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Sunrise on Cloth: Hinode Shibori

June 1, 2011

It’s been unseasonally hot and humid in New York; it feels more like August than early June.   My comment on this is to show a traditional Japanese garment, a yukata, that has been dyed in the shibori method, showing a pattern called hinode or sunrise.Yukata are cooling, casual garments–they’re unlined, cotton kimono which are worn about town in summer, especially during festivals or other social events.   Yukata are worn at home, too.  Imagine coming home from work, taking a relaxing, cleansing soak in the tub, then slipping into a comfortable yukata; until recently, if your home didn’t have a bath room, you’d wear your yukata to and from the public bath.Yukata are still worn in Japan–go to an onsen or hot spring, or stay in a ryokan or traditional inn, and the yukata will be the de rigueur outfit during your stay.  Western style hotels in Japan also provide in-house yukata in every room.Unfortunately, today’s commercially produced yukata are no where near as beautiful as this one, which is made from hand loomed cotton and is dyed in botanical indigo using a complex process of stitching and tying.  The puckering of the fabric–still very much evident–shows how the cotton was shape resisted before it was dyed.This stunning yukata dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and comes from Japan’s shibori center, the town of Arimatsu, near Nagoya,  in Aichi Prefecture.

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A Shibori Juban: Hand Spun Cotton and Botanical Indigo

May 24, 2011

With the weeks of rain we’ve been experiencing this spring here in New York, I had to show a shibori juban that’s all about rain, birds and a spring-like feeling.
A juban is a garment worn under a kimono; in the past they were often piece-constructed from “flashy” or contrasting textiles, many of which were “recycled.”  The bodice of this juban is of hand spun, hand woven cotton that has been shibori dyed in botanical indigo. The particular passage, shown below, feels like spring: new blossoms, a soaring bird–and  tendrils of what may be weeping cherry branches suggest rain.The indigo color of this juban is beautifully rich and clear–and the toothy, hand spun cotton is the perfect vehicle to accentuate the rich, blue color of the dye.And the rustically rendered umbrella, below, which is set in a gloomy patch of dark indigo, really matches the wet, cold, brooding weather of the east coast.
The sleeves and the eri, or collar, of this juban are made of commercially produced cotton; very often juban were made of a mixture of cloth, and, that said, very often the sleeves and collars of garments in old Japan were repeatedly taken off and replaced due to wear.On the hem of the garment, above, seen on the lower left just next to the umbrella image, you’ll see an image from Genji ko, or an incense naming game that dates back to the 11th century.  Even the partial lining of the juban, seen below, has a wonderful fragment of old shibori.  The bodice of this juban probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century–the sleeves and the collar are younger.

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Spring is Pink

April 4, 2011

In Japan, the spring season is synonymous with cherry blossoms, or sakura.   And pink is a color associated with spring.
Sakura are a magnificently elusive color: the cherry blooms are the palest possible shade of pink.  They are a pink that is almost white–and it is this delicacy of color that lends elegance and refinement to an already beautiful flower.When seen in abundance, sakura are spellbinding.  For me, it is the color–that bright, pale, almost-non-color that is, well, pink–which is pure magic.To evoke the color of spring, today I am showing some pieces of benibana or safflower dyed hemp that are placed in a repaired Korean bowl which sits on a lacquer maker’s wooden shelves.The rolled textile in the center of the group is a north eastern Japanese shibori; the two other pieces are very faded fragments that, to me, capture something of the delicacy of the sakura.Spring is here.  Let’s enjoy it.

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Short Stacks of Shibori

March 13, 2011

How about a little bit of good news–like a glimpse of some stacks of shibori?
Fine, old indigo dyed cotton shibori–meaning examples from the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth–are beautiful due to their complex techniques and intricate patterns.  Today I’m showing a little view into some of the pieces that I have in my showroom, by way of a quick glance of three, short stacks of very good, old shibori.

Above are examples of itajime, suji and arashi shibori, in variations.  Most of the pieces are yukata or a kind of unlined, cotton casual kimono.

Above you’ll see hinode, or “sunrise” shibori, the second piece from the top.  The bottom piece on the stack is an unusual ro or summery gauze fabric which has been dyed in two shibori techniques.Seeing shibori in stacks is a lot of fun: don’t you want to dive in, open up all the pieces, and drink them in?

Eventually I’ll write individual posts on some of the yukatas shown on this post, but for the time being, I hope you enjoy skimming over the photos and catching a bit of shibori fever.

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An Itajime Shibori Apron: Asa-no-ha Pattern

January 16, 2011

In front of the big, boro yogi that I featured in a previous post, today I am showing a hand woven cotton apron which is dyed in indigo using the itajime or clamp dye method, a form of shibori.

Itajime dyeing may be familiar to many of you, and often the pattern dyed in itajime shibori is that of a sekka or snow flower, like this piece here.In the case of this cotton apron, the pattern is a bit more complex than sekka: this pattern is very traditional an very Japanese, and is called asa-no-ha or a stylized hemp leaf.

Just beautiful, isn’t it?  I don’t think it was ever used as a garment as it does not show signs of wear.And of course the entire garment is hand stitched.

