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.

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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.

Event: Japanese Textile Dyeing Workshop

Event date: Saturday 18 November 2017, 11am – 4pm

To coincide with the forthcoming netsuke exhibition ‘Dressed to Impress’, the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath is running a workshop later this year on key patterns and symbolic meanings behind Japanese textile design. Mamiko Markham will explain the process of traditional Japanese katazome dyeing (kata = carving pattern; zome = printing and dye) and guide you through the process from pattern design to printing on handkerchiefs, using pre-made stencils inspired by the exhibits.

Mamiko, who has 25 years’ extensive experience in teaching Japanese textiles, is Katagami researcher at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA), London.

Admission: Public £25; Friends / Students £20 (max. 12 people)

For more information, and to book your place on this workshop, visit the website of the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, UK.

Event: Eloquent Pattern – The Craft of the Japanese Printing Stencil – Talk by Alice Humphrey

Event date: Friday 22 September, 4:15–6pm

This talk will introduce the construction and use of Edo and Meiji period katagami – Japanese paper stencils used for resist printing designs onto clothing and domestic fabric. A focus of the talk will be the diverse patterning effects found on katagami influenced by the stencils’ construction and the use of the resulting printed fabric.

Dr Alice Humphrey developed an interest in Japanese textiles and katagami through working on the collections held at ULITA (an archive of international textiles in Leeds) and at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, London. She has combined this with her doctoral research field of analysing the structures underlying decorative motifs and patterning.

The talk will be preceded by a viewing of related material from the Ashmolean collection, selected by our chairman Aimée Payton and the curator for Japanese Art, Dr Clare Pollard.

Location: Ashmolean Museum Jameel Centre Study Room 1 (for the viewing) and the Education Centre (for the presentation)
Time: 4.15–4.55pm (viewing) and 5.15pm (presentation)

OATG events are free for members and £3 for non-members.

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: Japan Textiles Workshop

Event date: Friday 1 September 2017, 23:30 pm

This event, to take place at Leeds Discovery Centre, is associated with the current exhibition Katagami – The craft of the Japanese Stencil exhibition at ULITA, which runs until 7 December 2017.

A chance to see and handle a broad range of Japanese textiles at the main store of Leeds Museums and Galleries, which has lent several pieces to the Katagami exhibition at ULITA. World Cultures Curator, Antonia Lovelace, will show examples of luxury and folk fabrics including fabulous embroidered wedding Uchikake, indigo tie-dyes, delicate appliqués and zori and geta footwear.

This event is free; however, there are limited places available. Please book by emailing discovery.centre@leeds.gov.uk, or by telephoning 0113 3782100.

Leeds Discovery Centre is on Carlisle Rd, south of the Royal Armouries. Visit leeds.gov.uk/discoverycentre for information on how to get there.

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

Exhibition: Diligence and Elegance – The Nature of Japanese Textiles

Exhibition dates: 12 July 2017 – 21 January 2018

Diligence and Elegance: The Nature of Japanese Textiles presents over 50 textiles and garments from the Textile Museum of Canada’s collection of nineteenth and twentieth-century artifacts made in Japan for both everyday and occasional use. Luxurious silk and gold fabrics produced in Kyoto’s professional weaving workshops are juxtaposed with domestic indigo-dyed cotton, plant-fibre cloth, and silk kimonos crafted in an astonishing spectrum of time-honoured techniques – weaving, dyeing, hand painting, gold foil application and embroidery – that exemplify venerable social and cultural values. The exhibition focuses on the highly refined skills and materials by which textiles have been constructed and decorated over centuries, and on how diligence and ingenuity have shaped their timeless beauty. The persistence of traditions seen in such rigorously executed textiles has come to embody the heart of Japanese aesthetics. Every material, colour and technique has a story to tell.

Diligence and Elegance features the contemporary work of Hiroko Karuno and Keiko Shintani, two Japanese-Canadians whose consummate craftsmanship and philosophies are profoundly connected to the evolution of Japanese textile traditions of spinning, dyeing and weaving. Their internationally renowned artistic achievements are testimony to the ethics of labour associated with a lifelong investment of time, practice and precision; they position living traditions as opportunities for personal reflection and the acknowledgement of the significance of collective human accomplishments.

