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A Super Subtle Very Sashiko Stitched Work Coat: Kagasuri

January 21, 2012

I really like this work jacket but I was wondering if I should post images of it.  I thought that in photos the dark indigo cotton cloth too murkily masks the subtle details of the jacket: the details are easier to see in person.The coat is densely stitched with tiny stitches of dark blue threads on a dark blue background.  In photos this is a bit lost, but in daylight, when standing in front of the piece, this detail is beautifully evident.  In the photos posted here, any slight undulation to the surface of the coat is due to the countless stitches which hold the two or three layers of cotton cloth together, making this a durable, warm garment.Add to that, the cloth on the exterior of the garment is something special, it’s referred to as mosquito kasuri or kagasuri: the intersections of white, resisted areas of the warp and weft yarns are as tiny as mosquitoes.  Imagine the great skill needed to weave such a delicate pattern.The interior of the coat, below, with its lighter color, shows a bit more evidence of the coat’s stitching–and many hand tied knots can be seen.The lining, too, is of kagasuri–and the entire coat is made of recycled cloth.When looking at the coat head-on, as in the first photo shown, above, the bold placement of the central patch on the back of the jacket is a visual treat, and is one of the things that tempted me to acquire this softspoken beauty.  And the color, the rich, sapphire blue was hard to resist.

Most likely this dates to the early-to-middle part of the 20th century and measures 44″ x 49″ or 112 x 124.5 cm.



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Historical Photos of Rural Japan

January 7, 2012

It’s hard for many people to believe that some of the boro garments and textiles on my webshop were actually made as late as the mid-twentieth century.  The photos presented here were taken by anthropologist John W. Bennett who was conducting research in Allied occupied Japan during the years 1948-1951.
The voluminous photos he shot in this brief span of time were conceived as a book.  Bennett’s words:  “The book has several identities. It is, first, a personal and photographic memoir of a unique episode in the author’s career. It is, as well, a report–but sans professional details–of a unique experiment in social analysis and research. And it is–at least to some extent–a picture of Japan after the Pacific War and before the country experienced its full national revival. The present book could be considered a last report in the series produced by the Research in Japanese Social Relations Project at The Ohio State University, funded by the Office of Naval Research and the Rockefeller Foundation.”
This portfolio of photos shows rural Japan, although Bennett documented the urban environment and also shot important cultural sites during his stint in Japan.For those of you familiar with Japanese farm clothing, these photos are an invaluable glimpse into the daily life of old Japan, and it’s startling to realize these images are less than 70 years old.By all means visit John W. Bennett’s website which is hosted by Ohio State University.  Bennett’s photographic prints, negatives, and documentary material  have since been donated to The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at The Ohio State University.


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Some End-of-the-Year Details–and a Wish for a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2011

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A Small Paper Hinagata: Backlit

December 15, 2011

Last week I offered this paper hinagata, or practice kimono on the webshop and as it’s hanging here in the showroom, and as I like the way it looks on this dim December day, I thought I’d post a few photos.It’s a child’s kimono rendered to size in repurposed ledger paper; the actual seams which construct the shape of the kimono are stitched, but the horizontal seams that you see in the backlit photo, below, are glued.When seen with light streaming through it, I think the perception of its beauty is altered–and maybe enhanced.As I said on the webshop posting, this piece is most likely from the Meiji era (1868 – 1912) or just slightly later.Oh, and I like my little raw cotton fiber arrangement shown above, so I thought I’d offer a quick view onto that, too.

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A View into Sri Showroom

December 8, 2011

I just received my work back from the Mottainai exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden and I was inspired to hang some of these pieces at my Brooklyn showroom.The boro noragi, or work coat, that is floating above the table in the center of the photo, above, and shown, below, was not in the show.  I hung it in a prominent position to show it off: I think it’s an A++ piece.I’ve never seen a jacket with this many patches of this small size: some of them are as small as a postage stamp. I apologize for the poor photos; the light was not cooperating with me.  I wanted to show this noragi, so I figured a bit of a tease in the form of poor photos is better than not showing the piece at all.The inside of this coat, shown here,  is like a mosaic with its tessellated surface.   This is an extremely beautiful boro noragi.

