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Three Shinafu or Linden Bark Cloth Panels

March 2, 2012

I love shinafu which is cloth woven from fibers gleaned from the inner bark of the linden tree.  And I recognize how precious it is–of the bast fibers woven in Japan, shina was less produced than hemp or ramie, and carries with it a feeling of rural life.In Japan it is also recognized as being valuable and shinafu is always pricier than hemp or ramie cloth.Shinafu has a distinctive copper colored cast and a very wiry fiber: rarely was it used for clothing.  It’s just too scratchy.  But because the fibers are tough, it made excellent work items.A colleague in Japan offered me these panels which I bought: I was really happy to have them.  When I received them and had a look, it was clear to me that these are undone tsunobukuro, or horn bags.  Horn bags are so called because they are fashioned in such a way that they appear to have two “horns” at the top of the bag.And you can tell that these panels were made in the twentieth century.  Look below and you can see the script in romaji or Western writing, “No. something-or-other.”I suppose whomever brought these pieces to market thought they’d be more interesting as panels than as  horn bags.  I kind of wish they were left as horn bags, but I’m really glad to have them.  I’m always on the look out for shinafu.Nice, huh?

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A Length of Linden Bark Cloth: Shinafu

July 2, 2010

Today I am showing a length of rustic, asa or bast fiber cloth, this one being woven from yarns taken from the inner bark of the linden tree, the cloth being called shinafu.Shinafu is a very rough cloth–it’s almost abrasive to the touch, the yarns being almost wiry.  The color of shinafu has a characteristically coppery sheen.In order to obtain raw materials for this kind of cloth, women would make many trips into the forest to harvest the linden tree’s inner bark, which would then be arduously processed, washed, dried, split and then plied: this transformation from tree bark to usable yarn was very time consuming and required more effort, time and skill that is imaginable.Shinafu is a marvelous looking cloth; although I am not totally sure of this, I believe it was rarely used for clothing as it was so rough to the touch and seems not to soften with age or wear.   Notice the surface texture of this cloth, which I am trying to show through these detail photos: the surface is a bit irregular and the cloth is very stiff.This particular length of shinafu is a very handsome example for its condition, its length and its fine color.

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A Small Exhibition in Greenwich Village: At MAN

July 26, 2013

MANshow1At the generous suggestion of Hickoree’s and The Hill-Side, I was asked to mount a temporary exhibition at MAN, a small and beautifully curated Paris-based menswear trade show that was held at Industria Superstudio from 21-24 July.  The show was meant to provide an interesting context, and give texture to, the MAN show who took up Hickoree’s suggestion and invited me to show.

MANshow1aI brought a good group of things to exhibit:  my aim was to put on view a broad range of textiles for sale, from superior pieces from my own collection to others that have age and interest, but that are affordable. Above is a nice group of hemp kaya or mosquito netting in blues and greens.  To the right of the kaya are rolls of shinafu or linden bark thread-based cloth.

MANshow1bAbove are rolls of wonderful, indigo dyed, 19th century cottons.  All of them are taken from futon covers.

MANshow1cAbove is a fantastic, old boro noragi: so many patches and a lot of mending.  Many of the patches are of pieces of cloth from the 19th century.  Below is an amazingly repaired sleeveless work garment, however my hunch is that the sleeves were removed by the person who brought this treasure to market.  No matter: in old Japan sleeves were routinely taken off and put back onto garments on a rotating basis.

MANshow1dA group of five super sakabukuro, below.  These are cotton bags that were dipped in kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin that were used as filters in the sake making process.

MANshow1eAnd below is another view onto the show.  At the center of the photo is a wonderful sakiori hanten, one of the most elaborate and best I’ve seen.

MANshow1fThanks Emil, Sandy, Mitch, William, Ken, Vicken, Antoine, Romain, Olivier and Antoine for inviting me to your event.


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Mottainai The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan

November 6, 2011

The exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden, Mottainai, The Fabric of Life: Lessons in Frugality from Traditional Japan opened on 4 November.  Here are some installation shots.
I’m exhibiting with my friend, Kei Kawasaki of Gallery Kei in Kyoto.   Kei and I decided that I would show indigo dyed cotton boro pieces and she would show bast fiber and paper pieces.  The items I have contributed to the show can be seen below.Above and below is a large, woven cotton boro mosquito netting or kaya.

Above and below are sashiko stitched pieces.  Centrally place above is a large, sashiko stitched kotatugake.  To the left and right are garments from Yamagata prefecture.Stitched aprons and zokin can be seen above.

Above and below are sakiori garments.

Above is pictured a boro yogi or sleeping kimono, while below you can see noragi or work coats.Below is a fantastic boro futonji or futon cover.This piece, below, a shinafu or linden fiber tsunobukuro or horn bag is filled with balls of shredded indigo dyed cotton yarn and twisted paper yarn.   Kei brought this to the show to act as a transition between her bast fiber textiles and my indigo dyed cotton ones.  It’s an amazing object.  Kei’s other textiles can be seen in the images below.

Above and below are some woven paper garments.  On the photo, above, situated on the right is an okuso zakkuri or a coat made of woven hemp waste.  Below, seen in the middle, is a fujifu or woven wisteria garment and a shinafu or linden fiber garment to its left.

Below are two elm fiber garments: to the right is a traditional Ainu attush, to the left is an unusual dochugi or traveling coat, made from ohyo or elm fiber.  Since this dochugi is made from traditional Ainu cloth, we can assume that the cloth was traded with the Ainu by a merchant from Honsu island.

A marvelous, resist dyed ramie kazuki from Yamagata prefecture can be seen above and below.  A kazuki is a kimono-shaped veil which was worn on the head by upper class women.Below are repurposed paper items. A splendid bashofu or banana fiber kimono from Okinawa can be seen below.All of the pieces are for sale through the Portland Japanese Garden.  If any are interesting to you, please let me know and I will put you in touch with the Garden.

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