Textile Tidbits: Handmade in Japan – The Kimono

For my latest Textile Tidbit, I recommend a short BBC programme about the production of kimonos in present-day Japan.

This programme visits the remarkable island of Amami Oshima in the southern oceans of Japan, to follow the elaborate handmade production of a traditional Japanese kimono. Over five hundred people are involved in producing the island’s famous mud-dyed silk, which takes many months to produce. The film follows the painstaking process of the silk being bound, hand dyed, woven and finally turned into a kimono by a seamstress. Along the way we not only discover the history of the kimono tradition, but also the many difficulties facing the kimono industry in modern Japan.

To watch this programme online, visit the BBC iPlayer website (unfortunately for international readers, this video is only viewable in the UK).

Exhibition: Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil

Exhibition dates: 11 April – 7 December 2017

This exhibition celebrates one of the ULITA archive’s major collections – ‘katagami’, Japanese resist dyeing stencils, which form a prominent part of ULITA’s Japanese collection. Through drilling, punching and cutting, a great variety of detailed and intricate designs were cut into mulberry paper. These stencils were used for dyeing designs onto clothing ranging from everyday workers’ garments to the finest silk kimonos.

This exhibition introduces the techniques of making and using the katagami, and explores the imagery used. Although produced simply as tools, in recent years, the katagami themselves have come to be appreciated as remarkable and beautiful objects in their own right. The designs on the stencils amount to more than decoration. Whether it be evoking a season, carrying wishes for longevity and good fortune or containing an entire folk story, every katagami has a story to tell about the fashion and culture of Japan at the time of its creation and use.

Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil features forty katagami, including stencils lent by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDa),which informed the work of the British textile company the Silver Studio, whilst stencil-dyed clothing lent by Leeds Museums and Galleries shows the finishing effects. The exhibition has been realised with the support of MoDa as part of their Arts Council-funded project Katagami in Practice. The exhibition is written and curated by guest Curator Dr Alice Humphrey, who has worked with the katagami collections in both ULITA and MoDa.

For more information, visit the website of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).

Exhibition: Kimonos – Au bonheur des dames

musee-guimet-kimonos-au-bonheur-des-dames

Exhibition dates: 22 February – 22 May 2017

Pieces from the collection of the famous Matsuzakaya fashion house are currently being exhibited for the first time outside of Japan, at the Musée Guimet in Paris. When shown together, they offer an opportunity to witness the evolution of Japanese fashion from the Edo period (1603–1868) up to the present day. The exhibition follows the development of the kimono and its accompanying accessories, in order to illustrate the position of women and the way in which women’s bodies are viewed in Japanese society, but also the ways in which these have been reinterpreted in contemporary Japanese and French fashion.

Originally worn as underclothing before being adopted by samurai and courtiers, and eventually becoming everyday wear for all social classes, the kimono, known as ‘kosode’ in the nineteenth century, is the signature item of Japanese dress. It wasn’t until the middle of the nineteenth century that kimonos were worn as indoor dress by elegant women in France, at a time when a taste for ‘japonism’ was in vogue with fashion designers such as Paul Poiret (1879–1944) or Madeleine Vionnet (1876–1975), whose diaphonous creations with flowing sleeves resemble the loose construction of kimonos.

For more information, visit the website of the Musée Guimet, Paris.

Exhibition: Layers of Influence – Unfolding Cloth across Cultures

vancouver-museum-of-anthropology-layers-of-influence

Exhibition dates: 17 November 2016 – 9 April 2017

From birth to death, humans are wrapped in cloth worn for survival, but more importantly, wear clothing as an external expression of their spiritual belief system, social status and political identity. This stunning exhibition will explore clothing’s inherent evidence of human ingenuity, creativity and skill, drawing from the Vancouver Museum of Anthropology’s textile collection — the largest collection in western Canada — to display a global range of materials, production techniques and adornments across different cultures and time frames.

Curated by Dr Jennifer Kramer (Vancouver Museum of Anthropology Curator, Pacific Northwest), Layers of Influence will entrance visitors with large swaths of intricate textiles often worn to enhance the wearer’s prestige, power and spiritual connection, including Japanese kimonos, Indian saris, Indonesian sarongs, West African adinkra, adire and kente cloth, South Pacific barkcloth, Chinese Qing dynasty robes, Indigenous Northwest coast blankets, Maori feather cloaks and more.

A sumptuous feast for the eyes, the exhibition is an aesthetic and affective examination of humanity’s multifaceted and complex history with cloth and its ability to amplify the social, political and spiritual influence of the wearer as a functional expression of self-identity.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada.

