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A 19th Century Boro Work Coat: Great Old Cottons

January 31, 2013

Noragi12Sometimes it happens that I discover something really wonderful that I bought a long time ago and that I forgot about.  Finding it is often a revelation, as was the case when I recently came upon  this very good old work coat.

Noragi12aI don’t know how–or why–I forgot about it, but often seeing something after a long time gives you “new eyes” and makes you appreciate it more. That’s the case with this boro coat.

Noragi12bIt’s a very nice one.  It is hand stitched from old  home spun, hand woven cottons of great variety.  There’s wonderful sashiko stitching–and the indigo blue is beautifully faded and worn.  But for me it’s the ito aji or thread flavor that makes me admire this piece so much.

Noragi12cCan you see that this is an older piece?  There is an indescribable eloquence in its character which comes from the warmth of human wear.

Noragi12dIt more than likely dates to the late nineteenth century.  It measures 49″ x 47″ or 124.5 cm x 119.5 cm.

Noragi12eThe cottons are really good.  I love the small checks which are emblematic of the 19th century, especially those that appear to be woven bamboo.  This pattern is called sankuzushi, and it’s one of my favorites.

Noragi12f

 

Noragi12g

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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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A Boro Sakiori Sodenashi: Eccentric Hemp Stitching

June 5, 2011

Shown today is a heavily patched and mended sakiori–or rag woven–sleeveless work coat.  To appreciate the cotton patches and eccentric hemp mending stitches, I’m showing this sodenashi inside-out.If you look on the right side of the photo, below, you can see the very worn and abraded sakiori exterior of the coat.  This same photo also zeroes in on the unusual hemp mending stitches–I’ve not seen this kind of mending on other garments or textiles.The mending stitches are long and vertically oriented.

Another interesting aspect of this sodenashi is that it is not stitched closed on the sides, nor does it have  tabs connecting the front and back panels.  Most likely these have fallen off from wear.I love the resist dyed cotton patch showing a zig-zag geometric design.

Most of the mending on this sodenashi is done with rustic hemp thread.This work vest probably dates to the early-to-mid twentieth century.  The sakiori cloth is woven with a cotton warp and weft.

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An Exceptionally Beautiful Indigo Cotton Boro Noragi

May 2, 2011

In the past, I’ve shown several fantastically good indigo dyed boro noragi or work coats.  This one I am showing to day, I think, is a very good one–and one that is of the same high quality as the ones I’ve shown before.
I say this for many reasons.  First, the arrangement of patches to the top, back of the piece is exceptionally strong–and the placement of shape, size and color is visually perfect, at least to my eye.The jacket is made of wonderful, old hand loomed indigo dyed cotton which has been worn and faded beautifully.  The entire coat is stitched, adding a textural element.The stitching is beautiful, as can be seen above and below.The patina to the surface of the cloth is also a beautiful feature of the coat.  The faded blue has become soft and powdery in appearance.The proper front of the coat is also wonderfully patched and distressed–but it is the back of the coat where most of the magic happens.  This is a fantastically good boro noragi. And have a look at a very good piece for sale at the webshop, here.

 

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A Sashiko Stitched Jacket from Shonai

April 19, 2011

This marvelously sashiko stitched indigo dyed noragi or work coat is from the Shonai area of Yamagata Prefecture, in Japan’s Tokohu, or northeast region.  The texture you are seeing on the surface of the coat is the result of the coat being completely covered in sashiko stitches.Shonai sashiko stitched garments are often covered in tiny stitches arranged in formation of squares as is the case here.   Often indigo thread is used to stitch on an indigo ground.  Again, such is the case here.  However, what’s wonderful about this jacket is the small patch that is stitched with white thread on the proper left shoulder area of this noragi.The Shonai district is a well-known rice producing center.  That said, this square-patterned sashiko stitching represents the masu, or a square-shaped grain measure.  Notice the density of small stitches which cover this coat in regular formation.  This type of sashiko is very much associated with Shonai–and it’s absolutely beautiful.  Looking at the coat’s interior, you can get a clear sense of the structure of the stitching.And please visit our newly revamped webshop–if you’d like to receive a weekly email announcing new items to the shop, please enter your email address on the sign-up field to the right of this posting.

