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Archives for May, 2012

A Thick, Stenciled Paper 19th Century Box Cover: Clothing-Like Closures

May 29, 2012

Shown here today is a 19th century thick paper box cover which is seen folded shut on the photo above.  Below, you can see the box cover which is partially opened–when fully opened, it becomes a five-sided cube.  There is no bottom as this paper cover, or yutan, was meant to “dress” a box as can be seen on this link here.

The front of the yutan looks very similar to a garment what with its cotton detailing and two closures, which is not dissimilar to that of a coat or jacket.The yutan is composed of two layers of thick paper that are hand stitched together.  The interior is stained with a traditional Japanese dyestuff, kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin.  The exterior seems to be colored by a kind of paint or pigment.Below the yutan is partially opened again to give a view of its see its two side “walls.”  Like on the first photo on this post, above, which is the proper “back wall” of the box cover, a stenciled family crest showing stylized oak leaves, dominates.This old yutan does in fact open fully, however it’s brittle from age, so I didn’t force it open for the photo, below.  When folded shut, as shown in the first photo, the size is 19″ x 10″ or 48 cm x 25.5 cm.

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A Group of Thickly Textured Folk Obis

May 22, 2012

Notice I didn’t entitle this post “A Group of Sakiori Obis.”  At first glance this kind of thickly woven, richly textured obi is assumed to be made of ragweave (called sakiori).  Often such obis are of ragweave, but you have to look closer to see if this is the case.Among this group there are obis with a cotton warp and a rag weft.  But in other cases thick yarn is used to feed the weft, which gives the appearance that the obi is sakiori.And in the case of the white and orange obi, above, this is woven from a warp of silk or rayon (probably rayon) and a weft of paper.  Like most of these obis, the paper weft obi dates to the mid twentieth century.This is a  nice group–and they look good together.

I’ve sold a few from the original group which I found in March in Japan, and I will be offering these on the webshop over time.    As I rarely see affordable and attractive sakiori-style obis in Japan anymore, I was quite pleased to have come upon this many good looking obis.

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A Vignette from Sri Showroom: Itajime Silk Fragment and Indian Copper Yoni

May 18, 2012

I like this little set-up in a corner of my showroom and I thought I’d share it with you today.   Sitting on a small, Korean soban or dining tray is a copper Hindu yoni–a ritual vessel–and a fragment of chirimen (crepe) silk that is dyed in the itajime or kyoukechi method.The benibana or safflower dyed chirimen fragment sits in an old Korean wooden grain scoop–and for more on itajime dyeing, have a look at this blogpost which shows the type of carved boards which were used to imprint a design onto this silk cloth.

As this little vignette always catches my eye when I walk by it, I thought you may enjoy having a look, too.

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Mame Shibori

May 11, 2012

In Japan it seems that everybody’s in love with mame shibori–I know I am, too.  Mame is “beans”–like edamame.  Of course you can see why this style of pleated shibori is called “beans shibori.”Shown here is a contemporary, hand-dyed tenugui–the unfinished, simple cotton towel that is multi-purposed.  Just two days ago when I was at the wonderful Kyoto-style Brooklyn izakaya, Hibino, all the cooks were wearing tenugui tied around their heads, which is a Japanese custom.  I bought this mame shibori tenugui at a well-known Kyoto shop called Sou-Sou, which specializes in gorgeous patterned tenugui, clothing, tabi, bags and shoes–some of the clothing being hand dyed shibori from Arimatsu, as was this mame shibori tenugui.  Mame shibori tenugui are routinely out of stock at Sou-Sou. There’s just too much demand for them.Have a look at the very quick clip below which shows the voila! moment of mame shibori being unveiled at an Arimatsu dyer (clip courtesy of the aforementioned Sou-Sou).

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Late Edo Period Lacquer Bowls: Aizu Lacquerware

May 7, 2012

On my recent trip to Japan I found these wonderful lacquer bowls dating from the late Edo period, roughly around 1860.  They are from Aizu, which is now in present-day Fukushima Prefecture, and although Aizu has a famously long history of producing lacquer work, these are not the perfectly finished lacquer of, say, Wajima, but rather they have a more provincial appeal.The slightly rough handling of lacquer work is what I like about these–as well as the full, rich images which seem to be plum blossoms.   Each of these lidded bowls has a bit of repair, mostly around the lip of the bowl, and in keeping with the slightly imperfect spirit of these beauties, each of the lids is not a perfect fit to the bowl.From this website, here’s a very condensed synopsis of the history of Aizu lacquerware:

It was the planting of lacquer trees promoted by a powerful local family during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) that led to the making of Aizu lacquer ware. Then, when Gamo Ujisato who hailed from present-day Shiga Prefecture arrived to head the Aizu clan in the Momoyama period (1573-1600), he brought skilled lacquerers to this northern region from Shiga. Their skills were disseminated and as a result of fostering the development of techniques in crafts using lacquer, Aizu soon became a production center for all kinds of lacquer ware.
Later, specialist maki-e decorators were brought in from Kyoto and the steady development of lacquer craft here resulted in special permission to export Aizu lacquer ware being granted by the Shogunate in the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868). Production suffered around the unsettled period of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 but work soon returned to normal and heralded a golden age.

The various techniques employed and decorations using auspicious motifs favored by the Japanese are part of the delight of Aizu lacquer ware. Several techniques are of particular note. One called tetsusabi-nuri is decorated with tasteful motifs drawn in a rusty brown. Then there is kinmushikui-nuri which sports a pattern achieved by sprinkling rice husks over the wet surface of a piece of work. With kijiro-nuri the beauty of the grain of the wooden carcass is allowed to show through. Each technique is intelligently employed in the making of bowls, traditional stacking boxes, coasters and trays. Today, 38 government recognized Master Craftsmen head 3,000 people employed by the 311 firms privileged to be making this distinctive lacquer ware.

I’ll be offering these bowls on the webshop, but if you are interested in purchasing any, please send me an email: stephen(at)srithreads(dot)com

Each of the bowls, as shown, measures 3 7/8″ x 3 7/8″ or 9.75 cm x 9.75 cm.

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Sri at Biwa Restaurant in Portland, Oregon

May 4, 2012

I’m really happy to be showing Japanese folk textiles with Kina and Gabe at their marvelous Japanese restaurant, Biwa, in Portland, Oregon.

The exhibition opens today and runs through July.  I’ve chosen a diverse but tight group of excellent antique and vintage country textiles which will be on display in the restaurant and are for sale.

Those of you in the Portland area please do plan a trip to Biwa, for the the delicious food and sake, for the great ambiance and considerate service–and to drink in the display of old cloth from yours truly.

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A Magnificently Beautiful 18th Century Ramie Boro: Formal Kimono

May 1, 2012

This fragile, delicate and beautiful boro cloth is hand stitched from elegant, hand decorated 18th century kimono pieces.  The kimono, which once belonged to a woman of means, is made from indigo dyed, hand-plied ramie cloth.The ramie is extremely finely woven from hair-thin yarns.  It is almost silky in the hand.  As a kimono it was probably unlined.The decorations are resisted; the hand applied color which would have been very clear when first made is now faded away, leaving barely a trace.The cloth is soft and delicate–it flutters even in the most subtle breeze.

And on these photos you can see that the cloth is translucent.Most likely this cloth was fashioned as a futon cover; its small size suggests it was made for a child, but this would have been a pampered child who would have needed very good manners.

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