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Archives for January, 2012

A Tsutsugaki Futon Cover: Tsurukame, Kamon and Faux Shibori

January 30, 2012

Today I’m showing a stark and interesting four panel, indigo dyed cotton futon cover that is decorated using a free hand paste resist technique called tsutsugaki.  The images on this futon cover are concise yet celebratory: the tortoise and crane (tsuru and kame in Japanese) and a centrally placed, large kamon or family crest.The kamon is interesting: first, it is a rendition of stripes whose source has a martial background.  During wartime in feudal Japan a general’s encampment would be surrounded by curtains of alternating colors in order to distinguish his from the rest.  This kind of stripe or hikiryo is the basis of this mon or family crest.Notice how this mon is designed using a fake kanoko or fawn dappled shibori pattern.  Really charming.And the crane and the tortoise–it is fairly well known that these animals symbolize longevity in the language of Chinese and Japanese design.Not only does the crane represent long life, its elegant form conveys a sense of beauty.  Also, the crane is a symbol of conjugal fidelity as cranes mate for life.These tortoises are charmingly rendered–and once when I was traveling in China I saw hairy shelled turtles, much like these.This futon cover was most likely created for a wedding trousseau.  In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) there was an easing of government strictures upon Japanese citizens and at this time ordinary people could produce showy bridal trousseaux and could present them in a lavish fashion with great ceremony to a newly married couple.

In feudal Japan, which essentially ended at the end of the Edo period in the mid-nineteenth century, ordinary people would not have been allowed to create such an ostentatious show of wedding gifts as started being customary with the onset of  the Meiji period–nor would common folk have had the money to have commissioned such beautifully decorated utilitarian textiles as this one.


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A Good, Large Shimacho: Home Weaving Samples

January 24, 2012

As many of you know, a shimacho–or stripe album–is a keepsake of home weaving swatches which was composed by families to remember the cloth they’ve woven.It’s been said that girls leaving their homes upon marriage would carry such an album with them to their husband’s family’s home in order to replicate or be inspired by her family’s woven cloth.Most likely these descriptions are true to some extent, but my personal feeling is that the use of these was a bit broader and a bit less sentimental than that.  In a culture and time where weaving was done in every home, my hunch is that there was a lot of swapping of fragments between families and neighbors, as there must have been a lot of mutual admiration and intrigue between household weavers, and these weavers wanted to compile as much inspiration as possible.Shimacho show us a very good cross section of the type of cloth which was being woven and worn in the 19th century, when most of these books were made.  The preponderance of dark tones and subtle stripes is due to sumptuary laws: during the Edo period (1603- 1868) the government dictated what a person could wear.  For the most part, common people had to dress in cotton or bast fiber clothing with dark colors and small repeats: bright colors, silks and textiles showing large repeats were relegated to the upper or ruling classes.This shimacho is typical of most: slivers of cloth were pasted into an already-existing book, the leaves of which were filled as swatches were gathered.It measures 9″ x 6″ or 23 cm x 15.25 cm and contains 15 leaves–and many worm holes, a common feature of almost any shimacho.

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