[ Content | Sidebar ]

Archives for January, 2009

Sri’s “Mini-Exhibition” at Kiosk, 95 Spring Street, NYC

January 29, 2009

Kiosk, the wonderful store on Spring Street in SoHo has asked Sri to produce a “mini-exhibition” starting today, 29 January through 7 February.

We decided to show antique and vintage Japanese bags of all kinds: the pieced-constructed komebukuro, sakabukuro or sake straining bags, imon-bukuro which are the commercially produced “comfort bags” that were used to send gifts to soldiers during WWII.  We also brought some of our objects to sell, and we thought it would be a good idea to mix up the exhibition with some of Kiosk’s inventory from Japan.

It’s a fun juxtaposition: the old, hand-made items from Japan mixed together with commercial products from all over the world.  Certainly the Japanese ladies who decades ago hand stitched the bags on sale at Kiosk would never have imagined their handiwork on display in New York City!

Have a look at this nice Shaker drying rack available at Kiosk.

…and we love these baskets: truly multi-purpose.

In: - Comments closed

A Boro Asa Tsunobukuro: Patched Hemp “Horn Bag”

January 26, 2009

I’m showing here a corner of Sri, illuminated by the bright, afternoon January light, and arranged here is an antique tansu bearing boro, sashiko and sakiori jackets, but the real attraction is what is on the far wall, the long and wonderful boro asa tsunobukuro, or the patched and mended “horn bag” which is woven of hemp.

Tsunubukuro (tsuno=horn; fukuro=bag) are storage bags made from one continuous length of hemp cloth that is sewn on the bias.  Because of this bias construction, tsunobukuro are “springy” and their ability to accept bulk or volume is somehow elastic.  This tsunobukuro is a nice size: it measures 60″ x 17″, 152.5 cm x 43 cm and I think it dates to the early twentieth century.

Have a look at the rich, dark color of this bag: its patina is probably due to age, or, it could have had a quick dip in a kaki shibu bath.  Kaki shibu is green persimmon tannin which gives a brown color and is used to strengthen cloth: it also makes the cloth a bit impermeable to water.

The hemp thread stitches are really wonderful, too: have a careful look.  And do spend some time considering the patches and their arrangement on the bag, which I think is really fantastic.

In: Tags: , , , - Comments closed

An Indian Kantha and a Japanese “Boro” Kakejiku with a Cinnabar Handprint

January 22, 2009

This corner of Sri showroom shows a little cluster of diverse works: above the couch is a wonderful and densely stitched Indian or Bangladeshi cotton kantha, on the abutting wall is a Japanese “boro” scroll or kakejiku that bears the imprint of a human hand in cinnabar ink and  below that is an Indian Tanjore painting depicting the Hindu god, Vishnu, reclining on a bed of a coiled snake, Ananta-sesha, while Vishnu’s consort, Sri Devi, is at his feet.

I am in the process of researching this scroll as I would like to learn more about its details: I believe it relates to a Buddhist pilgrim and his participation in a prescribed pilgrimage route, however I am going to get the kanji, or Chinese writing, translated for accuracy.  I refer to this scroll as “boro”–which means “ragged”–even though this is mentioned sort of tongue-in-cheek.

This scroll is being offered for sale on my website, here–and the mysterious message on this scroll is now decoded!

Below are detail images of the heavily stitched kantha, which measures 49″ x 40″, 124.5 cm x 120 cm and could be used as a throw or a baby quilt.  If you scroll down to the second posting, I discuss kantha in-depth here.

Kanthas were made in West Bengal in India and in present-day Bangladesh by both Muslim and Hindu ladies: old, white cotton saris were salvaged, layered and stitched together to create a large area upon which to apply embroidery, or darning stitches.  Originally, the saris’ colored border threads would be drawn out of the ruined cloth to be used in the embroidery process, but I doubt this lovely tradition was still widespread during the heyday of kantha making, which ended mid-century, last century.  If you look closely at this kantha, you can see that the white ground is made from several scraps of white cloth hand sewn together.

A Hindu lady made this kantha as the imagery is based in ideas of her religion: the central lotus symbolizes the universe and the stitched images all around this are images derived from the earthly realm familiar to the kantha-maker, and often images are household objects–in this case we see ceremonial pots, scissors which could be a jati or a betel cutter and either a shovel or a small spoon for applying lime paste to the paan so loved by Indians.  Birds, elephants, dogs, betel leaves, and flowers adorn the field around the lotus, as well as some Bengali writing, most likely the maker’s name.

Notice the pinwheel-like flower forms which are cross-stitched and the whorling forms which most likely are meant to suggest the turning motion of the universe.  The four corners are anchored by lively tree-of-life images.  The imagery of this kantha is full of domestic vitality with a respectful, central tribute to the vastness of the universe.

In: Tags: - Comments closed

Historical Photos: “Boro” Garments in Context

January 14, 2009

As this site has much to do with the boro or ragged indigo dyed cotton utilitarian textiles of Japan, I thought it would be interesting to post a few photos of boro garments in historical context.

The photos shown here were shot by the anthropologist,  John W. Bennett, while he was a member of the Japan Occupation in the late 1940s.   The voluminous photos he shot in this brief span of time were conceived as a book.  Bennett’s words:  “The book has several identities. It is, first, a personal and photographic memoir of a unique episode in the author’s career. It is, as well, a report–but sans professional details–of a unique experiment in social analysis and research. And it is–at least to some extent–a picture of Japan after the Pacific War and before the country experienced its full national revival. The present book could be considered a last report in the series produced by the Research in Japanese Social Relations Project at The Ohio State University, funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Rockefeller Foundation.”

