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An Elaborately Stencil Resist Dyed Peacock: Katazome

February 15, 2014

Peacock1When I first saw these three panels from a futon cover I thought the large, multi-toned indigo dyed image was a phoenix; having a better look it was clear that this image is a peacock, an image not often seen on folk textiles.

Peacock1aThe peacock was resist dyed, possibly using a set of stencils, the technique is called katazome.  Or, maybe, this image was made using a combination of katazome with a free hand resist dyeing technique called tsutsugaki.  And what a complex image this is–and what a large one, too.  The peacock itself measures 27″ x 32″, 68.5 cm x 81 cm.

Peacock1bThe three panels are taken from a futon cover and as you can see by the wonderful fading on the indigo dyed cotton, this futonji was used hard.

Peacock1cThe level of detail on this piece is just fantastic–it’s a beautifully realized rendering.

Peacock1dIt probably dates to the late nineteenth century and its overall dimensions are 71″ x 37 1/2″ or 180.5 cm x 95 cm.  I will be listing this for sale on the webshop in the next few weeks.




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A Beautifully Patched Boro Futon Cover: Katazome Cotton

April 25, 2013

BoroFutonji3It’s been too long since I’ve last posted here, the reason being that I returned from Japan with a lot of antique Japanese folk textiles I found on my buying trip, and getting them all ready to show is time consuming.

I’ll be rolling out these new items on the webshop, with a good line-up to be shown this coming Wednesday, May 1 at 11 AM NY time.

BoroFutonji3aShown here is a wonderfully patched, large boro futon cover I just found on my trip.  The combination of the geometric katazome cloth overlaid by the random–and many–patches is gorgeous.  I was really happy when I found this one.

BoroFutonji3bThe indigo dyed cotton background shows a repeat pattern of hexagons or kikko, the traditional tortoiseshell pattern.   This design conveys a wish for long life.

BoroFutonji3cThe hand loomed cotton is gauzy, very soft and drapey.  The color is a beautifully faded indigo, softened from decades of wear.

BoroFutonji3dThe size is nice.  It’s 60″ x 48″ or 152.5 cm x 122 cm and it probably dates to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.


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Translucency: Three Katazome Dyed Hemp Panels

September 17, 2012

I love showing patched hemp textiles against the light, and if you follow this blog, you’ve seen this set-up before.  Today I’m showing three patched fragments from summer futon covers, each hemp, each katazome or  stencil resist dyed.The two panels shown above are large-scale repeats from the 1920s or so.

The fragment shown above is a wonderful piece of old Omi jofu, or silk-like hemp or ramie weaving from present-day Shiga PrefectureHave a closer look at a similar piece here.

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A Pair of Edo Period Cotton Kyahan: Leg Protectors

July 24, 2012

Kyahan, or leg protectors, or gaiters, were worn by all those who lived in old Japan from rich to poor.  These kyahan are made from elaborately stencil resist dyed or katazome cotton, which indicates that the owner of these kyahan was a person of means.The very small pattern on the kyahan tells us that this cloth was made in the late Edo period, about mid-nineteenth century.  At that time, the Japanese government imposed sumptuary laws on their citizens; one of the aspects of these complex and far-reaching laws was to forbid the wearing of bright colors, flashy patterned cloth and silks to those whose station in life was lower than the samurai class.Hence, those who could afford it–merchants, etc.,–got around these laws by wearing very elaborately decorated cloth that was patterned with discreet, tiny, and complicated designs such as this one.   This cloth shows the pine bark or matsukawa bishi motif.  This small figured cloth is referred to as Edo komon, or, “Edo period all-over pattern.”As is obvious by seeing the back of one kyahan, the cotton used to make these is hand spun: the slubby texture tells us this.  Note the findings used to close the back of the gaiter: this “hook and eye” closure is a customary one in old Japan and is also used on tabi, or split toe socks.   The “buttonhole,” above, is not a buttonhole as buttons were not widely used in Japan until approximately the Meiji era (1868-1924).  When worn, the kyahan’s tie was passed through this buttonhole-like opening.I really like the gently curved, almost-lyrical shape of kyahan.  Their undulating, arched edges remind me of a ray.  Soon I’ll be offering these for sale on the webshop, but tomorrow, 25 July, I’ll be offering an Edo komon bag like this one.  If you like Edo komon, you may like one of these bags.

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A Beautiful Shibori and Katazome Mat

February 8, 2012

The indigo dyed shibori and katazome mat I am showing today is beautiful in its simplicity and straightforwardness–or at least I think so.   It is made of very nice hand spun,  hand loomed cotton, two loom widths, that have been hand stitched together.The shibori is stitched, quite a direct process.  The patch is a fabulously weathered piece of old katazome cotton cloth showing plum blossoms and pine needles.  The katazome cloth is most likely from the mid to late 19th century; the shibori is probably from the early 20th century.   The piece measures 44″ x 25″ or 111.5 cm x 63.5 cm.

