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Archives for March, 2011

Some Thoughts on Kyoto Right Now

March 31, 2011

If you have planned your long-awaited, trip-of-a-lifetime visit to Kyoto, please consider some things.
Kyoto and its environs, ten or so hours by car from the Fukushima disaster, are apparently a very safe distance from the nuclear reactors and the poisons being released.

I’m bringing this up as I’ve just been there and I felt very safe, even during the well-deserved hysteria surrounding what is arguably the worst natural and man-made disaster in human memory.It would be such a shame if you are planning to go to the Kansai region, home to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Osaka, etc., and decide not to go based on these current events.

Kansai remains stable–keep checking the news, however–and the magic, beauty, grace and historical power of Kyoto is something that will enrich your mind and imagination for the duration of your life.And the Japanese, who are famous for their hospitality, now more than ever will welcome you wholeheartedly.  You can imagine that tourism is down in Japan, and your travel in Japan’s western region will be greatly appreciated by the residents of Kansai.

The presence of tourists at this time of year–it’s cherry blossom time–will not only help with the coffers of merchants, but, maybe more importantly,  it will also convey a sense of normalcy, a well-needed balm for everyone’s mind right now.  Of course, do keep checking news reports to see if there are any bans of food products or to see if there are some drastic turn-of-events that will effect Kyoto, although this is highly unlikely-to-impossible.

And for yet another view on the toxins being released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, have a listen to David Brenner, Director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, here. His take on things may ease your mind a bit, and provide some well-needed facts on this topic right now.

I just felt I had to say this.  If you are planning your dream trip to Kyoto, or if you’re longing to return,  go.

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A Complex Chogakpo Pojagi: Delicacy in Cloth from Korea

March 30, 2011

As you probably have picked up from some previous postings, I love Korean pojagi, traditional wrapping cloths that are hand stitched from scraps of ramie or moshi cloth.  Today I am showing one of the favorite pieces in my collection.
At first glance this chogak po style pojagi, or one made of scraps, is deceptively simple in design, with its seemingly regular vertical stacks of diagonally-sliced blocks.  But keep looking.Notice how the stacked blocks become compressed at a certain point and then give way; how long, leaning diagonals cut through the blocks, providing a kind of counter-rhythm to the “melody,” as it were. Whoever stitched this pojagi had magnificent skill and deft fingers: some of the pieces of ramie cloth are so small that it’s a wonder that they didn’t simply unravel in her hands.

This probably dates to the middle swath of the twentieth century.   It measures 29″ x 28″ or 73.5 cm x 71 cm.  And it’s beautiful.And a quick update on the new webshop: we’re behind schedule, but hopeful for an unveiling within the next ten days.

THANK YOU for your patience and for visiting this blog, and please don’t give up yet: the shop will be up soon, and it will be showing some of the new finds from Japan, which I’m getting organized as I type this.

If you’d like to sign up for our weekly email announcing new items added to the shop, please send me an email: stephen@srithreads.com


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Renewable Energy Advocate George Monbiot’s Turnaround

In light of the terrible, ongoing disaster in Japan, I thought I’d share these very surprising and polemical comments by The Guardian’s George Monbiot, an advocate of green energy alternatives and renewable energy sources who now stands behind nuclear power.

Here’s his article, Why Fukushima Made Me Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power and his interview on NPR is here.

You may or may not agree with Monbiot, but listening closely to all points of view is, if anything, informative, and can be enlightenting.


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Japan Society: Earthquake Relief Fund and Concert for Japan

March 28, 2011

Japan Society, New York, is doing tremendously good work with their Earthquake Relief Fund. Please donate if you can.

Also, their 12-hour Concert for Japan on 9 April will be “benefiting organizations that directly help people affected by the earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan. With dozens of music acts and performances throughout the day, confirmed performers for the GALA BLOCKS, organized by John Zorn, include Philip Glass & Hal Willner; Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and Zorn; Ryuichi Sakamoto; and Bill Laswell with gigi band.”

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Songs for Japan

Visit iTunes and download SONGS FOR JAPAN a 38 song benefit for earthquake relief.

