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Mottainai The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan

November 6, 2011

The exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, Mottainai, The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan opened on 4 November.  Here are some installation shots.
I’m exhibiting with my friend, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.   Kei and I decided that I would show indigo dyed cotton boro pieces and she would show bast fiber and paper pieces.  The items I have contributed to the show can be seen below.Above and below is a large, woven cotton boro mosquito netting or kaya.

Above and below are sashiko stitched pieces.  Centrally place above is a large, sashiko stitched kotatugake.  To the left and right are garments from Yamagata prefecture.Stitched aprons and zokin can be seen above.

Above and below are sakiori garments.

Above is pictured a boro yogi or sleeping kimono, while below you can see noragi or work coats.Below is a fantastic boro futonji or futon cover.This piece, below, a shinafu or linden fiber tsunobukuro or horn bag is filled with balls of shredded indigo dyed cotton yarn and twisted paper yarn.   Kei brought this to the show to act as a transition between her bast fiber textiles and my indigo dyed cotton ones.  It’s an amazing object.  Kei’s other textiles can be seen in the images below.

Above and below are some woven paper garments.  On the photo, above, situated on the right is an okuso zakkuri or a coat made of woven hemp waste.  Below, seen in the middle, is a fujifu or woven wisteria garment and a shinafu or linden fiber garment to its left.

Below are two elm fiber garments: to the right is a traditional Ainu attush, to the left is an unusual dochugi or traveling coat, made from ohyo or elm fiber.  Since this dochugi is made from traditional Ainu cloth, we can assume that the cloth was traded with the Ainu by a merchant from Honsu island.

A marvelous, resist dyed ramie kazuki from Yamagata prefecture can be seen above and below.  A kazuki is a kimono-shaped veil which was worn on the head by upper class women.Below are repurposed paper items. A splendid bashofu or banana fiber kimono from Okinawa can be seen below.All of the pieces are for sale through the Portland Japanese Garden.  If any are interesting to you, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Garden.

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An Absolutely Gorgeous Hemp Komebukuro: Benibana Dyed Details

July 6, 2011

Komebukuro–or so-called “rice bags”–which are usually made from scraps of leftover cloth and configured to convey a festive air, are hardly ever more lovely than this one, which is hand stitched from hemp cloth.This one is in pristine condition and is sewn from about 18 separate pieces of hemp cloth–and the great joy of this bag is its ultra-pale pink-colored panels, the result of benibana or safflower dyeing.The pale pink against the indigo dyed kasuri cloth needs no explanation as to why it’s so lovely.  It just is.  And note the bag’s original drawstring which is hand braided from pale blue cotton yarns.And the bottom: just lovely.  Komebukuro were used to offer dry rice or beans to temples and shrines, mainly during festival times.  The pieced effect of the bags was to convey a joyous mood.  In truth, I’ve just acquired a group of old, cotton komebukuro that, when I’ve been sorting through them, have dropped a considerable amount of old, single grains of rice.  Clearly those komebukuro had been used.This drawstring bag seems not to have been used, it measures 8″ x 7″ x7″ or 20 cm x 17.5 cm x 17.5 cm and it most certainly dates to the 19th century.

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