Article: Ainu Culture – Garments and Embroideries of the Ainu People

Image by Keisuke Fukamizu

This article, with text by Kosuke Ide and fantastic photographs by Keisuke Fukamizu, examines the clothing of the Ainu people of Hokkaido island, Japan. Ide explains that hundreds of years ago these were made from the animal skins – there was a reference to them wearing “bird skin” as late as the eighteenth century. Over time they began to use fibres obtained from the inner bark of elm and linden trees to weave their textiles.  The cloth woven from these fibres was known as attush, and was sewn into garments primarily used as work clothing. These garments were decorated with patterns embroidered in cotton. Later, as cotton became cheaper and more accessible, they began to use it for their clothing rather than the attush. However the art of making attush has not died out completely. It is still practised by Rumiko Fujitani, using a traditional backstrap loom.

Ide also interviewed Nobuko Tsuda, who has conducted research on traditional Ainu garment culture and for the past 20 years has served as a curator at the Hokkaido Ainu Centre in Sapporo. I was particularly struck by her appreciation of what she refers tom as the “natural imperfections” of Ainu embroidery done in the traditional way, as opposed to the “perfection” which can be achieved using more modern methods.

The full article, which really does have some wonderful images, can be accessed on the visvim website here. Please note that this does take quite a while to load – presumably because of the quality of the images.

Textiles of Japan by Thomas Murray has recently been published by Prestel and contains over 100 pages on Ainu textiles. This book is already available in Europe and will go on sale in the US from 29 January 2019.

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Event: Stitching New Identities -: Embroidery and Socio-Political Change in Late-Nineteenth/Early-Twentieth Century Japan and Korea

Event date: Thursday, 17 January, 2019. 12:00-1:30 PM

“As Japan and Korea opened to the international community in the nineteenth century, their ensuing social, political, and economic transformations found vibrant visual expression in the ancient art of embroidery. Using primary sources including extant textiles and period literature, this lecture by Lee Talbot will examine changes in late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Japanese and Korean embroidery in light of concurrent socio-political developments. The lecture will illustrate how embroiderers in Japan and Korea developed innovative aesthetics, forms, and subjects that gave visual voice to new social and national identities emerging as their countries forged new, sometime perilous paths domestically and internationally.”  – from the website of the Center for Japanese Studies.

Lee Talbot is currently the Curator of Eastern Hemisphere Collections at The George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. and has previously spent two years as curator at the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum (Seoul, Korea).

Location: Center for Japanese Studies, Room 110 Weiser Hall, 500 Church Street, Suite 400, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1042

 

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Video: Fabric Pieces – Honouring the Past

 

This video was first broadcast by NHK World – Japan as part of its Core Kyoto series on 12 December 2018.

“Kyotoites in days of old valued high quality fabric and woven textiles from abroad like gold. Pieces of these fabrics have been handed down and continue to fascinate people today. Their eternal beauty is preserved through repurposing as tea utensil pouches, tobacco holders, obi sashes and even as works of art. Weavers strive to learn the techniques used in days gone by in order to reproduce them.”

Part of this video looks at the influence of Indian chintz on Japanese design and features an amazing scrapbook of fabric pieces. The problems of recreating different colours – especially red – are also discussed.

Another section of this video examines one man’s passion for kogire, as these old fabric pieces are called. Teiichiro Saito has over 1,000 of these small scraps, which he studies and tries to reproduce, or use as inspiration for new kimonos. Sometimes he adds small pieces of ancient fabric to modern designs. His most prized possession is a piece of Japanese fabric from the 1500s.

Please not this video is only available to view until 26 December so why not make a little time for yourself and watch it now – highly recommended viewing!

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Article: Diversity and Exquisiteness – Examples of Three Asian Textile Sample Books

 

 

In this article Andrijana Sajic, Senior Book Conservation Coordinator, Thomas J. Watson Library (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) discusses three Asian textile sample books from their Special Collections.

The first of these is Japanese Textiles, whose accordion structure allows readers to see either side of the book because they are mounted on the front and back of the boards. Based on the thickness and patterns of the samples, the textiles were used for mounting hanging scrolls. The book could have belonged to an individual scroll maker or studio, and been used as a personal record or a commercial reference guide. While little is known about this sample book, it is certain that these beautiful, thin, woven silks, with their extraordinary motifs, metallic threads, and metallic leaf applications, are remarkable samples of cloth.

Another Japanese textile sample book is Nippon Hand Weaves in Kusakizome Dyes, published in 1959 by Akira Yamazaki. Unlike the Japanese Textiles book, this book contains detailed information about its function and maker’s intentions. It is a collection of twenty-six plant-dyed, handwoven textiles that were specifically made for this book and created, as the author states in the introduction, to “transmit the wealth of the past.” This elegant structure contains information about each cloth sample and plant used in the dyeing process, and also about the materials used in the construction of the book.

The textile sample book Balai Penelitian Batik, which has an unknown date of production, was created by the Ministry of the Industry of People of Jogjakarta and Batik Research Centre. Unlike the two other books presented here, this is a manual that leads the viewer through steps in batik production, in both English and Indonesian. Each page contains a sample of treated cloth, a brief description of the process, and an illustrative photograph.

The information in the introduction does not explain the institution’s intention in creating this manual. However, this publication clearly captures the complex, time-consuming process of batik production and educates readers through didactic samples that illustrate the wax-resist dyeing technique with copper stamps. Descriptions are brief and factual, and samples are the focal point of the page. The viewer is invited, through nine consecutive cloth samples, to see and feel the transformation of pure starched white cloth into a finished batik design, a sample of which is adhered to the front cover of the book.

