Written on January 11, 2013
This is an unfinished, piece-constructed silk cloth that was destined for use as an altar cloth at a Buddhist temple. The silks, all chemical dyed, most of them machine-made, are freely yet intricately pieced together.
In Japan there was a tradition of patrons donating fancy silks to temples, often the silks were elaborate kimono. These silks would be used to create ecclesiastical cloth of the type seen here. Previously on the blog I’ve shown other examples–older than the one shown on this post–and you can have a look here and here and here. And currently, on the webshop, I am offering a Buddhist bell cushion which is not too dissimilar to this piece. Have a look here.
As you can see, the piecing can get very intense.
I know next-to-nothing about quilting, but I do know that sometimes paper is used as a backing when making squares. Such is the case here. Recycled ledger papers were used and were stitched through to create patterns of pieced cloth. Washi is a good paper to use for this backing as its so flexible, unlike cellulose-based papers that are more brittle.
The advantage for us that this piece is unfinished is that it allows us to see the back. Eventually this cloth would have been backed, probably in cotton, and likely there’d have been a hand written inscription on the blank cotton backing. The inscription would have noted the date. It would have possibly have mentioned the occasion for which this cloth was made, and, even, it may have listed the names of the donors of the silks.
The piece measures 62″ x 33″ or 157.5 cm x 84 cm. Sixty squares compose this cloth.