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A Length of Boro Kumanozome

July 1, 2011

This length of cotton boro fabric is really astonishing: it’s a patched and mended piece of Kumanozome, a 19th century “Op Art-like” cloth that is characterized by overlaid, undulating vertical lines that produce a moire pattern.Twice before I”ve posted about Kumanozome, a strangely beautiful cloth that I love: here are the posts.Kumanozome was made in Western Japan, in what is present day Okayama prefecture. This cloth dates to the mid to late nineteenth century.After all these years collecting and dealing Japanese country cloth, this is the first time I’ve seen an example of Kumanozome that is patched and mended as this one is.  What’s also notable about it is the relative crudeness of the dyeing: the lines are wide and imperfect.  Like most Japanese folk textiles, a good example of Kumanozome is very well done, both from the technical and visual standpoints.  This one is charmingly rough.

Pretty wonderful, isn’t it?

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An Indigo Dyed Ramie Kumanozome Yukata

January 5, 2011

Last October, I published a post that showed a three-panel Kumanozome futon cover.  Today, I am showing another Kumanozome textile, this time it is a yukata, or unlined casual kimono, woven from ramie.The trademark feature of a Kumanozome textile is the dizzying optics produced by a technique of dyeing cloth using an overlay of striped stencils to create a moire effect.In the case of the futon cover mentioned above, the stripes are wide and bold; in the case of this yukata, the stripes are very narrow and give a subtle, overall moire pattern, sort of like an undulating mist.  If the moire pattern on this garment were any bolder, it would probably be visually unsettling, both for the wearer and for those around her.I love Kumanozome textiles because they are daring and strange: they’re not beautiful in the conventional sense.  Unlike most Japanese textiles whose patterns evoke the natural world and the changing of the seasons, or are based on a repeat of highly stylized everyday objects, Kumanozome cloth is full-out, untethered visual trickery and does not call up any recognizable reference.The Japanese love their shima, or striped fabrics, and although you could say that Kumanozome textiles riff on stripes, I think that they are really all about optics and don’t have much to do with any conventional textile.  My hunch is that this kind of moire was the result of dyers playing with striped stencils, and discovering this effect as they worked.As I said, my theory about Kumanozome cloth is a hunch; there’s not much written in English about the development and production of this type of cloth. This yukata probably dates to the early twentieth century and is in very good condition.

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A Three Panel Kumanozome Futonji: Meiji Era Stencil Dyed Moire Cotton

October 10, 2010

It’s hard to believe that this wildly patterned and dazzling cloth was made 100 years ago, during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

Kumanozome is extremely distinctive–in fact it’s impossible to mistake–in its almost vertigo-inducing eye trickery.  Stencils cut into striped patterns would be laid onto cloth.  They were layered and set slightly askew from one another, and the result is this almost 3-D “energy field” of pulsating, contrasting blues and white.Kumanozome was produce using a blue palette, as shown here, but other color combinations were also dyed: red and blue, mustard and brown, red and brown.  I like the blue variant for its vibrance.Fantastic, isn’t it?  Garments were also made using this same moire pattern, however from what I’ve seen, the scale of the stripes on garments is much smaller, so as to create a more delicate effect than the almost motion-sickness vitality of this large-scale pattern.

This futon cover measures 72″ x 38″ or 183  cm x 96.5 cm.

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