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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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Mottainai: The Fabric of Life at the Portland Japanese Garden 4-27 November

October 29, 2011

I’m really pleased to say that the Portland Japanese Garden has asked my close friend and colleague, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto, and me, to mount an exhibition which will run through November.The show, called “Mottainai: The Fabric of Life, Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan,” opens on 4 November and is on view until 27 November.Both Kei and I are planning to show some of the highlights from our collections and we will be exhibiting some extraordinary and rare pieces.  In order to illustrate the breadth of traditional Japanese textiles Kei will be showing bast fiber textiles: wisteria, linden, hemp, ramie, paper, paper mulberry, etc., and I will be showing cotton boro textiles.  I’ll be exhibiting a range of types, from everyday utilitarian textiles to large, complex garments.The images here are details of some of my pieces which will be in the show.We’ll both be in Portland this coming week setting up the show: I’m really looking forward to it.  Kei has produced a beautifully illustrated catalog for the show for which both she and I have contributed essays.  I’ll let you know when it is available.I will be updating the webshop as per usual this Wednesday at 11 AM New York time.  *As I’ll be in Portland until 5 November, any order placed from 30 October through 5 November will be shipped on Monday, 7 November.*If I’m able to do so, this coming week I’ll blog some images from the set-up at the Garden.  Stay tuned….

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Seven Very Good Sakabukuro

September 25, 2011

For me, it’s always sort of a big deal to find very good sakabukuro, cotton bags which are saturated with kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin which were used to filter sake during the process of making it.  Good bags, ones with rich color, age, and mending, as can be seen on these, are harder and harder to come by.  It’s gratifying to have this group of seven.By looking at the various shades of stitching, you can tell if the bag was overdyed, mended, overdyed, mended again.  The photo below shows this very well.
Some of these mending stitches look like scars, especially the one above.This group is probably from the 1930s or so.  After the war, newer methods of sake production began, so the use of this kind of hand stitched, cotton bags became obsolete.  Now, as you know, they are very collectible.

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A Tamba-fu Boro Fragment

September 10, 2011

This is a small piece of patched Tamba-fu, Tamba-fu being one of the most revered and well-considered of the country textiles.It was woven in the 19th century in Tamba, Kyoto prefecture, of a hand spun cotton warp and a tsumugi silk and cotton weft.   Its colors are distinctive: soft nut brown, undyed white and pale indigo: these colors, in subtle variation, tend to dominate the palette of this simple hand woven cloth.Tamba-fu’s unassuming beauty was elevated by Yanagi Soetsu, “founder” of the Mingei movement in Japan; Yanagi brought international attention to the hand craft of ordinary people, and Tamba-fu, for him,  was of special interest.Were you to visit textile dealers in Japan, you’d quickly realize that Tamba-fu is a precious cloth, both in terms of its esteem as well as its price. Offerings are scant and prices are high.

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Color and Texture: Three Rolls of Hemp Kaya

August 22, 2011

Since we are in late summer, I thought I would show some old rolls of hemp kaya, or mosquito netting, which is very much necessary in the hot, humid, buggy Japanese summers.Kaya is usually produced in this family of colors: undyed, indigo dyed, and indigo which is over dyed with a yellow dye, as can be seen on the roll on the right.  The middle roll is offered for sale on the webshop, here.
Sometimes indigo dyed kaya has a blue/green look in certain lights; the warm color of the natural hemp can push a soft blue tone into the soft green color range.The three rolls are nested in an old, hand-hewn and repaired Korean wooden bowl.  Under the bowl is a three panel fragment of an old, boro kaya, taken from the same tent as this one.

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