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“Raw Japan” at MUDE, Museum of Design and Fashion in Lisbon, 9 October 2014 – 8 February 2015

October 14, 2014

RawJapan01I’m thrilled that Lisbon’s Museu do Design e da Moda, or MUDE, is presenting “Boro: The Fabric of Life” under the title “Raw Japan.”

RawJapan03This title represents two exhibitions sharing one, large gallery: the boro show along with Naked Shapes, an ingenious exhibition of largely post-war objects made in Japan using repurposed aluminum scraps.


RawJapan09The two exhibits, each of which was conceived by and debuted at Domaine de Boisbuchet are complementary to each other in so many ways, most essentially in the way that they portray Japanese artistry as pertains the inventive use of recycled materials.

RawJapan10MUDE has named this joint exhibition “Raw Japan” which reinforces the material aspect of the show’s objects as well as suggesting an art brut tone which the textiles, especially, embodies.

RawJapan12The boro textiles are largely from my collection and also represent the generous loans from Kei Kawasaki, Naohito ShikamaAmy Katoh and Anna Heringer.


RawJapan16MUDE is a restored bank which accounts for so many of the interior’s preserved, luxurious stone materials which provide a stark contrast to the raw treatment of the ceilings and columns.  This interior sets the perfect backdrop for both “Boro: The Fabric of Life” and “Naked Shapes.”














RawJapan45MUDE plans to publish a catalog on “Raw Japan” which should be available in early November.







Exhibition Credits

Raw Japan: Boro – The Fabric of Life, Naked Shapes/
Japão a Cru: Boro – O Tecido da Vida, Puras Formas

Bárbara Coutinho

Ayako Kamozawa, Mathias Schwartz-Clauss, Stephen Szczepanek

Raquel Santos, Luís Saraiva

Paula Guimarães

Vera Brito

Anabela Becho, Susana Santos
with the support of Cátia Souto e Sofia Lopes (Fundação Oriente – Museu do Oriente)

Raquel Antunes

Cristina Gomes, Celina Trindade, Catarina Cid

Pedro Rosa, Pedro Muñoz, Gonçalo Vieira

Isabel Haber


MUDE would like to thank Alexander von Vegesack and
Mathias Schwartz-Clauss from CIRECA / Domaine de Boisbuchet as to all the colectors for the confidance in lending their pieces:  Anna Heringer, Amy Katoh, Kei Kawasaki, Seiji Onishi, Naohito Shikama, Keiichi Sumi, Stephen Szczepanek, Alexander von Vegesack, Nobuhiro Yamaguchi

The Fabric of Life, Naked Shapes were produced by CIRECA / Domaine de Boisbuchet, France


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A Resist Dyed Bashofu “Kimono Dress”: Okinawan Banana Fiber Cloth

August 9, 2014

BashofuDress1Cloth from the Ryukyu Islands, or Okinawa as it is now called, is some of the most admired and prized cloth in the Japanese cultural sphere.  Of the several types of traditional textiles produced in Okinawa–Miyako jofu, bingata, hana ori–it is bashofu, or cloth woven from fibers taken from the banana leaf stem, which is the most widely known.

Bashofu shows very distinctive characteristics: it is lightweight, almost translucent and extremely durable, which is why it has been is likened to a dragonfly’s wing.

BashofuDress1aI acquired this piece because I love bashofu, but more so for two separate reasons.

First, the resist dyed pattern on the cloth is unusual and second, and maybe more importantly, this is a hybrid costume: it is a traditional kimono-shaped garment that has been re-worked to become something of a dress.

You can see the machine stitched seams (above) and Western tailoring (also seen above) that would never have been seen in the Ryukyu Islands until the early twentieth century.  The fusion of two distinct cultures captured as they are in this garment is a fascinating comment on Okinawa’s developing history.

BashofuDress1bAnd getting back to bashofu‘s translucency, the photo above attempts to give a sense of this quality.  What else can be seen is the repair to the cloth and the sprinkling of pinprick-sized holes, both evidence that this finished garment had a much different life when it was first created as a kimono-shaped one and was entirely hand stitched.  The age of this garment could easily span from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century.

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A Fantastically Good Boro Kaya: Rustic Hemp or Ramie Mosquito Netting

July 17, 2014

KayaBoro2I brought this magnificently beautiful thing back with me from my April buying trip to Japan–and when I first saw it my heart raced.  Such good, boro mosquito netting–woven from rustic hemp or ramie yarns as this one is–are harder and harder to find these days.

KayaBoro2aIts threads are rich, wiry and hand plied.  And the color: that watery, pale, blue or asagi iro as it’s called in Japan, helps create the impression of a cooling waterfall in the way I have it displayed.

KayaBoro2bThe patches and mending are gorgeous.  Have a look.


KayaBoro2dI’m not sure when this was made, but I suspect it was woven in the Meiji era (1868-1912).  It’s large at about 107″ x 37 1/2″ or 272 cm x 95 cm.

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A Beautifully Colored Sakiori Sleeping Mat: Indigo Dyed Rag Weaving

July 7, 2014

RagweaveSleepingMat1This beautiful, indigo dyed cotton textile was used as a sleeping mat, either by itself or as a mat on top of which a futon would be placed.  It is a sakiori textile, or a rag woven textile.

