The year was 1962 when Maggie Backman took her first trip to Japan and indulged in her love of textiles and silk embroidery.
Soon after, her husband and U.S. Navy Captain Fred was stationed in the Far East country taking Maggie to Japan fulltime. While exploring a Tokyo department store several years later, Backman recognized a rare form of Japanese embroidery that she first discovered from her Japanese language teacher. The first time she laid eyes on the ancient technique was with five beautifully stitched medallions that were appliquéd to an old obi (sash).
“This discovery led me to my embroidery lessons with master teacher Kunimitzu and daughter assistant, Fumiko Ozaki, in Meguro, a suburb of Tokyo.”
For the next two years, Backman commuted from Guam, where she lived with her husband and three boys, to Meguro to receive Rozashi lessons.
Backman’s skills developed into a craft, and when the former music teacher and her retired husband returned to Washington, they started Things Japanese, an importer and distributor of silk thread, silk ribbons and a fast-set silk dye.
The couple developed the company over the next 32 years, teaching others the unique Japanese art form and distributing supplies. The company was even able to take students with them to Japan to tour silk factories and farms.
“Since returning to the United States and teaching Rozashi, I have found a great fascination in our country for this little known type embroidery,” said Backman.
Now 85, Maggie, along with her husband, live at Emerald Heights and enjoy teaching other residents how to dye, and tie scarves and occasionally the basics of Rozashi.
“Teaching classes to other residents keeps me involved in new silk techniques that are developed and helps share my love of the Japanese culture,” said Backman.