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Archives for December, 2010

A Decorative, Knotted Apron: Indigo Dyed Cotton Twine

December 30, 2010

I guess you could call this apron a work of macrame as it is created by knotting indigo dyed, cotton cord to create a decorative pattern, in this case, repeated, elongated rectangles.The apron is backed with white cotton, and most likely this was worn while participating in a festival, perhaps as an accessory to a hanten or happi, a kind of decorated coat worn either for work, or when one is part of a celebratory group during a religious or seasonal festival.The apron is small; it measures 28″ x 15″ or 71 cm x 38 cm, and the intricacy of the knotted work is beautifully executed.

The crisscross attachment of the apron’s belt uses a customary Japanese stitch, and, like the knotted work, is not only beautifully done, but adds a lovely decorative element to the garment.Wonderfully lush, long, tangled fringes, below.

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A Superb Boro Yogi

December 26, 2010

This is the kind of boro garment that, when one finds it, one holds on to it.  The age, the layers, the hand loomed cotton, the variety of patches, the stitching, the wear: this type of high quality boro garment is getting increasingly hard to find. This is a yogi, which is a sleeping kimono intended to provide warmth.  Shown here is the yogi’s outer layer.In its original state, this yogi would have had a lining, and would have been stuffed with either cotton wadding, or, probably more realistically, okuso, or the leftover fiber from the hemp yarn making process. The reason that some yogi were stuffed with okuso is simple: cotton wadding was something of a luxury for rural folk and okuso was material that was more available.Even though yogis are kimono shaped, they were not  worn as a garment.  The functioned as a duvet or comforter: you slept under this yogi which was draped on top of you as you lay on your futon.This is a beautiful, old, boro textile.  It measures 57″ x 48″ or 145 cm x 122 cm.

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Merry Christmas

December 25, 2010

“Snow at Shibazojoji Temple” Kawase Hasui, 1925

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A Child’s Boro Kimono

December 21, 2010

I love finding children’s boro clothing, in this case, a cotton kimono whose interior is pieced with boldly patterned hand woven cottons, the scale of which seems quite large since this is a child’s robe.

The proper exterior of the kimono is also piece-constructed, but it’s done with subtly contrastingly checks.  VERY lovely, but not quite as photogenic as the interior.This kimono most likely dates to the mid-twentieth century.It measures 32″ x 32″ or 81 cm x 81 cm.  I”ll be offering it for sale in my webshop in early 2011, so stay tuned!

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Rowland Ricketts at Douglas Dawson Gallery, Chicago

December 18, 2010

Rowland Ricketts, the American artist/dyer who grows and dyes with his own indigo, just closed a stunning show of his artworks at the Douglas Dawson Gallery in Chicago. We are very happy to show here installation shots from the exhibition, and please click here to see each of Rowland’s magnificent artworks in detail–large-scale noren which are made from paste resist indigo dyed ramie and hemp kibira.Rowland’s work with botanical indigo is some of the most beautiful of its kind, in my opinion at least.  And having said that, I’ve not yet heard anything counter to my opinion.

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Checks: Koshi

December 14, 2010

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The Forgotten Japanese: Encounters with Rural Life and Folklore

December 9, 2010

From the liner notes of this newly translated book on life in rural Japan, written by Miyamoto Tsuneichi and translated by Jeffrey S. Irish:

Described by translator Jeffrey S. Irish as a man of “rare energy and practical insight,” Miyamoto Tsuneichi (1907-1981) was a leading Japanese folklorist of the mid-twentieth centruy.  In his lifetime he walked 100,000 miles along the backroads and throughout the hill and island villages of Japan, conducting interviews, taking photographs, and capturing a vanishing way of life.

Miyamoto’s descriptions of these meetings are presented here–in the villagers’ own words, in narratives, and in vignettes.

The collection is as revealing as it is now poignant.  All of these interviewees have passed on, and likely many of their villages and ways of life have disappeared or been transformed beyond recognition.  Through Miyamoto’s diligence and scholarship, their lives and the values of their culture have been preserved.

A fascinating–and essential–document for those interested in Japanese rural textiles and folk craft.  Available from Stone Bridge Press.

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A Beautiful Bengali Kantha: Extremely Fine All-Over Stitching

December 6, 2010

I just love kanthas, the intensely stitched and richly varied textiles of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India.  Today I am showing one which I think is just beautiful.I’ve written about kantha before on this blog, and this entry here speaks about this marvelous folk art form.This particular, layered cotton kantha shows exceedingly fine, small stitches that cover the entirety of the surface of this “quilt.”  The small stitches on this kantha are impressive as they are much finer than those on many larger kanthas, as this one is.

This kantha is repaired, probably by a woman in the family who made this kantha.  I’ve shown several details of this area here, above, and in several photos below this one.The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a fantastic collection of kanthas and just mounted a major exhibition. The museum also published a magnificent catalogue to the exhibition, one of the few, available in-depth documents on this art form.

Can you see how tiny these stitches truly are?

This kantha measures 62″ x 46″ or 157.5 cm x 117 cm.

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Luxuriously Sumptuous Recycling: An Edo Period Komebukuro

December 2, 2010

Today I am showing something shimmering and beautiful: a piece-constructed drawstring bag composed of fragments of luxurious silks, some brocade, some embroidered, some couched, all colored by botanical dyes.This komebukuro, or rice bag, dates to the Edo Period probably around the late 18th century.  A komebukuro is a festive offering bag: typically a komebukuro is constructed from fanciful scraps of cloth.  A token offering of uncooked rice or beans would be placed in the bag which would then be brought to a temple or shrine, often during festivals.This komebukuro could have been used for other purposes, and, if so, would probably have been used at a Buddhist temple: the silk pieces which comprise this bag are donations from wealthy members of the temple.Some of the pieces of luxurious silk are culled from formal kimono and/or from uchishiki, altar cloths woven of richly brocaded silks which are used to dress the inner precincts of a temple.

Stunning work. And by looking at some of these fragments, you can imagine from where they came.  For example, the white fragment shown above is most definitely taken from a formal kimono, such as a kosode. The center piece, above, shows couched gold threads, embroidered silk floss, and some small dots of kanoko or fawn dappled shibori.

As shown in these photos, this bag measures 11″ x 10″ x 10″ or 28 cm x 25.5 cm x 25.5 cm.The bottom panel of the bag is beautiful, and the design echos that of the pieced pattern of the bag, which can be seen as stars or “tumbling blocks” depending on how you perceive the design.Below you’ll see a photo I snapped at a temple in Japan: notice the pieced cloth that is used as a cover: quite similar in style, feeling, flavor and design to the bag shown on this post.  This kind of piece constructed silk cloth is part of the Japanese textile lexicon.

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