Please note, these photos are not of the Japanese of Honshu–Honshu being the  locus of the kind of boro textiles shown on this site–but of Hokkaido as this is an Ainu family.  Still, there is enough cultural similarity in the fashioning of clothing for this photo to provide context for the boro textiles of Honshu.  Pay special attention to the lady in the kerchief with her patched noragi.

And do note, too, that boro garments such as those seen here–and probably many on the market now–were made and worn well into the middle of last century, just as Japan was on the cusp of great and rapid social changes.

And by all means visit the fascinating website from Ohio State University where the photos and writings of John W. Bennett are housed.

In: Tags: - Comments closed

A Late Edo Period (1603 to 1868) Buddhist Pieced Silk Textile

January 11, 2009

What a gorgeous textile this is, made of countless pieces of silk and silk brocade fabric, each piece backed with paper and hand stitched together, creating this amazing, complex and dazzling geometric mosaic of cloth.

No doubt this dates from the late Edo Period, an educated guess would place this sometime in the late eighteenth century.  This is a temple fabric, used in a Buddhist temple and made from pieces of cloth which were most likely donated to temple by patrons.

I am not sure the exact use of this cloth, however it could very well be for a priest to stand upon while performing rituals to the temple deity, or, too, it could be used  in a sanctimonious way, perhaps for a holy object or statue to be placed upon, however I believe it was used in the former manner.

Really pay attention to the kind of work that went in to making this.  This is not a large piece, it measures 37″ x 29″, 94 cm x 74 cm and each one of the complex squares which comprise the piece measures only 4″, 10 cm square.  Therefore, when you notice that most squares are formed of multiple, small pieces of paper-backed cloth, you have to imagine how small some of these individual scraps really are; this adds to the appreciation of  the skill and patience necessary to sew this magnificent textile artwork.

The color palette is beautifully muted, with some flecks of gold–it is never garish, though.  The wonderful, soft tones of color are due to age, but the color is also due to the botanical dyes used to dye these marvelous, richly woven silks.  Botanical dyes age gracefully and beautifully.

In: - Comments closed

A Somber Day and a Black Pojagi

January 7, 2009

January in New York is upon us, and there is a certain introspective mood conveyed by these overcast skies and somber days: it is winter, after all, and the silver light of a rainy, cold afternoon has its own kind of attractive melancholy.

I suppose writing this introduction is an apology for wanting to post a new, sun-drenched entry, but this is a diary of sorts, so things are what they are.  And they aren’t so bad.

This is what you see when you first enter Sri in Brooklyn.  In the entrance way to the showroom there is an antique, rustic, elm wood Chinese daybed which serves to display many of the objects and textiles in my collection.

Today this little mise-en-scene has the look of a Flemish interior probably from this winter light…but it’s that fabulous, black Korean pojagi that is suspended high above the daybed that is the most interesting part of this photo–to me, at least.

I love pojagi and this one could be the favorite from my whole collection.

This pojagi is of the variety called chogak po; it’s completely hand stitched, it’s made of ramie scraps and it is probably dyed in a charcoal-based ink.  Its original purpose was to serve as a kind of storage wrapping cloth. Even though these home made pojagi are utilitarian by design and implementation, they still held esteem in the Korean household and were passed down through generations.

The randomness of the design is so wonderful, as is its color.  The seams are all closed by minute whip stitches and the hours and days and weeks that it took to make this pojagi is impressive, to say the least.

I urge those visiting New York to stop by a privately operated Korean museum in New York’s Korean neighborhood, the Lee Young Hee Museum of Korean Culture. It’s a little jewel in the middle of a very busy, bumptious section of Manhattan—and plan to lunch at one of the many Korean restaurants which line the street where the museum is located. For far-too-long I’ve been meaning to visit Mandoo Bar for the dumplings that I’ve heard so much about–maybe one day…

In: Tags: - Comments closed

A Beautifully Colored 19th Century Pieced Silk “Yose Juban”

January 3, 2009

In previous postings on this site I have shown examples of yose (pieced) juban (under-kimono) which are hand sewn from pieces of  ‘recycled’ silk cloth, 95% of which are hand dyed using botanical dyes and employing complex  techniques to imprint repeat patterns onto the cloth.  I was looking through my collection of yose juban, and I found this one, which I hadn’t considered for a long time, and I was struck by the dark, rich beauty of its color palette.

On the bodice of this piece, you can see the blue crepe silk (chirimen) which is dyed in indigo; the purple cloth is dyed in gromwell root, called shikon in Japan.  Note the basting stitches on the right of the photo: these stitches are done with hemp thread.

I love the narrow tonal range of the dark purple and brown pieces of striped silk which are hand-stitched to form a subtle collage.

The silk lining is orange, quite typical of this kind of 19th century undergarment, and the dyestuff used to create this pure orange is safflower, called benibana in Japan.  Often these linings, too, are made from rescued pieces of cloth, and if you look closely you can see how this lining is pieced together: you can see an example of a disengaged lining here which is a complex arrangement of hand-stitched pieces—-and which I find really beautiful.

Below is a detail of the fabric used to border the lining (you can see it in the photo above, as well): quite amazing when you think that this cloth was hand dyed using three processes: first was a stencil resist pattern using the katazome techique (to acheive the bamboo leaf pattern) over which was laid vertical, blue stripes, over this was laid horizontal, blue stripes to create the lattice pattern which is super-imposed over the repeated bamboo leaf pattern.

In: Tags: , - Comments closed