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Archives for March, 2010

A Stack of Omi Jofu Zabutons

March 31, 2010

I love antique Japanese zabuton, which are traditional cushions that are still very much in daily use in Japan.  Here is a stack of fine, old ones that are made from the marvelously good Omi jofu, a kind of super fine hemp and ramie kasuri (ikat) from Shiga Prefecture.

Zabuton1aAren’t they beautiful?  The warm tone of the indigo and the very good kasuri is just wonderful–as is the old, cotton batting which fills out the cushions.  These old zabuton are thin with batting and they don’t provide a lot of  “cushion.”  Newer, commercial zabuton are quite thick and bouncy, but in old Japan, when cotton was expensive, the padding was minimal, as can be seen in these examples shown here.Zabuton1

Zabuton1bNote the contrasting, red cotton threads used to “quilt” the cushions.  Notice, as well, the lush pattern created mainly of folding fans and plum blossoms, both tradtional Japanese design motives.Zabuton1cI estimate that these cushions date to the 1920s or 1930s; for having been used and for having such age they are still in very good condition and are still amazingly attractive–and they are still very much able to be used in the home.  Zabuton1dThere are 11 of them and each measures 11″ x 21″/ 28 cm x 53.5 cm.

Just gorgeous.

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A Stunning Matsuri-gi or Festival Coat

March 29, 2010

This beautifully resist-dyed and stencil-dyed festival coat is from the Takayama Matsuri, one of Japan’s most celebrated Shinto festivals.  This garment was worn by a musician who participated in the matsuri or festival and it shows a snarling dragon on around the hem and a lofty Asian “phoenix” or ho-o at the shoulder area, each vibrantly rendered by hand.

Matsuri1The festival from which this coat comes takes place at the Hie Jinja and is called the Sanno Matsuri, or, the “kankakokan” an onomatopoetic word that refers to the ruckus made by the many drums banged during the festival.  The festival is held on April 14-15 of each year.  Takayama is a beautiful city in Japan and is often visited by tourists who are interested in the traditional culture it offers.Matsuri1aThe dragon is remarkably rendered: it really conveys the feeling of movement and a kind of enraged inspiration as he moves with vigor through the heavens.Matsuri1bBy contrast, the phoenix is shown as being lofty and delicate; its wonderfully lavish tail feathers add a bold graphic effect to the coat.Matsuri1dNotice the gradient tones that comprise the face and feathers of the phoenix–just beautiful.Matsuri1cThis matsuri-gi most likely dates to the Taisho Period or the first quarter of the twentieth century.

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A Mess of Antique Arimatsu Shibori

March 24, 2010

Well, not a mess, exactly, but there are some fine lengths of cloth amid this scattered group of late nineteenth, early twentieth century indigo dyed cottons.GroupShib1Most of these hand spun, hand woven, shibori dyed cottons are fragments from yukatas or a kind of unlined, casual cotton kimono.GroupShib1aIn the photo, below, you will a corner of kumo or spiderweb shibori peeking out from behind a pale indigo sample of stitched and tied shibori that is created to show the tatewaku or rising steam motif.GroupShib1bThe fragment with the delicate, broken stripes was created by first pleating the fabric before vat dyeing it.  The flower forms were dyed using a second process, either by clamping or by stenciling.GroupShib1cThis is a beautiful array and I will be offering some of these on my website over time.GroupShib1d

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A Pilgrim’s Book Dating from 1802: 88 Temple Pilgrimage

March 19, 2010

Japan in the late Edo Period (1603-1868) is a far cry from the Japan of today.  Enduring  in modern Japan, however, are traditional pilgrimage circuits where the faithful follow a prescribed course and make their way to a set of distinguished Buddhist temples: the reason I bring up the Edo Period is that this shuin-cho, or pilgrim’s stamp book, dates to 1802.
HonMap1This book was taken by a pilgrim as he or she circumambulated the island of Shikoku, visiting 88 temples sacred to the renowned Buddhist monk and scholar Kukai (774-835), who brought the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism to Japan from China.

HonMap1aAbove you will see a partial map of the route, and below you will see the cinnabar stamps received by the pilgrim from a priest at the temple: the priest will also write the name of the temple, and, at times, the date of the visit.HonMap1b

HonMap1c

HonMap1dIt is really impressive that this book has survived over 200 years of history in Japan, some of the recent events of last century being quite devastating, as is universally known.HonMap1e

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Indigo Dyed Rustic Cloth: Hemp Sashiko Stitching

March 17, 2010

Sashiko stitching, a Japanese running stitch, is used to strengthen cloth: this is a universal practice, employed by many cultures around the world, and it goes by many names depending where you are.

Booty1Today, however, I am showing two distinctly Japanese items: instep guards called kougake and a very heavily stitched. small pad of indigo dyed cotton.  Both of these old Japanese things are stitched using hemp thread.  Very often we think of sashiko stitching being done in white cotton thread against a blue ground: this is quite typical, but hemp thread was also used for mending and reinforcement.Booty1a

Below is a heavily sashiko stitched pad: it seems the chevron shapes or the “arrow feather” pattern was stitched by counting threads.  At first I thought this was a zokin or dustcloth, then I realized it was probably created to be used as a gusset to reinforce a vest or jacket, as can be seen on an example here. In and of itself it is really beautiful.Booty1b

Booty1c
Seen close up, in detail, and out of context like the photo above, you’d almost think this was Op Art from the 1960s.

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Wonderful Hemp Stitched Zokin

March 15, 2010

I think that many readers of this blog who are Japanese textile enthusiasts love sashiko stitching and, if you have come to discover zokin, the heavily sashiko stitched pads made of recycled cottons, you probably have been smitten by them.

ZokinHemp1Each piece in the group that I am showing today is made from scraps of old, indigo dyed cotton and is stitched in hemp thread.  These beauties are all from my personal collection.ZokinHemp1aThe stitched pattern on the zokin pictured left, above is called “persimmon flower.”ZokinHemp1bZokin are used for housekeeping, for cleaning and for dusting: each Japanese child makes one in first grade to help tidy up their desk and classroom.  Very often each child will stitch their name onto the zokin.ZokinHemp1cThe hand plied, hemp thread used for stitching is quite raw, very thick and is barely pliant.   These zokin are rustic and are very scratchy.  Imagine stitching with this wiry, harsh thread?ZokinHemp1dThe results, though, are indeed beautiful.ZokinHemp1e

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A Stack of Asa Cloth

March 12, 2010

I think most people who are enthusiastic about Japanese country textiles have a special place in their heart for the asa or bast fiber cloth of Japan.  Its rich texture and its closeness to nature tap into our primal instincts and connect us to something of the earth.

AsaStack1Here is a neat little stack of some hemp and ramie textiles in my showroom: they are piled atop a small. antique Korean tray table or soban.AsaStack1aUnder the soban is a very heavily stitched, layered and patched cotton kotatsugake which I use as an area rug.AsaStack1bThe pieces on the bottom of the stack are dyed in kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin.  Just above them are undyed pieces; above the natural ones are a few pieces of indigo dyed hemp cloth and just above the indigo dyed pieces are those which are first dyed in indigo and then overdyed in a natural yellow dye, either kihada a kind of philodendron or possibly turmeric.AsaStack1c

AsaStack1d

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Two Pairs of Tiny Tabi

March 10, 2010

I hope by placing the adult’s indigo dyed cotton tabi underneath the pair of child’s white tabi on the right, you will get a sense of just how tiny these tabi really are.

ShoesBaby1They’re cotton, and just like the adult’s pair, the children’s version are also worn hard and reinforced with sashiko stitching and patches.ShoesBaby1a

ShoesBaby1bI don’t think that I need to supply much commentary here.  The photos say it all.ShoesBaby1c

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Going to Japan–And Returning with Wondrous Cloth

March 8, 2010

Beginning today and for the next two weeks I’ll be in Japan sourcing new textiles.  But I’ll be regularly posting on this blog while I’m gone, so keep checking in as there are some interesting postings in the works.ManekiNeko1I chose to show this little maneki neko on this farewell posting as he looks as if he is waving good-bye: those of you who know about maneki neko know that he is doing just the opposite: he’s beckoning.ManekiNeko1a
And I join maneki neko in welcoming  you to continue visiting my blog while I’m away, and to tune into my website again on 24 March when I will be updating it with new items.  Until the next time…

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An Elegant, Six Panel Resist Dyed Indigo Noren

March 5, 2010

What a striking, paste resist, indigo dyed cotton noren or door covering.  It is sewn from six panels which creates an almost monumental presence, the actual size being 68″ x 73″ or 163 cm x 185.5 cm.

Noren1Centrally placed is the large, mon, or  family crest, in this case it is an unusual, stylized rendering of kashiwa or oak.  Beneath the mon in stepped formation is the wonderfully zigzag matsukawa bishi or pine bark motif.Noren01This noren probably dates to the early twentieth century–perhaps just a bit earlier.  Its size indicates that it was probably meant to hang in front of a building; also indicative of this is the very tightly woven, heavy cotton which would have been strong enough to withstand the elements, street traffic and its dust and dirt.Noren01bNotice how the matsukawa bishi pattern interlocks and creates another iteration of itself in the negative spaces?  Notice, too, how the selvedge edge of each panel is finished: each edge is back stitched in contrasting, white thread.Noren01cThis is a beautifully designed, beautifully executed old noren.

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