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A Tsutsugaki Futon Cover: Tsurukame, Kamon and Faux Shibori

Written on January 30, 2012

Today I’m showing a stark and interesting four panel, indigo dyed cotton futon cover that is decorated using a free hand paste resist technique called tsutsugaki.  The images on this futon cover are concise yet celebratory: the tortoise and crane (tsuru and kame in Japanese) and a centrally placed, large kamon or family crest.The kamon is interesting: first, it is a rendition of stripes whose source has a martial background.  During wartime in feudal Japan a general’s encampment would be surrounded by curtains of alternating colors in order to distinguish his from the rest.  This kind of stripe or hikiryo is the basis of this mon or family crest.Notice how this mon is designed using a fake kanoko or fawn dappled shibori pattern.  Really charming.And the crane and the tortoise–it is fairly well known that these animals symbolize longevity in the language of Chinese and Japanese design.Not only does the crane represent long life, its elegant form conveys a sense of beauty.  Also, the crane is a symbol of conjugal fidelity as cranes mate for life.These tortoises are charmingly rendered–and once when I was traveling in China I saw hairy shelled turtles, much like these.This futon cover was most likely created for a wedding trousseau.  In the Meiji Era (1868-1912) there was an easing of government strictures upon Japanese citizens and at this time ordinary people could produce showy bridal trousseaux and could present them in a lavish fashion with great ceremony to a newly married couple.

In feudal Japan, which essentially ended at the end of the Edo period in the mid-nineteenth century, ordinary people would not have been allowed to create such an ostentatious show of wedding gifts as started being customary with the onset of  the Meiji period–nor would common folk have had the money to have commissioned such beautifully decorated utilitarian textiles as this one.


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  1. Comment by onesmallstitch:

    thanks for the explanation, a beautiful piece. is the grey? colour unusual and would it be a natural dye?

    January 30, 2012 @ 7:16 pm