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Archives for September, 2011

A Small Sign of Autumn in Kyoto

September 29, 2011

Even though the weather is not yet autumnal in Kyoto–it’s quite humid and there is a strong  flush of heat–I was charmed by a sign of autumn while walking around town.  Those reddish leaves…And the elegant, stalwart heron seems to be quite content that the hot summer is about to leave town.


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Heading to Japan

September 26, 2011

I’m leaving for Japan today, back on 7 October.  Hopefully good things await me there.No doubt I’ll be posting from the road, so stay tuned!

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Seven Very Good Sakabukuro

September 25, 2011

For me, it’s always sort of a big deal to find very good sakabukuro, cotton bags which are saturated with kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin which were used to filter sake during the process of making it.  Good bags, ones with rich color, age, and mending, as can be seen on these, are harder and harder to come by.  It’s gratifying to have this group of seven.By looking at the various shades of stitching, you can tell if the bag was overdyed, mended, overdyed, mended again.  The photo below shows this very well.
Some of these mending stitches look like scars, especially the one above.This group is probably from the 1930s or so.  After the war, newer methods of sake production began, so the use of this kind of hand stitched, cotton bags became obsolete.  Now, as you know, they are very collectible.

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A Very Large Hemp Bag from the Meiji Era

September 20, 2011

For some time I’ve been wanting to offer this large, hemp bag on the webshop but I knew that its giant size wouldn’t read properly without a reference to scale.  So I am showing it here.
The bag measures 58″ x 31″ or 147.5 cm x 79 cm as shown.  It shows vertical rows of hand drawn kanji, and it is made from wonderfully rustic, hand plied, hand woven hemp fabric.There are some holes, some repairs and some overall wear.  I’m not sure what the original purpose of the bag was.  It dates from the Meiji era (1868-1912).The bag is heavy from the sheer quantity of hand plied hemp yarn used to weave the cloth that was used to create this bag.  Of course the bag is hand stitched.The top of the bag is finished, but there was no drawstring to pull it closed.

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A 19th Century Katazome Sampler: Mihon

September 17, 2011

This length of indigo dyed cotton shows about 12 different 19th century katazome designs: each design as it appears on this cloth is basically the same size as the stencil used in making the repeat pattern.The designs are laid out simply and in a running sequence; there is a sliver of un-stenciled indigo cloth that separates each design.This kind of sampler cloth is called a mihon–many of you, I am sure, are familiar with silk juban that are made of 20th century mihonThis is the same idea: at a katazome dyer’s or textile broker’s shop, samples were shown to prospective customers and a finished textile would be made to their specifications.This piece is interesting: the selvedges show that it was once sewn, so I am imaging that this, along with others like it, were stitched together to form a futon cover.  Imagine how beautiful it would have been to see a futon cover which was a field of sample motifs.

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Crane and Tortoise: Tsuru Kame

September 14, 2011

From time to time I buy old drawstring bags which are made from chirimen or crepe silk and are decorated with hand-pieced images, as this bag is: I am showing the bottom of the bag here.  I’ll admit that often I’m not crazy about this type of bag–there are old Japanese textiles that I like more, for various reasons–but once I displayed the bottom of this bag in my showroom, I found it really, really attractive.I think I like the amateurish rendering of the crane and tortoise  which is called tsuru kame (crane/tortoise) in Japanese.  Tsuru kame is a classic motif, and please allow me to be long-winded here as I quote from the book, “Country Textiles of Japan: The Art of Tsutsugaki” by Reiko Mochinaga Brandon:

By Heian times the crane was associated in art with longevity because of the belief that it lived a thousand years.  The crane was a symbol of good fortune and it was natural that crane designs would become important in the tsutsugaki repertory of motifs.

The tortoise is a constant companion of the crane in story and in art.  According to Chinese legend the tortoise is associated with north, is one of the four sacred animals (together with the dragon, kirin, and phoenix), and is a symbol of stability and good fortune, and lives for ten thousand years.  In ancient China it was widely believed that a tortoise supports the heavens.  It was the carrier of precious things and a messenger of good omen, partiularly the words of gods….Studying the cracks that appear in a heated tortoise shell was a method of divination practiced in China since ancient times.  Perhaps in part because of their connotation of magical knowledge of the future, geometric tortoise-shell patterns have been widely popular in Japanese art.

So there you have it.  Knowing that kind of makes this rustic image a bit more interesting.

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A Tamba-fu Boro Fragment

September 10, 2011

This is a small piece of patched Tamba-fu, Tamba-fu being one of the most revered and well-considered of the country textiles.It was woven in the 19th century in Tamba, Kyoto prefecture, of a hand spun cotton warp and a tsumugi silk and cotton weft.   Its colors are distinctive: soft nut brown, undyed white and pale indigo: these colors, in subtle variation, tend to dominate the palette of this simple hand woven cloth.Tamba-fu’s unassuming beauty was elevated by Yanagi Soetsu, “founder” of the Mingei movement in Japan; Yanagi brought international attention to the hand craft of ordinary people, and Tamba-fu, for him,  was of special interest.Were you to visit textile dealers in Japan, you’d quickly realize that Tamba-fu is a precious cloth, both in terms of its esteem as well as its price. Offerings are scant and prices are high.

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A Big Wooden Bowl of Cloth Fragments

September 7, 2011

Today I’m showing a little more “local color”–a corner of the showroom where a big, wooden bowl of cloth fragments sits.The bowl is gorgeous when seen on its own: it’s large, hewn from one piece of wood and shows a metal repair on the lip.  It was originally used for mixing buckwheat flour dough to make soba noodles.Odds and ends find their way to this bowl, and the pieces are offered for sale–come visit and dig through.  The bowl is particularly full now: its contents vary from week to week.Above is a nice piece of patched katazome cloth.  Below is a nice view onto the repaired lip of the soba making bowl.Today’s diffused light made good illumination for this bowl of cotton pieces.

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