RagweaveSleepingMat1aIn old Japan, probably some time in the late 18th century when cotton was a new commodity, the only way that peasants could afford to wear this innovative fiber was to buy cotton rags and weave with them.   This is the origin of sakiori in Japan.

RagweaveSleepingMat1bFor centuries thereafter, well into the 20th century when this piece was woven, sakiori garments and bedding were still woven because they were practical and durable.  This piece is particularly nice for its rich indigo color, which is what you’d like to see if you are looking for a good sakiori piece.

RagweaveSleepingMat1cEarly sakiori textiles were woven with a bast warp since there was no cotton yarn to be found.  This one, being a later example, was woven using a cotton warp.  Some later examples of sakiori were woven with a bast warp, which indicates that they may have been woven in a deeply rural environment.  This piece measures 62″ x 45″ or 157.5 cm x 114 cm.

It’s a really beautiful sakiori textile.

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A Story on PRI’s “The World” Featuring Sri

June 26, 2014

Many thanks to Alina Simone for her wonderful reporting, and for PRI for featuring me in their story today, ” Some Japanese will pay $4,500 for an old Missouri prison uniform. Me, I collect Japanese ‘boro’.”

Boro Jackets Short 00_WEB

Have a look and a listen!

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A Silk Boro Cloth: Safflower Dyed Paper Patches

June 5, 2014

PaperRepair3I bought this boro textile on my recent April trip to Japan, but it wasn’t until I returned home and had a good look at it that I realized there was some something special going on: some of the patches on this tsumugi silk boro piece are paper which was dyed in safflower or benibana.

PaperRepair3aQuite wonderful: paper patches.  Those of you who know washi, or traditional Japanese paper, know that it’s made of long fibers and is a very versatile and strong material: it’s kind of like a non-woven textile. That said, it’s no wonder that paper patches were used here, being that washi is a strong and lightweight material.

PaperRepair3bLooking at the base cloth you can see that it’s a lightweight, brown-dyed raw silk.  The white splotch was resisted when the cloth was dyed and it’s a family crest.  This means that this cloth was once a kimono because kimono were decorated with family crests of this size and placement.


PaperRepair3dThis is a gorgeously boro or tattered old cloth, probably dating from the Meiji era (1868-1912).  It measures 32″ x 27″ or 81 cm x 68.5 cm


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A Chaotically Mended and Stitched Furoshiki: Unusual Patterns

May 16, 2014

SashikoBoroFursohiki3This eccentric beauty is a recent acquisition from my recent buying trip to Japan.  I couldn’t resist it, and you probably can see why, even with a quick glance.

SashikoBoroFursohiki3aIt is a sashiko stitched furoshiki which is mended in a marvelously complex way, and it is also “over stitched” in a similarly marvelous way.

SashikoBoroFursohiki3bBy “over stitched” I mean that it appears that in its original form, the furoshiki may have just been stitched with corner reinforcements and kanji, or Chinese characters.  Then, it seems, irregularly stacked columns of sashiko stitching were added on top of the original stitching, presumably for reinforcement.  By looking at the last picture on this posting, below, you may see what I mean by this description.

SashikoBoroFursohiki3cIt is also curious to consider the patches on the back of this furoshiki, shown above and below.  Note that some of them have been sashiko stitched, maybe taken from another stitched textile–or maybe not.  In any case, this multi-directional, randomly placed stitching over stitching lends a beautifully complex effect to the overall piece.



SashikoBoroFursohiki3fNotice the stitching patterns on the front of the furoshiki, shown in the photo above: quite unusual, aren’t they?  This piece measures 38″ x 36″ or 96.5 cm x 91.5 cm and it probably dates to the early 20th century.

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A Beautiful, Pieced Sashiko Stitched Furoshiki

May 2, 2014

SashikoFuroshiki1I’ve recently returned from a buying trip to Japan and have been overwhelmed with inventorying the beautiful things I purchased there, so blog entries needed to take a back seat to logging in new textiles.  But I had to bring this one forward for you to see.  It’s an unusual and very beautiful pieced cotton furoshiki with marvelously sashiko stitched corners.  And it’s seemingly unused.

SashikoFuroshiki1aThe piecing of the old striped and checked cottons is exact and the distribution of color and pattern is intuitively perfect.  The sashiko stitching is also expertly done.

SashikoFuroshiki1bThe sashiko stitched motif, above, is an odd one.  It could be a stylized folding fan, or, on the other hand, it could be an iteration of a cherry blossom whose petals are notched.

SashikoFuroshiki1cThe sashiko stitched motif shown above is, of course, chrysanthemum, a standard motif used on these utilitarian furoshiki.  

This beauty probably dates to the 1930s or so and it measures 49″ x 44″ or 124.5 cm x 111.75 cm.


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A Day in Tsumago, Nagano Prefecture

April 3, 2014

A wonderful day in Tsumago a preserved Edo Period post town in Nagano Prefecture.












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Going to Japan

March 25, 2014

BlogJapanI’ll be on a buying trip to Japan until 13 April*–hopefully I’ll find wonderful things that I will upload to the webshop, or that you can see in person if you come to visit the Brooklyn showroom.

I plan on posting images from the road–and do dip into my Instagram feed that will be updated daily.

*any items purchased on the webshop will ship out on 14 April.  I thank you for your patience and understanding.


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