and open your eyes onto other form of visual language, which is actually still in use. Yes, it’s KANJI.

Kanji is a writing system in Japan that only express the meaning of a word, in that regard that it’s a simplified drawing. It originated in China and it was brought in the 5th century, through Korea.

The visual symbols on our textiles express ideas, not words, like Kanji. But you can learn quite quick, if you understand the key, the logic used to encode meaning into shape.

Take the earth, for example. It’s not round, it’s not endless, as people who ‘wrote’ it down were not nomads, but farmers. They cared for their well defined plot, which fed them after their hard work; so, on our aprons and shirts earth is a diamond with divisions and seeds inside, while a rice field is a divided square, in Kanji.

The symbol for exit in Kanji is so clearly expressing a baby plant arising from earth. While on our shirts we have it so much alike as a symbol of birth.

It’s so easy to understand that a tree will be represented by a trunk with roots and branches and a forest will be a gathering of more than 2 trees. While the idea of root as origin will also be related to a tree, but with emphasis on the main root.

Of course such an ‘alphabet’ needs thousands of images to express all our actions and thoughts, which became so much more complex today.

One must keep in mind that the visual languages originated in a time when life was short and harsh and people cared about expressing the essence of life.

Time to time, if and when we feel overwhelmed by the complexity of life today and the accelerated changes, maybe we need to take a break and have a look on the ancient symbols to reset our priorities.

Many examples of the most used Kanji are easy to find on google, here is some:


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