In the 1940’s over 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned in internment camps.  From the newborn baby to the aging grandfather, all their lives were changed dramatically.  Now only photos, stories, and rock rubble remain of that time.  The art quilts and poetry in this series try to capture the spirit of what remains over 60 years later.

For the past six years my work has focused on the hardships that Japanese Americans faced during internment in World War II.  This work was done in collaboration with Margaret Chula, an internationally known haiku poet. Each piece was made from the viewpoint of a different person who was interned in the camps such as a father, a young boy, a grandmother, or a young girl whose brother went off to war.  Photographs, letters, and historical documents were used as background information in addition to visiting with people who took part in this piece of American History.

Return to the Home page for information regarding Cathy Erickson and Margaret Chula's
recently published book of poems and quilts, What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps.  

Radiance - 44" x 22.5"

         A Girl's Lace Blouse - 10" x 8"


Shikata ga nai
Margaret Chula

Rage was not something we were allowed to feel
at Gila River and before that, when we were herded
into horse stalls. We followed, obedient citizens
bound in by barbed wire and silence.
Shikata ga nai. It can’t be helped.

My father was a ‘no-no man,’ checking ‘No’
on the government’s Loyalty Questionnaire –
‘No’ to giving up his rights – and was taken away
by the FBI to a detention camp for criminals.
We never saw him for three years.
Shikata ga nai.

After eight months in the internment camp,
my brother joined the Army. Fred was swoony.
All the girls adored him. In the photograph
of us together, he’s standing proud in his uniform.
I’m wearing my best lacy blouse.

Mother and the other women in camp
each sewed a stitch for a thousand-stitch sash
a good luck charm to keep him safe.
Fred and his friends joined the 442nd.
All Nisei. All sent to Italy. All dead.
Shikata ga nai.

After the war, General Stillwell pinned
a Distinguished Service Cross to my blouse.
Yes, the same lacy blouse. Mother stood
like a ghost behind me. She was not allowed
to receive her son’s medal.
She was an Issei, an enemy alien.
Shikata ga nai.


Issei:   immigrants born in Japan
Nisei:  second-generation Japanese, born in the United States


Carpenter's Quilt - 32" x 14"


Bunny Dreams (Sides 1 and 2) - 20" x 49" each


Falling Blossoms - 8" x 10"                                                                                           


Serendipity - 14" x 18"                                                         


Remembering Tradition (with detail) - 18" x 29"


Voices from the Shoji (with detail) - 34" x 60" by Cathy Erickson and Margaret Chula
The poetry for this piece is actually printed on the quilt .