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A Large, Magnificently Dyed Noren: Stylized Wisteria Crest

April 22, 2011

What a marvelous design, an over sized family crest or kamon, depicting stylized wisteria, or fuji, beautifully centered on a four panel indigo dyed cotton noren, or traditional door covering.
Of course I am showing this hand spun, hand woven indigo cotton noren now: in just a few weeks we will be seeing wisteria in full bloom.The crest is resist dyed–the Japanese resist method uses rice paste to cover and protect an area of cloth from dye.  In the case of this noren, I am not so sure the mon was drawn by hand using the tsutsugaki method as is often the case: a very large stencil may have been used to guide the rice paste onto the cloth–but maybe not.The circular forms are so perfectly circular.  To me this is really impressive.  And the resist dyeing on this is clean, clear and very elegant.I love the way the stylized wisteria flowers cascade downward in a gentle curve and become incrementally smaller as they bend; there is almost a fractal-like quality to this traditional design motif.The cotton is beautiful.  The selvedges are rough and wonderful.  The size proportion of the mon in relation to the size of the noren is just right.  Most likely this noren dates to the late nineteenth century.This beauty measures 65″ x 55″ or 165 cm x 139.5 cm.

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A Boro Hemp Edo Komon Kimono: Pattern upon Pattern, Patches and Holes

February 25, 2011

This boro kimono, as it is, with its great distress, its heavy wear and its large, missing pieces of cloth, is evocative of a life of poverty in old Japan.

The original kimono, before the damage from heavy use, was a fine one: it is a 19th century hemp Edo komon kimono, or a kimono that has been stencil resist dyed with a very tiny, all-over pattern, like this one here.The inside of the kimono, glimpsed here, is rich in patches and mending: the use of the word “rich” carrying with it a profound irony as the owner of this heavily worn coat of recycled cloth was anything but rich.On the sleeve, below, we can see the original kimono’s komon pattern–and we can see that it was patched with other komon cloth of different patterns.

A closer view onto the pattern-on-pattern komon layering can be seen in these two photos, above and below.The photographs, below, show the kimono inside-out, for a better view onto the patches which are attached to the interior.  The patches are of hand spun cotton and hand plied hemp fragments.

Some boro garments and textiles can take a visual detour from being something wonderful to look to being something that gives one pause.  This kimono, which is such a stark reminder of poverty in old Japan, carries with it a feeling of the burden of an indigent life, and from this, we can think much more broadly about the human condition.

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A Superb Boro Yogi: Part Two

February 15, 2011

Just before the new year, I posted photos of a fantastic, boro yogi–but I just showed its front.  Today, I’m showing its other side, which some of you may prefer to the front.  For me it’s a toss-up.The layers of hand loomed cotton patches are delicious–as is the variety of cottons used in the mending and reinforcement of this sleeping kimono.

Look at all the different patterns of katazome or stencil resist dyed cloth used in constructing this yogi: clearly whoever made this took delight in applying these patterned patches to this yogi.

I thought this magnificent thing needed a second look.  I hope you enjoyed 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 Complex and Beautiful, Mid-19th Century Katazome Dyed Han Juban made of Samples

October 27, 2010

This intricately stencil resist dyed han juban is a feast for the eyes: what variety is there in the many, very complex patterns dyed in exquisitely clear, blue indigo.The color is beautiful: the powdery, rich, sky-blue color is called asagi.  And the delicacy of the rendering of the many patterns shown is poetic.Each of the patterns is based on a design concept wherein a patterned motif is seen through a mist of vertical bars; this “screening” of the motif adds air and light to the design.This han juban, or half-under kimono, is cotton and was made in the mid nineteenth century, during the last years of the Edo Period (1603-1868).  The katazome dyeing seen on this example is masterful.Can you see bats flying in the image above?  Swallows, or tsubame, are seen below, among other traditional motives.Peonies and geese are seen below.Within the swirling arabesques, below,  is the mokume or woodgrain pattern.These patterns are cooling to the eye.  The reason for so many patterns is that this han juban was sewn from a dyer’s sampler, a length of cloth from which special orders would be taken.The lyricism of these patterns is not quite cloying; the designer was too smart for something saccharine, and delivered images that are ethereal and structured at the same time.