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

Event: The Art of Nishiki Weaving in Japan – Preservation and Restoration of Yarn Dyed Textiles, with Amane Tatsumura

Event date: Monday 21 August 2017, 6:45pm

Nishiki-ori brocades are magnificently elaborate and multicoloured figured silk textiles, handwoven on takabata looms, which were introduced to Japan from China over 1,200 years ago. Reflecting the high monetary value of the product, the character for nishiki (錦) is made up of two other characters, 金 meaning gold or money and 帛, meaning silk. The word nishiki has historically been used to describe something of great beauty, in phrases such as ‘nishiki no mihata’ banners flown by imperial troops; ‘kokyo ni nishiki o kazaru’ (lit. decorate the hometown with nishiki brocade) used to describe someone returning home in triumph; and ‘kinshu’ to refer to spectacular autumn leaves (kin is an alternative reading of the character nishiki). However, today nishiki weaving is in real danger, with a lack of skilled craft workers to carry on the tradition.

The Japan Society are delighted to welcome Amane Tatsumura to give the society’s August lecture. Tatsumura, who is actively working to preserve and continue the techniques used in yarn-dyed weaving, will speak about the revival of this tradition. The Tatsumura family has studied the various traditional skills involved in the historic production of woven textiles, such as methods of spinning cocoons and the construction of looms and other equipment, and as far as possible use those techniques in their weaving today. Through these efforts to restore the traditional methods, it has been possible to create employment for craftspeople whose work has been in decline, while preserving techniques and ensuring that these skills are passed on and recorded.

Amane Tatsumura was born in 1974, the oldest son of Koho Tatsumura, one of the leading masters of the art of nishiki weaving in Japan. After graduating from Tokyo Zokei University, he concentrated on the weaving of nishiki brocade, learning how to weave on a takabata loom. Amane Tatsumura has followed in his father’s footsteps in continuing this tradition and has worked to restore the yarn-dyed weaving tradition and promote its growth. He is a special lecturer attached to the Project Faculty of Doshisha University.

This event will be held at:

The Swedenborg Society
20–21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter Street)
London WC1A 2TH

Places are free, but booking is highly recommended. To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email events@japansociety.org.uk.

For more information, visit the website of the Japan Society, London.

Exhibition: Embroidery from Koto, the East of the Lake  

Exhibition Dates:  5 August – 18 September 2017

Held at the Aisho-cho Museum of Culture and History, Japan.

OATG member Hiroko McDermott writes:

Exhibiting about 15–20 works, this is the first solo show of the works of the Aoki Embroidery in Hikone, an old castle town seated on the east shores of Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture. Some visitors to the Ashmolean exhibition, Threads of Silk and Gold (2012), might still remember its very large and elegant landscape hanging depicting ‘View of Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto’ (pl. 28) and a lively ‘Nikko’ (pl. 29).  As the whereabouts of Aoki was discovered only in the last minutes before the editing deadline of the catalogue, Clare Pollard and I could give only minimal information about this firm.  But the Aoki was very active and important in Japan’s export of embroidered pictures in the 1900s, and still keeps up its operation.  Presently it is led by Mr Tsuneo Aoki, the fourth head since its initiation by Hachiemon Aoki back in the 1890s.

Since 2013, Hiroko McDermott has visited the firm every time she has been back in Japan, and she is very happy to introduce Aoki-san and his works on this occasion.    

This local museum is small, but it is located next to a large ancient temple in a beautiful mountain setting. Anybody who is interested in joining Hiroko at the beginning of September will be very welcome. Also, for more information, just email her at hirokomcd@aol.com.

Open: Wednesday to Sunday, 10–5, and also the national holiday of Monday, 18 September.

For more information, visit the website of the Aisho-cho Museum of Culture and History (website in Japanese), Japan, or contact Hiroko McDermott directly.