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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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An Unmade Resist Dyed Noren

July 30, 2011

The graphic quality of Japanese design–and its impact on Western design and Modern art–is well known.  This unmade, stencil resist dyed noren, a traditional curtain which often is displayed outside a shop or restaurant, has a strong modernist appeal.
You can see how the noren was dyed in one, continuous piece.  It would have been cut and arranged in order for it to display a cohesive design or motif.  This one has been cut, but not entirely, and it hasn’t yet been formed into a noren.I really love the strong geometry and the way that the design has been broken.  Visually this is really interesting. I also really like the contrast of white against inky, deep, indigo blue.  The blue color is so deep it reads black.In trying to mentally construct what the noren will look like when it is stitched and finished, it seems to me that I may be missing a piece or two.  Through time as this unmade noren has changed hands before it arrived to me, it’s quite understandable that a piece or two could have fallen by the wayside.The cotton is hand woven very tightly.  As the noren was probably going to hang outside, the cotton was woven with the intention for it to hold up against the elements.These pieces probably date to the early twentieth century.  In time I will be offering them for sale on my webshop.

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Beautifully Intricate and Elaborate Katazome Dyed Cloth

June 10, 2011

It’s nice to see graceful, floral pattens in summer–somehow they seem cooling to the eye.  Today I’m showing a fabulously elaborate example of katazome dyeing that incorporates indigo, bengara, an iron oxide based dye material and a grey/black dye.
The motif is a familiar one in old Japan, that of the arabesque, or karakusa as it is called.  Often this karakusa motif is highly stylized as can be seen here, but in this case its rendered quite naturalistically.The design is beautifully delicate and luxurious in its details.  This is a small textile–it measures 38″ x 25″ or 96.5 cm x 63.5 cm.  It  is probably recycled from a larger piece, most likely a futon cover.As it is shown here, this wonderful katazome futonji was repurposed and is now a cotton zabuton, or seating cushion.  It is backed with a subtle, zanshi-ori cotton or a fabric woven from leftover yarns and its original cotton wadding has been removed.The pattern and design of this cloth has a kind of delicate intensity that reminds me of batik, the wax-resist cloth from Indonesia.This piece dates from the mid to late nineteenth century.Notice the marvelous tooth to the cotton fibers: clearly the cotton yarns were hand spun and the cloth was hand woven.A sensational old katazome textile–still fresh and beautiful.

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

May 14, 2011

A paulownia tree, that is.  Coincidentally, Betty Smith’s famous novel from 1943 is set in my neighborhood, the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, just where this tree is blooming.
Paulownia, or kiri as it is known in Japan, is one of that country’s most popular family crests and it is a well-used motif in textile and lacquer design, among others.  It is loaded with historical and legendary significance–and the actual tree shows beautiful blooms, as can be seen here.The kiri motif is borrowed from China.  In Chinese lore it is believed that the mythical phoenix (called Hoo-oo in Japan), when it comes to earth, will alight only on the branches of this tree–and it will only eat the seeds of bamboo.

During the late Heian Period, the kiri motif became fashionable among the aristocracy and it is often associated with this class of Japanese society.  The world’s first psychological novel, The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, opens at the aristocratic Paulownia Court. And here’s more, quoted from this wonderful website:

According to legend (mostly from China), the Hō-ō appears very rarely, and only to mark the beginning of a new era — the birth of a virtuous ruler, for example. In other traditions, the Hō-ō appears only in peaceful and prosperous times (nesting, it is said, in paulownia trees), and hides itself when there is trouble.

As the herald of a new age, the Hō-ō decends from heaven to earth to do good deeds, and then it returns to its celestial abode to await a new era. It is both a symbol of peace (when the bird appears) and a symbol of disharmony (when the bird disappears).

In China, early artifacts show the Phoenix (female) as intimately associated with the Dragon (male) — the two are portrayed either as mortal enemies or as blissful lovers. When shown together, the two symbolize both conflict and wedded bliss, and are a common design motif even today in many parts of Asia.Above is a kiri-karakusa or paulownia-arabesque pattern done in the katazome method; this cloth is from a futon cover.And these images, above and below, show the kiri motif on a boro futon cover, rendered in the tsutsugaki method.

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A Sashiko Stitched Vest from Tohoku

May 7, 2011

This sleeveless garment–referred to as sodenashi or dogi–is from Aomori Prefecture in the far northeastern region of Honshu, which is a remote and rural area.
It is made of repurposed cotton katazome cloth which has been heavily sashiko stitched, the stitching creating a blurred effect to the figured, resist dyed base cloth.Although Aomori Prefecture is very rural, it is this region which produced some of Japan’s most intricately sashiko stitched textiles, such as kogin, the famous stitching from Aomori’s Tsugaru region, which is the origin of this garment. Aomori can receive a great deal of snow in winter and some historians have conjectured that the heavy, white sashiko stitching of this area is a visual allusion to snowfall.This particular vest is made of repurposed parts as can be seen in the the photo above, and below: sometimes the body of  such vests from Aomori are sewn from one type of figured cloth, not of  two as is the case here.Amazingly tight stitching.Notice that the collar and the side panels are sewn from kasuri or ikat cloth–the inclusion of kasuri cloth on these sodenashi is typical of this form of garment.This kind of vest is said to come from Hirosaki in the Tsugaru region of Aomori. It dates to the late nineteenth, early twentieth century.This kind of vest could have been worn layered over a coat, or directly over an undergarment.  See a similar example in Beyond the Tanabata Bridge: Traditional Japanese Textiles, pp. 113-114.

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