The beautiful kimono that has been hanging on my wall since our return from Japan had lately been enticing me more and more to deconstruct it. In my mind I was sewing marvelous scarves with the large areas of vibrant red-orange shibori and the black shiboried pine trees against the swath of white, the delicate passages of gold seigaiha waves. It was not until I received a spectacular vintage Taisho kimono (from 1912-1925) that I could not ever imagine altering in any way that these scarves became reality and my wall has a magnificent new hanging. I think you can see in the details that the rinzu woven into the silk is an exotic pattern of cranes.
I really have neglected this blog for far too long. I promise more words of wisdom–of sorts–for my not quite new year’s resolution. I have been tooling away on my sewing machine hoping that my beautiful Japanese kimono scarves will make a big splash this Christmas season. Etsy tells me I can embed some here in ubaguito.us for the perusal of anyone who visits. And Voila!
The kimono arrived–promptly, as I have come to expect of Ichiroya. It is all that I could have wished for; it is so beautiful. From the full kimono picture, it is difficult to see all the wonderful shibori and subtly-dyed detail, but it is a joy to look at, to examine, and to discover new nuances of pattern and design. The color is more vibrant than the image from which I ordered the kimono, but I was already certain, from experience, that it would be the case. The close-up is only a small segmentof the design but it is possible to see the variety of ways in which the shibori has been used. I have always been fascinated with shibori; in case I haven’t already explained, shibori is shaped-resist dying that has been used for many centuries in many countries, Japan being perhaps the foremost.
Because they knew of my interest, Andrew and Linda, my son and daughter-in-law gave me this wonderful volume on shibori that I have had sitting in a prominent place and have probably perused and oohed and aahed over only once or twice since I received it. Last night, having hung the kimono in its place of honor, I brought out the book again and I was blown away. The part of the shibori story that I have been planning to tell is my discovery in the Museum of Kyoto of contemporary uses of this ancient artform, in other words, Shibori Now, which just happens to be the subtitle of the book. I bought these beautiful scarves in Kyoto as gifts and Brent bought the single one for me.
You would think that bringing to Japan one of my bags, made entirely of traditional Japanese patterns like the wonderful large wave or seigaiha pattern on the front flap–repeated many times over on our Tokyo hotel’s elevator doors for example, would be superfluous, like bringing coals…., but I have never had such an enthusiastic response. We were first checking out a department store in Osaka and wandered into one department where we attempted to communicate with a saleswoman about the various kimonos. At one point she pointed admiringly at my bag and when I indicated to her that I had made it myself, she clapped appreciatively. The same response–with variations–came from a Ryokan matron, a taxi driver, a museum shop salesgirl, and various and sundry other folks.
Those Japanese have such good taste.
I have written much about my working with traditional Japanese patterns and deconstructed kimonos, a search that has taken many hours of my retirement–a joyous search, I might add, because I have always been fascinated with the Japanese aesthetic. I can probably trace that passion back to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and one of the finest collections I know of Japanese art and design. Mass Art was just a stone’s throw away and the teachers there were fond of using the Museum’s collection as source material for assignments. I can even remember a fabric design–probably my first–using the ubiquitous stylized waves of Japanese art. So I was excited that a major exhibition of “Kosode: Haute Coutoure Kimonos of the Edo Period“ would be at the Suntory Museum in Tokyo when we were there. While we were in Kyoto, we had visited the textile museum and arrived in time to see a fashion show of contemporary kimonos which, while pretty, were less than awe-inspiring. Most of the kimonos sold on Ichiroya‘s web site–and certainly many of those I had bought in order to deconstruct them–were far more compelling. Continue reading
Many respondents regretted the fact that I hadn’t documented Brent’s Tokyo performance. In answer, I am posting a picture of the designated spot where he stood, the pink awning, taken with my iPhone–the only camera I brought to Japan–from my 23rd floor vantage point. You can see the awning on the right side of the picture, just about in the middle (from top to bottom).
There is a Korean performance artist–Kim Sooja–whose videotaped performance, A Needle Woman, consists of the artist, wearing traditional dress with a long braid down her back, seen only from the back, standing very still in one spot in the center of crowded areas of major cities–Tokyo, Singapore, Delhi, New York, London etc.–while rushing pedestrians maneuver around her.