I could admire this piece for hours.  It’s peaceful,  inventive and beautiful.   And its age adds something mysterious to its beauty.

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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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An End of Summer Insect Menagerie

August 31, 2010

What fun.  This wonderful textile is a mid 19th century tenugui, a kind of all-purpose hand towel that has many everyday uses and is still very much part of Japanese life.

Tenugui are known for their fanciful designs, but this one, with is stencil resist design of insects, snails and frogs is remarkable.The cotton of this tenugui is hand loomed; the pale blue color–dyed from botanical indigo–is called asagi.In Japan, the insects depicted on this hand towel are very much associated with late summer.  Similarly, around the world, butterflies and dragonflies appear at summer’s end.I love the delicacy of the depiction of these insects……and the frog and slug.

This is a wildly charming tenugui–and it seems that it was never used.  The condition is crisp and perfect.

This tenugui measures 12 3/4″ x 37″ or 32.5 cm x 94 cm.

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A Curious 19th Century Indigo Dyed Jacket: Insects and Radiating Lines

August 21, 2010

What a fanciful garment: this is an indigo dyed cotton han juban which is a woman’s half-under-kimono, that has been dyed in using the stencil resist method called katazome.
By fanciful, I mean the pattern on the han juban, not the garment itself.   It’s wonderful to see the repeat pattern of what appears to be bumblebees amid a network of angled, radiating, dotted lines.  This linear pattern evokes a spiderweb, which I think this is not.
The cotton of this piece is just what you’d want to see on an old, Japanese textile: hand spun cotton that has been hand loomed.  The condition of this piece, too, is very good, with the indigo still very strong and clear, and devoid of stains or distracting patina.  This han juban was made in the mid to late 19th century.A repeat pattern of insects, such as this, is not usually seen on old textiles, so this is a treat to contemplate.

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Two Faced: Twice-Dyed Cloth

June 14, 2010

Today I am showing two different textiles, each of which is dyed on both sides.

On the left is a bolt of Edo komon cotton: Edo komon is a stencil-dyed small-figured cloth that was popular in the early to mid 19th century.  The bolt is constructed from a kimono that has been taken apart and then put back together as a full bolt, probably for the ease of dyeing the other side and for future use.    What I mean by “dyeing the other side” is that this reconstructed bolt of Edo komon cotton was then stencil dyed on its reverse side at a more recent date than the original.

Shown above and in detail shots below, is a something very interesting: it is a panel of arashi shibori cotton that has been taken from a yukata which is an unlined, casual kimono.  On the reverse side of this arashi shibori, a stencil dyed pattern showing cranes and chrysanthemums was applied using the surikomi method, where color is forced through stencils directly onto cloth.  After the surikomi was applied, this cloth then was used to cover a futon.

Note the small figured Edo komon pattern in the cloth above, and below: in this case, the pattern is the all-over Genji-ko which has to do with an incense naming and memory exercise for refined aficionados of incense and aroma.You’ll notice that on the reverse side of the Edo komon cloth, seen clearly below, the pattern that has been applied is a simple one, a kind of  “faux” kasuri, and applied using  the surikomi method.

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An Elegant, Six Panel Resist Dyed Indigo Noren

March 5, 2010

What a striking, paste resist, indigo dyed cotton noren or door covering.  It is sewn from six panels which creates an almost monumental presence, the actual size being 68″ x 73″ or 163 cm x 185.5 cm.

Noren1Centrally placed is the large, mon, or  family crest, in this case it is an unusual, stylized rendering of kashiwa or oak.  Beneath the mon in stepped formation is the wonderfully zigzag matsukawa bishi or pine bark motif.Noren01This noren probably dates to the early twentieth century–perhaps just a bit earlier.  Its size indicates that it was probably meant to hang in front of a building; also indicative of this is the very tightly woven, heavy cotton which would have been strong enough to withstand the elements, street traffic and its dust and dirt.Noren01bNotice how the matsukawa bishi pattern interlocks and creates another iteration of itself in the negative spaces?  Notice, too, how the selvedge edge of each panel is finished: each edge is back stitched in contrasting, white thread.Noren01cThis is a beautifully designed, beautifully executed old noren.

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