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A Meiji Era Book of Women’s Domestic Manners and Customs

March 26, 2011

A few days ago I wrote a post which featured a resist dyed hemp furoshiki that showed a large and flamboyant image of noshi, a ceremonial and auspicious motif that is meant to convey wishes of good fortune.
Today I am showing a book printed in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) which illustrates customs, manners and habits of the Japanese woman of that era, and the one previous.  Notice the lady pictured above, on right, is wearing a kimono which is decorated by a large, noshi image.

Hair dressing and weaving, seen above and below.

Hairstyles–always very important, not just for the sake of fashion, but also as cultural signifiers.

The pages shown here a just a sampling of the many diverse subjects which are included in the book, but certainly this brief thumbing through the book gives you a sense of the whole.It’s always so interesting to enjoy immediate yet indirect contact with the traditional past which books like these afford.

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Handmade for Japan: A Fundraising Auction by Artisans

Rowland and Chinami Ricketts passed along this eBay site, HANDMADE FOR JAPAN, a benefit auction for Japan relief.

Many talented artisans are offering their beautiful work to help raise funds in this time of great need.

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Some Japan Crisis-Related Information

So many of us are very concerned about the health and environmental risks from the radiation which escapes from nuclear reactors.

Listening to our local NPR station, WNYC, yesterday, Leonard Lopate spoke to Kenneth Mossman, Professor of Biomedicine and Biotechnology at the University of Arizona, and Jacqueline Yanch, senior lecturer at MIT, and the conversation–and listener call-in–provided some basic knowledge on this topic.

If you’re interested in hearing the broadcast, here it is.

Also, if you’d like to dip into alternative information to that which is presented by the mainstream news outlets, check out Japan Probe a blog which offers some other news options.

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Back from Japan: A Very Large Hemp Tstutsugaki Furoshiki– A Freehand Drawn Auspicious Motif

March 24, 2011

I arrived back from Japan late at night on the day before yesterday.  With the Japanese disaster weighing heavily on my mind, I thought it would be a good time to show a traditional Japanese motif that conveys good wishes.
Shown today is a very large, six panel, tsutsugaki furoshiki made from hemp; this furoshiki was likely part of a bridal trousseau.  The image is auspicious, it depicts a bundle of noshi, or ceremonial dried abalone.Noshi is dried abalone that is stretched into long, ribbon like strips.  The word noshi is a homonyn for the word “prolong,” so it became customary to include noshi with a gift as a symbol of longevity and prolonged happiness.The fact that the noshi depicted here reaches into so many different areas is symbolic of fortune finding its way in all directions.Shown here is the back of the furoshiki in order to highlight the many, attractive kasuri woven hemp patches that are used to mend and strengthen this traditional wrapping cloth.In my opinion, this is an excellent example of an old tsutsugaki furoshiki.  The indigo is wonderfully faded, the image is rustic and lively, the hemp cloth is rich and is in very good condition.  Most likely this piece dates to the Meiji Era (1868-1912).This gorgeous tsutsugaki furoshiki measures 60″ x 65″, 152.5 cm x 165 cm.

…and a quick update on the webshop: it’s taking a bit longer to produce than expected, so I appreciate you hanging in there with me while it is being developed.

Again, if you are interested in joining our mailing list, please do send an email to me at stephen@srithreads.com and I’ll sign you up!

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Going Home

March 21, 2011

Today I am leaving Japan and I’m headed for home in Brooklyn, New York.

I’m leaving Japan earlier than I had planned–for obvious reasons.

Where I have been staying in Japan, in the Western Kansai region, daily life is relatively unaffected by the disaster, save for the psychological and emotional toll it is taking, which is not to be underestimated.

Still, while I was here, I managed to find wonderful, wonderful, wonderful new textiles.

I am eager to return home and wait for them to arrive–probably sometime next week–and also to check in to see how the new webshop is coming along.

Of course, once the new site is ready to launch, I’ll send out an email to my subscribers–and for those who’d like to be on the mailing list, please write to stephen@srithreads.com and I’ll sign you up.

Until then, stay tuned!


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