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Archives for December, 2008

Happy New Year

December 31, 2008

I join these two turtles—residents of the garden pond at Kyoto’s famous temple, Ryoanji—in wishing you all good things in 2009.

…and stay tuned for more postings throughout 2009.

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A Wonderfully Rustic Papier-Mache Basket

December 30, 2008

You can call this a boro basket of sorts: what a gorgeous, rustic and wonderful-looking thing.  This is a woven basket which is covered with a random smattering of pieces of paper, applied in many, many layers and all held together with glue.  It measures 10″, 25 cm high by 11″, 28 cm in diameter.

The brown patina of the basket could very well be the result of the application of kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin.  Kaki shibu was used on myriad household and everyday items in old Japan, including umbrellas.  Kaki shibu gives a very distinctive, rich brown color and it is the same stuff applied to sakabukuro or the very collectible sake straining bags.

The form of the basket is a kind of loosely rendered and squat cylinder.  The shape of the lip, however, is irregular and its backward curve suggests that the basket beneath the papier mache may have originally been a burden basket or a hanging storage basket.

In keeping with the spirit of recycling and reuse, the backdrop for the basket in these photos is a trio of panels of  hand woven zanshi cotton, zanshi being a kind of cloth which is woven from the leftovers of spools of yarn.  Of the many varieties of Japanese folk textiles, zanshi ranks near the top of my personal favorites and I will be offering these pieces on my website in the near future.

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In the News

I wrote an article on boro textiles, an abridged version of which has just been published in the English magazine, Modern Carpets & Textiles for Interiors, Winter 2008 issue.  The full version of the article will be coming out very soon in Hali, and I’ll make sure I post its publication here.

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See You After Christmas

December 23, 2008

…but in the meantime, enjoy a tower of Darumas and one of the biggest temari you’ll ever see: it’s 9″ in diameter!  Enjoy Christmas and Hannukah, and see you soon…

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Indigo Dyed Cotton Kasuri Warp and Weft Yarns

December 19, 2008

My friend, Nao, in Kyoto, sent me these wonderful and mysterious indigo dyed cotton kasuri yarns: three bundles of weft yarns and three drums of their complementary warps.  I believe they may be the yarns used to make Kurume gasuri, the kind of ikat done in Kurume on Kyushu Island, but I’m not sure.  Not yet, at least.

Another good friend, Hiroko Takeda, a genius textile designer and weaver who lives nearby me in Brooklyn,  has been trained in the ‘folk textile’ traditions at Joshibi University in Tokyo.  Hiroko said she’ll come by one day and help me match weft yarns to the proper warps.  As Hiroko is expert in complex weaving techniques, I look forward to working with her on this as her feedback and insights will certainly be interesting.

I’m thrilled to own these ‘kasuri-in-the-raw’ yarns and I welcome any comments you may have.

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A Big, Heavily Patched Boro Yogi or Sleeping Kimono

December 12, 2008

This is a wonderful boro yogi, or sleeping kimono.   A yogi is a kimono-shaped duvet or comforter; yogi are lined and then stuffed with either cotton batting or bast fiber and are used for warmth during sleeping.

Although the shape of a yogi is that of a garment, it is not worn like a garment.  Instead, it is placed over the sleeping person, exactly in the same way a comforter is used.  This particular yogi is exceedingly rich in patches and stitching of indigo dyed cotton, its lining and batting have been removed, and because of this, we can see the amazing blizzard of patches inside and out.

Notice the wonderful texture created by so many patches and all the hand stitching.  As I mentioned in earlier entries, precise dating for pieces like this is almost impossible as the making/remaking/repair/addition to a garment like this can span a generation or more, however I believe this yogi is from the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century.

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Two Magnificent Boro Futon Covers

December 8, 2008

Today I am presenting two beautiful boro futonji or futon covers.  As is the case with most boro futon covers seen on the market, these are fragments from a larger piece: an intact futon cover is usually constructed like a very large pillow case into which stuffing was inserted, exactly like the duvet covers that we know today.

In rural areas in Japan where cotton was scarce, where it was not native and where it was too pricey to buy, cotton rags were used to create a futon cover as were the ones shown here.  Cotton rags, however, were purchased from rag sellers who were ubiquitous in old Japan.  The stuffing of the futon might not have been cotton batting as we are accustomed to, but most likely it would have been crudely plied or leftover bast fibers (hemp, ramie, etc.) that would have been stuffed into futonji for warmth.

Boro futonji such as these are almost impossible to date exactly since the scraps of cotton used could be quite old, probably dating to the mid-nineteenth century or so; the actual construction of a boro futonji could have been ongoing for a generation after it was first made since the futonji would have been mended, patched and altered as needed.

I estimate these two futonji to be old pieces; the one on the left seems to be from the nineteenth century; the one on the right could date to this same period or could be slightly ‘younger’, dating from the early twentieth.

Look carefully at the detail photos of the piece on the left and you will see small scraps of very old cloth which has been intensely layered and stitched.  The piece on the right has marvelously eccentric stitching done in white thread.

Below is shown a clump of okuso, or left-over hemp fiber or hemp “waste.”  It is this material that would have been used as stuffing in old futonji such as these.  Also, it is this material that was spun into crude yarn to create work garments, shown here.

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A New Posting at Sri: A Patched, Boro Asa Kimono

December 4, 2008

I’ve posted these detail images of an asa (hemp) boro kimono that I am offering for sale this week on my website.

Seeing this kimono against light shows off features that are hard to see with the ‘conventional’ photography I used to illustrate it on my website.  By placing the kimono against light, its layered patching is beautifully revealed and a whole new dimension of appreciation is unveiled.  I think it’s a great piece.

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