Exhibition: Bingata! Only in Okinawa

gw-textile-museum-only-in-okinawa

Exhibition dates: 5 November 2016 – 30 January 2017

Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture, was an independent kingdom until 1879, with its own language, culture, and distinctive textile traditions. This special showing at the Textile Museum, Washington DC, of textile treasures from Okinawan museum collections features brightly coloured bingata – traditional resist-dyed fabrics – and contemporary works by Okinawan artists and fashion designers.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Event: Bingata! Only in Okinawa: Textiles and Traditions of the Ryukyu Kingdom

gw-textile-museum-only-in-okinawa

Event date: Saturday 5 November 2016, 9am – 5pm

The Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA – 2016 Fall Symposium

Known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until 1879, Okinawa has a rich tradition of textile production and design, including the unique resist-dye method known as bingata. Inspired by the exhibition Bingata! Only in Okinawa, the 2016 fall symposium will feature five distinguished scholars from Okinawa – folklorists, curators and historians of textiles and theatre – who will provide a broader context for Okinawa’s celebrated textile art.

Online registration for the 2016 fall symposium is now open.
Rates: $40/museum members; $50/public.

For more information, visit the website of the Textile Museum, Washington DC, USA.

Event: REMINDER – Clare Pollard Talks about Ornamental Meiji Textiles at the National Museum of Ireland

OATG - Clare Pollard Talks about Meiji Textiles

Japanese fukusa wrapping cloth; silk embroidered with gold and coloured silk, c. 1878, National Museum of Ireland, 1879.204. © National Museum of Ireland.

Event date: Wednesday 28 September 2016, 4.15 – 5pm (viewing), 5.15pm (presentation)

This is just a reminder about the OATG event taking place next Wednesday, comprising a viewing of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century decorative Japanese textiles from the Ashmolean Museum’s collection, followed by a presentation by Dr Clare Pollard on discoveries made during a recent visit to Dublin.

Dr Clare Pollard is Curator of Japanese Art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. She has previously worked as Curator of the East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Centre Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and Ashmolean Museum Education Centre (for the presentation).

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members. Registration is essential.

For more information, and to book your place at this event, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

Event: Clare Pollard Talks about Ornamental Meiji Textiles at the National Museum of Ireland

OATG - Clare Pollard Talks about Meiji Textiles

Japanese fukusa wrapping cloth; silk embroidered with gold and coloured silk, c. 1878, National Museum of Ireland, 1879.204. © National Museum of Ireland.

Event date: Wednesday 28 September 2016, 4.15 – 5pm (viewing), 5.15pm (presentation)

The OATG has organised a viewing later this month of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century decorative Japanese textiles from the Ashmolean Museum’s collection, followed by a presentation by Dr Clare Pollard on discoveries made during a recent visit to Dublin.

Dr Clare Pollard is Curator of Japanese Art at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. She has previously worked as Curator of the East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

Location: Ashmolean Museum, Jameel Centre Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and Ashmolean Museum Education Centre (for the presentation).

Admission is free for members, £3 for non-members. Registration is essential.

For more information, and to book your place at this event, please contact the OATG events organisers (oatg.events@gmail.com).

Exhibition: Kimono and Obi – Romantic Echoes From Japan’s Golden Age

Baltimore Museum of Art - Kimono and Obi

Exhibition dates: 10 July 2016 – 15 January 2017

The Baltimore Museum of Art presents an exquisite selection of late nineteenth- and mid-twentieth-century kimonos and obis that have never been shown before. Obi are wide sashes wrapped around the kimono wearer’s waist and tied in an ornate knot at the back. These stunning garments were made after the lifting of sumptuary laws during Japan’s Edo period (1603–1867), when commoners were forbidden to wear showy clothing with colours such as red or purple. The Meiji Era (1868–1912) coincided with increased prosperity as Japan entered the industrial age, and this newfound wealth was often expressed in lavish garments. Many of these kimonos displayed decorative motifs with symbols of the Imperial Court, especially those referring to the Heian Era (794–1185), considered Japan’s golden age, when the court was in its most powerful, refined and romantic period.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a furisode long-sleeved early twentieth-century kimono that is yuzen-dyed and hand embellished with gold and silver leaf, gold and silver metallic paints and embroidery, and lined in red silk decorated with gold pigments. Six other kimonos, 8–10 obis, and related Japanese objects will also be displayed.

For more information, visit the website of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, USA.

Exhibition: Aesthetics of Boro

Fashion Museum JPN - Boro

Exhibition dates: 23 January – 10 April 2016

For anyone lucky enough to live within reach of Kobe, Japan, there is currently an exhibition of boro textiles on at the Kobe Fashion Museum. The show includes around a hundred works that include peasant wear alongside the work of contemporary designers. Leading the line-up of big names from Tokyo Fashion Week are the elegant Matohu, nostalgia-infused WrittenAfterwards and cult brand Keisuke Kanda.

Boro, a type of rag patchwork made of indigo-dyed fabric, held together with row upon row of sashiko stitching, is a technique that has been used for generations in Japan. But while it used to be the preserve of the poor, this technique has recently caught the eye of the fashion world, and has inspired works for catwalk shows in the West. This exhibition combines elements of boro textiles past and present, and looks to be well worth a visit.

For more information, visit the website of the Kobe Fashion Museum, Japan.