Kites have always played a large role in Japanese culture, traditions and celebrations. These beautifully painted and decorated kites can be seen in shrines, museums and in homes. During the Edo period in Japan, kite making grew to be very popular and different regions of Japan created their own style, featuring characters of Japanese folklore, mythology and symbolic meaning. While the most common use for kites is during celebrations, like Boy’s Day on May 5th or harvest festivals, large kites were also used for practical purposes like construction where they were used to lift tiles up to the rooftops.
Every time we travel, whether it’s across the street or across the globe, we strive to step outside of our comfort zone, meet new people and learn new things. When our designers travel to gather inspiration for next season’s styles, they go off the beaten path, meet with local craftsmen and eat the local cuisine. When they come back to San Francisco to design, their experiences are translated into beautifully designed prints and graphics. Take a look at our style descriptions and you’ll learn the inspiration behind the design of each piece.
We are makers. Twice a year, Tea designers go out into the world in search of inspiration for our children’s clothing collection. We discover new places and faces, time-honored traditions and handmade creations. We study indigenous art and style, and immerse ourselves in the customs of the host country. We make friends with local craftspeople, learning about their process and traditions. Then we bring the world home and translate it into a twirly floral dress, a vibrant graphic tee, a sweet baby romper… We create globally inspired, well-made, beautiful clothing. Every one of our textiles is designed here in our San Francisco headquarters. Using an array of techniques, from sketching to hand carving stamps and even painting on plexiglass, our design team creates our one-of-a-kind prints and patterns, infused with the spirit of the destination. Come on a journey with us to see how a style goes from an idea to a final design.
The kitsune (fox) mask is one of the most famous traditional masks in Japan. Masks have been a part of Japanese song, dance, religion and celebration for hundreds of years. Lately, they have also become popular in pop culture, seen throughout Japanese TV shows and anime. Learn more about kitsune masks and download a mask DIY activity for your little citizens.
In Japan, it’s tradition to write your prayers or wishes on small wooden plaques and place them outside the Shinto shrines around Japan. These wooden plaques are called ema. You may also see paper fortunes tied to tree branches. These are called omikuji. When we visited the shrines in Japan, we loved seeing all of ema plaques and omikuji fortunes hanging outside.We were so inspired by this tradition that we decided to share our wishes on Instagram using the #ShareMyWish. Learn more about the tradition of the ema and omikuji and scroll through our wishes!
A puzzling design of layered thread, temari balls have been a traditional Japanese craft for over one thousand years and are still popular today. When we traveled to Japan, we saw beautiful temari balls in markets and museums, further proving the point that this handicraft has indeed been around for many years, but lives on in modern day. Temari balls are created by making a core base and wrapping layers of yarn, thread, paper or fabric around it to create a round shaped ball. Each temari ball is different, but typical patterns you can find are geometric and symmetrical. A lot of designs will also include some element of nature, which is a popular focus in Japanese tradition and culture. Temari are traditionally given as a gifts, and symbolize friendship, loyalty and good luck. It’s traditional for a mother to make her daughter a ball as a New Year’s gift. We loved this tradition and after speaking with some moms in the office, we realized that this craft lives on in the U.S. too. One Tea mom makes something very similar to a temari ball, for gifts for her little citizen, called surprise balls. After doing some digging we found out it is really popular! Here we’re sharing an activity perfect for gifts for the holidays, inspired by the temari balls. If you want to learn and try your hand at making a traditional temari ball, head on over to TemariKai.com where you can find step-by-step instructions.
The Japanese city of Kanazawa is known for it’s production of gold leaf and use of it in many traditional and modern handicrafts. Artisans and craftsmen throughout Kanazawa have practiced gold leafing for hundreds of years. We saw many artifacts throughout museums and adorning ancient temples and buildings in this magical city. Gold leaf is also extremely popular in crafting and housewares today, throughout the world. You can even see a hint of gold on the logo of our holiday catalog front cover. When we traveled to Japan to shoot our holiday catalog, we took our new friends Tenley and Saju, to try their hand at gold leafing. Learn how you can do it too, right at home!