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Three Shinafu or Linden Bark Cloth Panels

March 2, 2012

I love shinafu which is cloth woven from fibers gleaned from the inner bark of the linden tree.  And I recognize how precious it is–of the bast fibers woven in Japan, shina was less produced than hemp or ramie, and carries with it a feeling of rural life.In Japan it is also recognized as being valuable and shinafu is always pricier than hemp or ramie cloth.Shinafu has a distinctive copper colored cast and a very wiry fiber: rarely was it used for clothing.  It’s just too scratchy.  But because the fibers are tough, it made excellent work items.A colleague in Japan offered me these panels which I bought: I was really happy to have them.  When I received them and had a look, it was clear to me that these are undone tsunobukuro, or horn bags.  Horn bags are so called because they are fashioned in such a way that they appear to have two “horns” at the top of the bag.And you can tell that these panels were made in the twentieth century.  Look below and you can see the script in romaji or Western writing, “No. something-or-other.”I suppose whomever brought these pieces to market thought they’d be more interesting as panels than as  horn bags.  I kind of wish they were left as horn bags, but I’m really glad to have them.  I’m always on the look out for shinafu.Nice, huh?

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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 Asa Tsunobukuro: Patched Hemp “Horn Bag”

January 26, 2009

I’m showing here a corner of Sri, illuminated by the bright, afternoon January light, and arranged here is an antique tansu bearing boro, sashiko and sakiori jackets, but the real attraction is what is on the far wall, the long and wonderful boro asa tsunobukuro, or the patched and mended “horn bag” which is woven of hemp.

Tsunubukuro (tsuno=horn; fukuro=bag) are storage bags made from one continuous length of hemp cloth that is sewn on the bias.  Because of this bias construction, tsunobukuro are “springy” and their ability to accept bulk or volume is somehow elastic.  This tsunobukuro is a nice size: it measures 60″ x 17″, 152.5 cm x 43 cm and I think it dates to the early twentieth century.

Have a look at the rich, dark color of this bag: its patina is probably due to age, or, it could have had a quick dip in a kaki shibu bath.  Kaki shibu is green persimmon tannin which gives a brown color and is used to strengthen cloth: it also makes the cloth a bit impermeable to water.

The hemp thread stitches are really wonderful, too: have a careful look.  And do spend some time considering the patches and their arrangement on the bag, which I think is really fantastic.

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Three Gorgeous Boro Aprons and Two Wonderful “Horn Bags”

November 25, 2008

I’m showing three boro aprons and two tsunobukuro, or “horn” bags; tsunobukuro are referred to by this name because the top of the bags have two points, or so-called “horns.”

The two aprons on the bottom of the photo above are made of indigo dyed hemp; the top apron is made of a variety of indigo dyed cotton kasuri cloth which has been beautifully and crudely stitched together.

This magnificently and richly patched boro apron is a marvel, and it is one of my favorite pieces here at Sri.  It is made entirely of small fragments of indigo dyed hemp cloth, most of which are koshi, or checked.  The layers of cloth and the radically crude stitching–not to mention the color–add up to make this a jewel of a boro textile.  Hard to dispute.

Imagine that the textures of this apron are very much that of hemp cloth; most likely these fragments are from the nineteenth century.  The stitching–which is eccentric, intense and all-over–is done with white cotton thread.

This is an unusual tsunobukuro because it is made of katazome dyed hemp cloth: very often tsunobukuro are made of undyed hemp.  This one has been dyed in the stencil resist, katazome method.  This bag comes to us from Nambu, in the very remote Aomori Prefecture, the northernmost area on Honshu island.

The inside of the bag is shown in order to highlight the beautiful patches and stitching.

Tsunobukuro are made from one length of cloth that has been twisted and sewn on the bias.  Most likely, tsunobukuro were used for storage.

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