Written on November 3, 2008
This is an indigo dyed cotton noren, a noren being a kind of doorway covering; it dates to the mid-to-late nineteenth century. I found this gorgeous thing on my recent trip to Japan and I couldn’t resist buying it because of its startling graphic appeal and the beautiful tones of steel blue against an unbleached cotton.
The pattern shown on the noren is a very commonly used Japanese motif, it is stylized pine bark or matsu kawabishi. On this recent trip to Japan I spent a lot of time looking at beautifully cultivated and cared-for pine trees that grace gardens, temples and public spaces. On some of the very old, craggy trees, the bark is extremely thick and has cracked into formations very similar to the chevron-like matsu kawabishi.
The repeat pattern is imprinted using a stencil dye resist method: rice paste is applied through a stencil onto cloth. Where the rice paste is applied, dye is resisted. This process is called katazome, and the stencils, katagami, very collectible unto themselves, are the product of artisans who hand-cut mulberry paper which has been saturated with green persimmon tannin called kaki shibu. A huge percentage of katagami production is centered in Ise in Japan, and therefore, katagami are often referred to as Ise katagami.
This fabulous noren is available on my website, so please do have a look.