It measures 24″ x 36″ or 61 cm x 91.5 cm.

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A Wood and Bamboo Spinning Wheel and a Shibori Futon Cover

November 17, 2010

Today I am showing two items from Tohoku, or the rural north east region of Japan: a spinning wheel used to spin nettle yarn and a shikon (gromwell root) dyed futon cover.The spinning wheel is from what is now the city of Hanamaki in Iwate Prefecture; the beautiful, muted and warm shibori dyed cotton futon cover could be from Akita, or Iwate Prefectures as shikon dyeing was practiced in this region.

The spinning wheel still turns very gracefully and with great ease; it is an extremely delicate contraption that no doubt worked hard in its lifetime.  The futon cover is resist dyed using a stitched form of shibori and the pattern is that of a fishing net.  It is remarkably regular in its design and execution: very impressive.This five panel futon cover is truly an eye dazzler, and those of you who know about Japanese natural dyeing know how rare it is to find good examples of shikon dyeing.  The color is rich and subtle: it is a very warm purple, at times it seems infused with red, other times it seems to have a bluish cast.  As well, the kumo, or spiderweb forms inside each “net” shape are amazingly regular in size and intensity.  I’m loving this futon cover right now, and I have it hanging so it can catch my eye from wherever I happen to be standing.

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A Rare and Unusual Indigo Dyed Cotton Kyokechi Boro Mat

August 8, 2010

This layered and tattered indigo dyed mat–possibly a sleeping mat for a child–is constructed entirely from a fairly rare and impressive old Japanese cloth.  It is very unusual to find a boro piece made entirely of this cloth, which is clamp resist dyed in a process called itajime or kyokechi.

The cotton used is a kind of twill structure cotton which has been clamp resist dyed.   Rare to find are garments, such as jackets, made of this indigo dyed cloth: this is the first time I’ve seen so much of this type of cotton recycled and used in this fashion.Kyokechi or itajime is a laborious and ingenious dyeing process using hand carved wood boards: cloth is clamped under great pressure between the carved boards, so the parts of cloth that are highly pressurized resist dye.  To achieve the designs shown on the boro piece shown here, an artisan hand carved the surface of a wood block with a particular design.  Then another block, in mirror image to the original had to be carved and they would be set face-to-face.Cloth would be slipped between the two carved blocks, the raised areas of the carving would clamp down on the cloth and would resist dye: a length of cloth would be fed through a  high stack of many identically carved blocks, the entire tower of blocks would be clamped, and this big,  bundle of cloth under pressure from layers of carved blocks would be lowered into a dye vat.  The patterns you see on the cloth on the post here are the result of the cloth being under so much pressure that the dye did not penetrate those clamped portions of cloth.  Of course, before the cloth was clamp dyed, it was first dyed a pale blue, which is the base color of the cloth.The dark, horizontal bands seen on the cloth in the photos posted here represents the area of cloth between two boards which was not under pressure and was fully exposed to the indigo dye bath.This mat is tattered in places, but it is still so amazing in that it is fully made of itajime cloth: even on old, boro futon covers, it’s rare to find even a scrap of this kind of cloth used as a patch: this kind of cotton was not produced in great quantity, so examples of it are not readily available.The cotton of this piece dates to the mid 19th century or so.

This piece measures 42″ x 27″ or 106.5 cm x 68.5 cm

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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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A Sashiko Stitched Noragi: Stitching over Shibori

June 5, 2010

Today I’m showing another beautifully sashiko stitched, indigo dyed cotton noragi, similar in spirit to the noragi shown in the previous post, below this one.

The sashiko stitching, which is arranged in a pattern of a radiating cross-like forms, is stitched over a base of indigo dyed shibori.Like the sashiko stitched noragi in the previous post, this jacket, too, comes from the Tohoku, or north east region of Japan.  The asymmetry of the shibori dyed cloth on the back of this work coat is a wonderful design detail–the stark, broken arcs of the shibori design is just beautiful.  Most likely this jacket dates to the mid-twentieth century.

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An Asa Benibana Kimono: Shocking Pink Safflower Dye and Bast Fiber

May 19, 2010

This is a very richly colored kimono: it is made of  hand plied, hand woven hemp cloth that has been dyed using benibana, or a safflower-derived dye.

AsaBenibanaKimono1The color is gorgeous and the condition is superb: the benibana dye is still as vibrant as the day it was made.  Safflower dye can be very light-fugitive, so fading is a common problem with fabrics dyed in benibana.   The fact that this one is so beautifully intact and vivid is worth noting.AsaBenibanaKimono1aThe interior of the eri, or collar, is lined in chirimen, or crepe, silk which has been dyed in what appears to be a synthetic, red dye–not uncommon during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) which is the era I believe this kimono was made.AsaBenibanaKimono1bPictured on the cloth are images rendered in the shibori technique:  folding fans, plum blossoms, and chidori, or plovers which are depicted scampering through the surf.AsaBenibanaKimono1c

AsaBenibanaKimono1dThis kimono, for its fine condition and rich color, is a prime example of its type.

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