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Archives for April, 2011

The Urge for Survival: Kaneto Shindo–A Film Retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

April 29, 2011

Last night I went to see Kaneto Shindo’s 1960 film, The Naked Island, part of BAM’s retrospective of Shindo’s work and a film which has not yet been released in the US.   I was completely blown away by the raw emotional power of this film, and by its visual beauty.

Here’s what the New York Times says:

“A landmark of Japanese cinema, Shindo’s cinematic tone poem about the life a poor family of farmers on a rocky atoll in Japan’s inland sea was made without a single line of dialogue. “The eloquence with which a movie can be made to convey, without words, the qualities of strength and endurance locked in the lives of human beings is manifest again, with fine simplicity.”


“The film’s widescreen views of sea, sky and human faces, set to Hikaru Hayashi’s exquisitely plaintive score, transcend narrow conceptions of social responsibility. Mr. Shindo’s world is sad and inspiring in familiar ways, but what makes it so memorable is that it is also gorgeous and strange.”—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

Here’s a clip from the movie–and for those of you who watch the clip you’ll see the actors wearing traditional hanten and momohiki as they go about their work in rural Japan.

From BAM’s website: “First a screenwriter, then an apprentice to Mizoguchi, Kaneto Shindo has since built one of the most richly diverse portfolios in Japanese film history—from humanistic docu-dramas and expressionistic ghost stories to erotic tales of sex. On the occasion of Shindo’s 99th birthday on April 22nd and the North American premiere of his newest (and self-declared last) film Postcard, longtime fan Benicio Del Toro will present some of the director’s finest work. BAMcinématek is proud to kick off this national tour.”

For those readers in the New York area, you may want to see one of the movies in this series–and for all readers, don’t forget that Japan is still in dire straits and could use a bit of hand.  Here’s a link to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

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Aprons in Bloom

April 27, 2011

The current issue of BloomEdelkoort editions‘ luscious and lush periodical–features a marvelous pictorial on aprons.  Several of Sri’s aprons are shown in this spread which was produced by the artistic polymath and style director, Shane Powers. The apron in the photo, above, was shown on this blog last December–and it is listed for sale on the webshop, here.And the aprons shown above and below were also shown on this blog in November 2008.Shane has a very particular and beautiful aesthetic viewpoint which he shares in his blog Enon Valley–and which is wonderfully realized in the line of ceramic and glass indoor garden objects he designed for West Elm.And here are a few more photos by Marie Taillefer from Bloom. 


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A Group of Five Lacquer Maker’s Shelves

April 25, 2011

This group of five, narrow wooden boards served a lacquer artisan in his studio.  On their surface, you can see the traces of the bowls that were lacquered red and black–and some yellow–that were set to dry on these boards.
The marks left by the artisan’s hand made bowls is just beautiful–and like in boro textiles, their beauty is borne of unintentional action by the maker–and is seen by the keen eyes of those who appreciate this form of artistry.Each shelf measures 36″ x 4″, or .9 meter x 10 cm.Beautiful.  The probably date to the early to mid part of the twentieth century.

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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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Help is still needed…

April 21, 2011

…you may want to make a donation to the Japanese Red Cross Society.
Click here to find out more about how you can give.

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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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Webshop is UP!

April 17, 2011

The webshop is BACK. And I hope you like what you see.

The site looks the same as it did before, but we’ve made some big technical changes that you can’t see: we switched servers and moved to a new operating system–and by doing so we spiffed up the site’s overall functionality.

We hope this makes for a more pleasurable browsing–and buying–experience.

For returning customers, you will notice that the log in feature is now simpler than before: you simply have to enter your email address and a newly created password.

The new site won’t be storing this information as was the case in the past, but if your browser is set to allow for cookies, you will be prompted.

There is a group of newly listed items at [email protected], and this Wednesday we’ll send out a mailing announcing the new items to be listed that day.

If you’d like your email address to be added to our webshop’s weekly mailing, click here.

It feels good to be back!

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Flawless: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer at Cavin Morris Gallery, New York through April 16

April 14, 2011

Tradition meets the vanguard in Cavin Morris Gallery’s current exhibition of contemporary Japanese lacquer, “Flawless: Contemporary Japanese Lacquer” on view through April 16th.    The show presents work by Japanese artists working in a traditional medium using mainly traditional methods.  But look again.  This show isn’t about tradition.  It’s about invention, innovation–and revitalizing a historic craft using anti-traditional forms.  In this way the work can be seen as a commentary on contemporary culture.

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A Group of Tsutsus

April 12, 2011

A long time ago on this blog I showed a group of tsutsus, the shibugami or persimmon tannin paper cones used to draw images in the tsutsugaki dyeing process.   On my recent trip to Japan, I found quite a number of unused ones, and I wanted to show this visually arresting group.

Each measures 6″ x 1 1/2″ or 15 cm x 4 cm and I have about 15 of these.

And I know I’ve been saying this for a while, but my new webshop is almost finished!  I will be launching the new site in the next day or two…

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It’s not too late…

April 10, 2011

If you haven’t yet donated to Japan’s disaster relief, you may want to.  Here’s a link to the Japanese Red Cross Society’s Emergency Relief fund.

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