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An Unmade Resist Dyed Noren

July 30, 2011

The graphic quality of Japanese design–and its impact on Western design and Modern art–is well known.  This unmade, stencil resist dyed noren, a traditional curtain which often is displayed outside a shop or restaurant, has a strong modernist appeal.
You can see how the noren was dyed in one, continuous piece.  It would have been cut and arranged in order for it to display a cohesive design or motif.  This one has been cut, but not entirely, and it hasn’t yet been formed into a noren.I really love the strong geometry and the way that the design has been broken.  Visually this is really interesting. I also really like the contrast of white against inky, deep, indigo blue.  The blue color is so deep it reads black.In trying to mentally construct what the noren will look like when it is stitched and finished, it seems to me that I may be missing a piece or two.  Through time as this unmade noren has changed hands before it arrived to me, it’s quite understandable that a piece or two could have fallen by the wayside.The cotton is hand woven very tightly.  As the noren was probably going to hang outside, the cotton was woven with the intention for it to hold up against the elements.These pieces probably date to the early twentieth century.  In time I will be offering them for sale on my webshop.

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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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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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Kaki Shibu Dyed Textiles

November 28, 2009

Today I am showing some textiles that were “dyed” in the fermented juice extracted from unripe persimmons; this extract, called kaki shibu in Japan, yields a highly recognizable brown color when applied to cloth, paper and wood.

Kaki shibu was very widely utilized in old Japan as it was easy to apply and its benefits were useful: kaki shibu strengthened  the material it saturated, rendered it somewhat waterproof, and was also said to contain anti-bacterial properties.


Here we see a group of antique sakabukuro, or cotton bags that were saturated with green persimmon tannin and were used to filter crude sake.  If cloth is dipped many times in kaki shibu, a leathery look results from the build-up of layers of kaki shibu.

Since sakabukuro were used and re-used many, many times over a period of several years, they required mending.  The mending stitches on sakabukuro are unmistakable, and the more mending there is, the more attractive the bag–in my estimation, that is.


Below is a detail of the resist-dyed  noren or door cover which is shown in full in the photo at the top of the blog.  It is beautifully worn and faded, and it is discussed a bit more in detail, here.


If you are interested in kaki shibu,  have a quick look at this website who supplies the tannin and offers workshops.

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A Gorgeous Nineteenth Century Katazome Noren

November 3, 2008

This is an indigo dyed cotton noren, a noren being a kind of doorway covering; it dates to the mid-to-late nineteenth century.   I found this gorgeous thing on my recent trip to Japan and I couldn’t resist buying it because of its startling graphic appeal and the beautiful tones of steel blue against an unbleached cotton.

The pattern shown on the noren is a very commonly used Japanese motif, it is stylized pine bark or matsu kawabishi.  On this recent trip to Japan I spent a lot of time looking at beautifully cultivated and cared-for pine trees that grace gardens, temples and public spaces.  On some of the very old, craggy trees, the bark is extremely thick and has cracked into formations very similar to the chevron-like matsu kawabishi.

The repeat pattern is imprinted using a stencil dye resist method: rice paste is applied through a stencil onto cloth.  Where the rice paste is applied, dye is resisted.  This process is called katazome, and the stencils, katagami, very collectible unto themselves, are the product of artisans who hand-cut mulberry paper which has been saturated with green persimmon tannin called kaki shibu. A huge percentage of katagami production is centered in Ise in Japan, and therefore, katagami are often referred to as Ise katagami.

This fabulous noren is available on my website, so please do have a look.

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