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Archives for March, 2012

Two Indigo Dyed Shibori Cotton Yukatas

March 9, 2012

A yukata is an unlined, cotton kimono that is used on casual occasions.  In old Japan they were worn to go to the sento or bath house as well as for evening strolls during the hot summers, when visiting an onsen or hot spring, or, say, to gather together during festival times to watch fireworks.  Yukata are made of light weight cotton, are usually blue and white, and they often are imprinted with “cooling” images like butterflies, streams, gently falling leaves and the like.These two are shibori dyed.  The one shown here, above and below, is a subtle and complex pattern of stacked diamonds.  It seems that the paler, more “spider web” diamonds were tied and then bound with string while the darker diamonds were tied and not bound.  Binding and not binding give two different effects which was used to great artistic advantage here.

And shown below is the clamp dyed or itajime shibori where cloth is folded, clamped tight, and then the edges are dyed.  The result is this kaleidoscopic image, which in fact is the tortoiseshell motif, one that conveys wishes for a long life.In the case of each of the two yukata shown here, the cotton is lightweight and rather gauzy–good for keeping one cool in the hot summers or for absorbing sweat or water should you be visiting an onsen.Each dates to the first half of the 20th century, more or less.  I’ll be offering the beautiful itajime shibori yukata on the webshop soon.

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Beautiful, Subtle, Refined Echigo Jofu

March 5, 2012

Echigo jofu, the fine-as-silk ramie cloth from Niigata, Japan in Tohoku, is a masterwork of subtlety, refinement and sophisticated beauty.  I wrote a blog posting about this superb, snow bleached cloth that you can see here.
This hand plied asa or bast fiber cloth is pretty much as good as it gets–as far as Japanese bast hand weaving goes.  The thinness of the fibers, the luxurious draping of the cloth and the more-often-than-not delicate patterning of kasuri weaving is just remarkable, no matter which way you look at it. These two pieces are exquisite.  On the piece shown above and below, what a stunning blue and white check with random, minuscule flecks of grey/black.  Super-sophisticated.And the piece below, with its tiny, kasuri repeat: heaven.Of course this cloth is revered by textile lovers in Japan and its high-quality also commands a high price.

I’ve hesitated offering pieces on the Internet because so much of the beauty of these pieces is lost in translation: you have to sense these pieces by touching them and looking closely at the same time.  They are and were luxury items, and as they are not flashy or graphic, their appeal is best understood in a personal encounter.

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Three Shinafu or Linden Bark Cloth Panels

March 2, 2012

I love shinafu which is cloth woven from fibers gleaned from the inner bark of the linden tree.  And I recognize how precious it is–of the bast fibers woven in Japan, shina was less produced than hemp or ramie, and carries with it a feeling of rural life.In Japan it is also recognized as being valuable and shinafu is always pricier than hemp or ramie cloth.Shinafu has a distinctive copper colored cast and a very wiry fiber: rarely was it used for clothing.  It’s just too scratchy.  But because the fibers are tough, it made excellent work items.A colleague in Japan offered me these panels which I bought: I was really happy to have them.  When I received them and had a look, it was clear to me that these are undone tsunobukuro, or horn bags.  Horn bags are so called because they are fashioned in such a way that they appear to have two “horns” at the top of the bag.And you can tell that these panels were made in the twentieth century.  Look below and you can see the script in romaji or Western writing, “No. something-or-other.”I suppose whomever brought these pieces to market thought they’d be more interesting as panels than as  horn bags.  I kind of wish they were left as horn bags, but I’m really glad to have them.  I’m always on the look out for shinafu.Nice, huh?

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