Threads Through Time-Jan Hopkins

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Cut From the Same Cloth, 2018
From the Japanese American Internment Series
Felt needle felting and cotton cloth
On loan from the artist

My Mom talked about her experience just before they were ordered to the retention area known as “Camp Harmony” in Puyallup.   Mom was shy and introverted as a young woman.  When Pearl Harbor was bombed, the response was swift and hysteria filled the air against the Japanese Americans living in Seattle.  My Mom’s best friend was Chinese.  Because of the deep hatred toward Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans began to wear buttons that said “I am Chinese”.  My Mom’s friend disassociated herself from their friendship out of, I imagine, fear and self-preservation.  It was a painful experience for my Mom to lose a close friend in that way.   

On the left is a Chinese American woman in blue stripes with a “I am Chinese” button on her chest.  The vacant spot represents my Mom who left Seattle to “Camp Harmony”, the retention area at the Puyallup Fair Grounds.  Below the figures are the words ‘Chinese”, “Japanese” and “AMERICAN”.  Both women were American Citizens.  I used the colors of the American Flag as the cloth they were both cut from.

The back of this banner shows the vacant figure next to the words “with liberty and justice for all”.   The word “all” is crossed out by the words “no japs”.  On the very bottom is a quote from Executive Order #9066 –    “The size and number of packages is limited that which can be carried by the individual or family group.”  Above the quote is an illustration of figures walking and slowly fading away.”

Detached from the banner, this figure is symbolic of my Mom wearing prison stripes, with a replica of the identification tag given to her to wear to identify her family name, block number and Relocation Camp assignment.

On the reverse side, I used a quote by Keziah Garde to emphasis the pain and loss of a friend. –Jan Hopkins

“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”-Keziah Garde


Out of the Mouth of Babes, 2015
From the Japanese American Internment Series
Cantaloupe peel and grapefruit peel, cedar bark, waxed linen, acrylic paint and paper, mounted on wood panels and frame
On loan from the artist

10 years after the end of WWII, my oldest brothers at 10 and 11 years old, like most “All American Boys” at the time, went out to play war with their friends. Brother’s friend called out “Hey, let’s play war, you be the Japs”. Bewildered at the thought of being the “enemy” my brother said in reply, “We don’t want to be the Japs.” Perhaps more bewildered than my brother, his friend replied “but, you are Japs”. Confused, my brother ran home and asked my Mom; “Mom, Delbert said I’m a Jap. I’m not a Jap, am I?” My Mom looked at him, taken aback by his question, and then replied in a quiet voice “You are Japanese American”

This piece addresses the prejudice felt by Japanese after the war. The innocence of my brothers who didn’t understand the prejudice because of their race and a war with Japan, a Country that was foreign to them.  They were Americans. Their friend who, didn’t know he was using a racial slur was just repeating what he heard at home. –Jan Hopkins


Japanese-American Internment Camps

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy mounted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, an American naval base on the coast of Oahu. Over 2,000 Americans were killed, bringing the once neutral US into WWII. With mounting anti-Japanese sentiment, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which allowed for the creation of internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Around 120,000 people were forced out of their homes and communities and interred in camps across the country, most located on the west coast. Sixty-two percent of those imprisoned were US citizens, some being 2nd or 3rd generation American.

On December 18, 1944, with the case of Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court declared that loyal citizens of the US, no matter their ancestry, could not be detained without cause. As a result of this ruling, Executive Order 9066 was rescinded, and those in camps were allowed to return home. Upon their return however, many internees discovered they had lost personal property, homes and farms, and found the prejudice and racism they experienced were still prevalent and unapologetic.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was an official apology from the US Government for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII. In addition to the apology, former internees who were still alive when the act passed were paid $20,000 each in reparations. Since disloyalty to the US was mostly disproved, it was determined that fear and racism were the main reasons for the imprisonment of these American citizens.

About Jan Hopkins

Jan Hopkins began her career as a traditional fiber artist and basket maker. From 1988-1994, she attended at The Basketry School in Seattle, Washington where she studied traditional and contemporary basketry. Her work changed when she saw a need to preserve the natural materials used for basketry from being over harvested. This led Hopkins to seek alternative organic materials such as dried fruit peels, seed pods, and fish skin. These non-traditional materials have challenged her to move beyond basketry to include the sculptural figures she is known for today. Her richly patterned torsos honor historical women who have inspired her, such as Frida Kahlo, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Helen Keller, while her series of shoes stand for all women.

Hopkins currently lives in Everett, Washington with her husband, artist Chris Hopkins. Together they were awarded 2018 Artists of the Year by the Schack Art Center.

For more on Jan Hopkins, visit her website: