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Have You Ever Looked into the Eyes of a Butterfly?

Written on August 5, 2010

Few have, but thanks to Japanese folk textiles, we are all given this rare opportunity.Some time ago, when looking at a large depiction of a butterfly on a tsutsugaki futon cover, I discovered that Japanese textile artisans sometimes show the butterfly up-close and head on: you can literally lock eyes with the beauty, as you can do here, on this four-panel furoshiki, or traditional wrapping cloth.Very unusual–especially since the face of a butterfly lacks the elegance of its wings, which is the reason the Japanese admire the butterfly, for its delicacy and its ethereal elegance.

This is a  marvelous, 19th century cotton furoshiki: it is dyed in the tsutsugaki method whereby rice paste is applied freehand directly to cloth; where there is rice paste, dye will be resisted.  The furoshiki was first dyed in indigo then it was overdyed using a yellow dyestuff, yielding a rich, mossy green color.  Said butterfly is at the center of the design; it is surrounded by a traditional “snowflake” form and the remaining ground around the central design is decorated by free-form, very animated pairs of pine needles.The cotton yarn is hand spun and the cloth is hand woven.  This piece is rich in ito aji or “thread taste,” which is something one should always look for when acquiring old, Japanese folk cotton.  There is nothing more beautiful than wonderfully hand spun cotton cloth.The depiction of pine needles is wonderfully spirited.  The Japanese often associate pine needles with conjugal fidelity since the pine is a symbol of long life and pine needles fall in pairs.The furoshiki measures 55″ x 52″ or 140 cm x 132 cm.  It’s fantastic.

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  1. Comment by sylvï:

    this is an amazing coincidence. not only did i look into the eyes of a moth today, rescuing one from a mall and taking it out to a tree, but i also saw some old japanese butterfly illustrations in a book at the library while i was trying to figure out what kind of moth it was. one even had eyelashes!

    the furoshiki is beautiful, and it even features my favourite japanese motif, the pine needles, in a way i’ve never seen before. i’m taking this as a good sign.

    August 5, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  2. Pingback from How things continue « texere:

    […] I am filled with joy, and I really felt a need.  What did I find?  You should take a look at this butterfly, so very different than any saccharine representation one might come across.  He will stare back […]

    August 8, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

  3. Comment by caro:

    It was an amazing coincidence for me too, Stephen. I shared why in today’s post here:

    Thank you for the beauty you bring to us.

    August 8, 2010 @ 10:21 pm