To read the full article click here

Event: World Textile Day – Wales

World Textile day –  17 March 10:00-16:30, Llanidloes, Wales

 

Hard to believe, but 2018 marks the10th great year of World Textile Day. These now take place in seven venues, but the very first was in friendly, artistic, laid-back Llanidloes. Great town, great venue and great hosts – the Quilt Association of Wales, who just happen to make great cakes.

This year Susan Briscoe will be giving a talk entitled Hand to Hand: Japanese Sashiko. There will also be a Fair Trade market with an eclectic mix of textiles from around the world.

Full details can be found here

Exhibition: Artistry in Silk – The Kimono of Itchiku Kubota

Exhibition dates 7 February – 13 May 2018

Artistry in Silk celebrates the work of Itchiku Kubota (1917–2003), an innovative artist whose spectacular creations gave new meaning to the art of kimono. He brought new life to a 16th -century decorative technique known as tsujigahana, a combination of resist-dyeing techniques and ink-drawing that was once thought lost forever. In his subsequent production of sumptuously beautiful kimono that featured ‘Itchiku tsujigahana,’ the artist’s adaptation of this art form expanded contemporary ideas of surface design and assured Kubota a legacy as an out-of-the-ordinary artist and artisan whose work stimulated the mind and delighted the eye.

The exhibition presents 41 kimono designed and produced by the artist over three decades, from 1976 to his death in 2003.

There are some stunning high-resolution images on the museum website which load very slowly – your patience will be rewarded!

For more information visit the website of the Textile Museum of Canada, Toronto.

 

Exhibition: Dressed to Impress – Netsuke and Japanese Men’s Fashion

Exhibition dates: 4 November 2017 – 22 April 2018

This exhibition at the Museum of East Asian Art (MEAA) in Bath, held in partnership with the British Museum, explores the intricate accessories worn by Japanese men during the Edo period (16151868). Netsuke are a form of miniature Japanese sculpture that were primarily functional, but that evolved into an important art form.

The exhibition features a selection of netsuke, chosen from over 2,300 in the British Museum’s collection, with more pieces added from MEAA’s collection to show the range and beauty of these objects and their excellent craftsmanship. Netsuke come in a variety of forms and materials such as wood, ivory and porcelain. The beauty of these objects is in their individuality, and is reflected in the variety of the netsuke on show: a goldfish, a Chinese boy holding a lion mask and a drum and fox’s mask (pictured above). Also on display will be a number of inro (cases for holding small objects), a sword and smoking accessories.

The exhibition places the netsuke and other objects in context with a sword and bespoke male kimono to demonstrate how they were worn as a complete outfit in the eighteenth century.

For more information, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Event: Katagami and Symbolism with Mamiko Markham

Event date: Tuesday 5 December 2017, 5–6pm

Researcher and practitioner Mamiko Markham presents a talk exploring the symbolism of the motifs used in katagami stencil design and the methods used to make them.

Katagami stencils are a Japanese technique for applying printed pattern to cloth, traditionally for kimonos. They are recognised as having had an important relationship with, and impact on, art and design across the globe.

Mamiko Markham was born in Kyoto, Japan, and grew up with katazome (Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste applied through a stencil) from a young age. Her great grandfather was a katagami maker. She has a deep knowledge of the symbolism of the motifs used in katagami design and in the techniques used to make them. She has taught Japanese art and craft for over 25 years in Japan. and has worked extensively for UNESCO on guidance of art and craft education in Central Asia for fashion development using traditional folk textile weaving and dyeing.

Markham is currently working as a researcher and practitioner with Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture on their Katagami in Practice project Art School. Her research uses both ordinary and infrared photography to examine the katagami stencils in MoDA’s Silver Studio Collection to determine geographical origins, dates and makers (merchants).

This event is free; please book your place via Eventbrite.

Location: M&S Company Archive, Michael Marks Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT (sat nav LS2 9LP)

The event will be followed by the opportunity to visit ‘Katagami – The craft of the Japanese stencil’ exhibition at ULITA from 6pm–8pm. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, and to book a place at this event, visit the Eventbrite page.

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

Event: Fit for the Future? The Kimono in Contemporary Japan

Event date: Thursday 23 November, 4–6pm

With few young Japanese people choosing to wear the kimono, and fewer still choosing to buy one of these expensive traditional garments, the shops and craftspeople who sell and make kimonos are facing troubled times. Third-generation kimono shop owner Yoshihide Shibakawa is coming to St Cross College, Oxford, next week to deliver a special talk on his vision of the future of the kimono and what it means to be a retailer in the traditional industries in twenty-first century Japan. There will also be a chance to try on real Japanese kimonos in the second half of the event.

For more information, please contact St Cross DPhil student Julie Valk.

Exhibition: Boro – Threads of Life

Exhibition dates: 5 October – 5 November 2017, Wednesday to Sunday, 3–7pm

In Paris this month is an exhibition on the Japanese textile tradition of boro (some of you may have seen this exhibition at Somerset House in 2014). Translated as ‘rags’ in English, boro is the collective name for textiles – usually clothing and bed covers – made by the poor, rural population of Japan who could not afford to buy new when necessity required, and had to make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets, forming something slightly different each time they did so. Generations of Japanese families, from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, repaired and recycled all kinds of textiles, from fishermen’s jackets to futon covers, handing them down, and weaving their own sagas and stories through the threads.

This cultural practice is now long vanished. Unused boro textiles tend to be put aside, thrown away or sometimes even destroyed by a society embarrassed by its past. As a result, they are now a rare find. This is a stunning collection of unique Japanese patched indigo textiles, which appear to transcend their origins to become exquisite objects of abstract art.

For more information, visit the website of La Frontiera Gallery, Paris.