Brent and I are presently in Tokyo; I have made loads of notes and will post some experiences, but this is my first chance to go online for any extended length of time. It has been extremely hot since we arrived more than a week ago, first in Osaka then in Kyoto which appears to be the hottest spot in Japan with temperatures in the high nineties–or thirties, depending upon how you’re measuring, and now, in Tokyo the temperature is hovering around the ninety mark. We were out earlier in the day, then walked a few blocks to lunch and returned to the cool of the hotel room where Brent slept off his persistent sinus headache. Continue reading
I may have said this before, but every day I am delighted and amazed anew by the wealth of colors and designs and the sheer beauty of the marvelous silks available from Japan for designing my new scarves. I take great pleasure in carefully choosing from the hundreds, perhaps more, of kimono and fabrics and discerning which ones will be the most versatile–will be able to blend with several others in order to be combined in a myriad of ways; which will provide the greatest amount of variety within the same piece; which will yield the greatest amount of continuous fabric without waste. This is a learning process, learning not simply by trial and error although, of course that is necessarily part of the process, but by beginning to understand the terms and what they mean. Today I await the arrival of a piece that has all the most desirable elements: karinui; furisode; rinzu; yuzen. Let me explain what the words mean and how that adds up to perfection for my purposes. Continue reading
Pig-in-a-poke is an idiom that refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce but apparently rats and cats were not.
The scheme entailed the sale of a “suckling pig” in a “poke” (bag). The wriggling bag actually contained a cat—not particularly prized as a source of meat—that was sold unopened to the victim.
A common colloquial expression in the English language, to “buy a pig in a poke,” is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis. Similar expressions exist in other languages, most of them meaning to buy a cat in a bag.
*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Often I think that buying certain items on the web, in spite of some sellers’ (often mammoth) efforts, is much like buying a pig in a poke. I have been buying fabric for some time now, and although I consider myself to be a discerning consumer, I am often disappointed, sometimes even dismayed, by the difference between the image that the seller chooses to show and the reality of the actual fabric. And, of course, obversely, I am sometimes delighted. Maybe a pig in a poke isn’t a completely accurate analogy. One can certainly tell whether what is pictured is a pig or a cat; what can’t be known is what kind of pig or cat it is. A better analogy would be the blind man and the elephant. The (blind) buyer who sees the leg will imagine an entirely different product from the buyer who sees the trunk or the buyer who sees the ear. Continue reading
I have always been fascinated with Japanese design, and the fabrics (and certainly the design itself) of my bags and pillows and other items–I am currently in the throes of designing scarves using the wonderful kimono silks I have been collecting–all reflect that interest. Many of the Kasuri indigos and all of the silks come directly from the Ichiroya Kimono Flea Market. Recently Ichiroya has added affiliate shops. My favorites: Rikyu, a tea mart with interesting items associated with the tea ceremony –tea accessories and some folk art; Ichiroya Antiques where I have been finding amazing Christmas gifts–an antique red lacquered sewing box and a wonderfully playful clay Bizen rabbit; and most recently a fine arts shop, Shukado, with some marvelous Japanese woodblock prints, from which I have just convinced BW to buy me this extraordinary Kuniyoshi 1852 woodblock print and now have the distinction of having been their first online customer.
Here is the history of my print (with some further translation from the description on the website–my additions in bold type):
The artist is Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
In the late 1840s, Kuniyoshi began to illustrate actor prints. He produced the 70 Medetai (happy) series in 1852. At the background of a beauty, his pupil depicted well-known specialties from all over Japan. I assume this means that the artist himself completed only the figure of the woman/beauty with pupil/apprentices working on the scene of the pottery workers in the background.
The series title Sankai Medetai zu e , and the title of the piece Atama ga itai (headache) and Satsuma Yakimono are shown to the upper right of the image. The artist signature Kuniyoshi and his seal are shown on the bottom right corner.
In this piece, satsumayaki (a type of Japanese earthenware pottery) and the industrial artists are depicted on the back. In the front, there is a woman who is turning down for headache, but the relationship between the satumayaki and the woman is unknown.