Chio Tominaga


Name Chio Tominaga
Born February 2 1883
Died November 5 1986
Birth Location Kumamoto, Japan
Generational Identifier

Issei

Textile artist Chio Tominaga (1883-1986) was originally from Kumamoto, Japan, and immigrated to the United States in 1912 as a picture bride. She was born on February 2, 1883, and lived in Kumamoto until she was twenty-nine years old. Upon arriving in California, she married Yotaro Tominaga and spent the following twenty-five years working on farms in the Central Valley while raising her eight children. An accomplished seamstress, she made all of her children's clothes and began making quilts in the late 1910s or early 1920s to re-purpose scraps of fabric and clothing.

Throughout her life, she made quilts and other textiles using recycled materials, initially out of necessity, but over time with a sense of personal style and an artistic eye. Her resourcefulness and productiveness resulted in striking cushions, quilts, and blankets. It is believed that some of the design elements in her quilting may have been influenced by her Berkeley neighbors, who were African American.[1] In 1937, she and her family moved to Berkeley, California and remained there until 1942, when they were forced to move to the Pinedale Assembly Center in Fresno, California, and then to the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah for the duration of the war.

When they were finally released from the camps in 1945, they returned to Berkeley, where Tominaga lived until her death.

She died on November 5, 1986, in Berkeley, California, at age 103.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Chang, Gordon H., Mark Dean Johnson, and Paul J. Karlstrom, editors. Asian American Art: A History, 1850-1970. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2008.

Footnotes

  1. Alexia Montibon-Larsson, "UCLA Book Zone interview with Valerie Matsumoto," accessed on Sept. 15, 2013 at http://www.uclastore.com/em_imgs/uclaauthors/200902.html.