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An Extraordinary Sakiori Hanten: Hemp Warp, Cotton Weft, Sashiko Stitched Sleeves

January 26, 2011

This sakiori hanten has it all: indigo cotton rag weft, hemp warp, great condition, nice proportions, good mending– and a fine, old age.   These characteristics make for a grade A sakiori garment.What sends it over the top, however, are the asagi (pale blue) cotton sleeves which are densely sashiko stitched and so worn that the stitches seem embedded in the fibers of the cloth.Isn’t this sleeve, below, a thing of beauty?  The color, the texture, the patina, the wear–and when paired with the coat itself, it looks even better.It’s interesting that such “fancy” sleeves were attached to such a hardy work coat.  Sleeves were put on and taken off coats during their lifetime, but these seem as if they were attached to this coat for a very long time.   Unless, of course, they were taken from another garment and affixed to this one at some point.  This is highly possible.Since the sleeves ARE so fancy, it has me wondering if this garment was worn by a rural person to go to town or on special occasions.In my estimation, if you are looking for a superb sakiori garment, you’d want to see a bast warp, an indigo cotton rag weft and you’ll want it to have some age.  It has to be in good condition, of course.Sakiori garments are difficult place in time: they were worn from the late eighteenth century well into the mid twentieth century, so one needs to use conjecture to date such garments.  Unless, of course, you are given some kind of history from the family who owned the garment.   This is not the case with this one, though.  I’d guess this to be from the 1930s or so.  It may be older; it may be younger.  There’s just no way of zeroing in on an exact date in this case.It measures 117 cm x 112 cm or 46″ x 44″.

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A Child’s Boro Kimono

December 21, 2010

I love finding children’s boro clothing, in this case, a cotton kimono whose interior is pieced with boldly patterned hand woven cottons, the scale of which seems quite large since this is a child’s robe.

The proper exterior of the kimono is also piece-constructed, but it’s done with subtly contrastingly checks.  VERY lovely, but not quite as photogenic as the interior.This kimono most likely dates to the mid-twentieth century.It measures 32″ x 32″ or 81 cm x 81 cm.  I”ll be offering it for sale in my webshop in early 2011, so stay tuned!

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A Wonderful and Unusually Mended Boro Work Coat

October 23, 2010

By unusually mended, I mean the long, narrow, vertically oriented mendings that add character to the back of the exterior of this indigo dyed cotton boro noragi, or work coat.They’re strange and beautiful–and there are many of them.  I like them.  The mendings appear to be like raindrops, or spilled paint–something liquid and randomly placed.This is a real boro jacket in the sense that it shows wear, mending, and more wear: there are unmended areas here and there.

This jacket is as visually interesting outside as it is inside, which is not always the case with boro garments.  Have a look below for some images of the coat’s “lining.”

The stitching, seen below, is fantastically quirky and somehow very sophisticated in the way it snakes around itself.

I’ll be offering this coat on my webshop this coming Wednesday.

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A Work Coat Woven from Wisteria Yarn

October 17, 2010

In old Japan, of the many bast fibers used to weave cloth–ramie, hemp, linden, kudzu, paper mulberry–wisteria can be considered one of the rarest and most desirable.  This coat is woven entirely from wisteria yarn, the cloth being called fujifu.

One of the reasons that fujifu is so desirable is that there was not that much of this cloth made; the gathering of raw material and processing it into pliable thread which is able to be woven is arduous, to put it mildly.This coat is overdyed fujifu; it was probably dipped into kaki shibu, or green persimmon tannin, hence the coppery color of the cloth.   Undyed wisteria is a pale, wheat color.  This coat was entirely dip dyed into kaki shibu as is evidenced by the brown color in the indigo cotton details as well as the stitching, all of which have been tinted by kaki shibu.

Fujifu has a distinctive hand.  It is rugged but silken at the same time.  This coat most likely comes from northern Kyoto Prefecture, in a rural area near the Japan Sea, or possibly from neighboring Fukui Prefecture, another area where fujifu was woven.  Fujifu was also woven in other regions of Japan, such as present day Niigata and Ishikawa Prefectures.Imagine a surface texture that is not at all abrasive, as would be, say, burlap.  This yarn is tight and sleek.

Below, see  the kaki shibu dye that has mingled with the indigo cotton?

This coat probably dates to the Meiji Era (1868-1912).  It’s a treasure.

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