Over the summer I put a lot of effort into some new textile necklaces. I recently sold the one I was most pleased with but I thought I would share a couple of images of the piece.
During the Edo era in Japan, the Tokaido road leading from Kyoto and Osaka to the capital Edo was the nation’s main highway. Near the city of Nagoya a village called Arimatsu grew astride the Tokaido and achieved great prosperity through the production of indigo dyed clothing fabrics that were sold to travelers on the highway. These fabrics were decorated using sophisticated Shibori tie-dyeing processes. Shibori techniques already had a long history in Japan but in Arimatsu many processes were developed and refined that allowed the large-scale production of many complex patterns.
Alex and I visited Arimatsu in 2014. The village has long been absorbed within Nagoya’s suburbs and what was once the great Tokaido is now just a sleepy side street lined with many nice old buildings. Several of the buildings are the great warehouses and mansions of the textile merchants who made their fortunes here, alongside old-fashioned restaurants and craft shops selling shibori items. There is also the Arimatsu Shibori Museum, which was the reason for our visit.
The key to Arimatsu’s success lay in systematising and regimenting the production of small and complex repeat patterns. One important technique was the printing of a guide pattern on the fabric using a fugitive ink. This allowed the craftperson to align many hundreds of small individual elements with great accuracy. Various posts and hooks were also developed to help the worker carry out the arduous task of repeating complex patterns.
At the Arimatsu Shibori Museum one can watch craftswomen demonstrate some of their techniques, though when they are working at full speed it is almost impossible to see what they are doing. It is only when they slow down a great deal that one can work out how the seemingly magical knotting techniques are achieved. The ladies we watched were very patient and spent a lot of time showing us exactly what they were doing step by step.
The Museum features a wonderful display of example pieces that show each traditional pattern from untied material through the tied stage, the dyed stage and on to the finished patterned fabric.
There is also a display area showing Kimono and other items created from Arimatsu Shibori fabric.
The museum features a large shop with a wide range of locally produced textile goods ranging from small “touristy” items up to very fine goods such as Kimono at truly eye-watering prices. Sadly, even with the local craftspeople’s great speed and skill, such labour intensive items now struggle to find a market at a viable price. Much of what looks like Shibori fabric sold in Japan today is in fact printed and we discovered that much of the genuine Shibori made for the more commercial end of the market is now sent from Arimatsu to Korea and China where it can be knotted by much cheaper labour.
Hida no Sato (Hida Folk Village) is a wonderful open air museum situated on the outskirts of Takayama, a delightful town in the mountains of central Honshu, north of Nagoya. The site consists of around 30 old buildings from all over the mountains that were dismantled and then rebuilt here in the 1970’s. The buildings are mainly large farmhouses of various types and most are over 100 years old.
The Hida region of Gifu Prefecture is subject to heavy snowfall (often up to two metres) and the different styles of architecture show alternative approaches to dealing with this climate. In the north of the region the farmers built using steeply sloped roofs so that snow would slide off. This is the “gassho-zukuri” (praying hands) style of building used at the nearby Shirakawa-go village that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other areas built houses with very strong, low-pitched roofs so that people could climb up and shovel off the excess snow.
Visitors are able to wander around and enter the buildings. Inside are many of the everyday tools and artifacts used by their original inhabitants. Each structure also functions as a museum for one aspect of traditional mountain life, including weaving, house building and repair, cultivation, transport, etc.
Models are also used to show house construction techniques and such things as farm layouts.
The immense size of many buildings is very impressive. Large extended families would have all lived together under one roof.
Hido no Sato even features an original village well that has been painstakingly reconstructed on the site.
This is a wonderful place to visit and certainly proved much more interesting than we had anticipated. In one part of the site visitors can watch traditional craftspeople at work and buy their wares.
Hi, I have not been posting here for a while but I hope to get back to adding regular updates soon.
Meantime here are a few of my recent textile jewellery pieces.
On Friday, Alex and I travelled down to Riverside Mill in Bovey Tracy for the opening of the Summer Show of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. The Devon Guild is the premier craft organisation for the South-West of England, and boasts a beautiful gallery.
This year the show is entitled “Reaching for Gold,” and I had entered a neckpiece and a matching bracelet – I’ll be putting up a detailed post about these pieces soon. The exhibition was a fascinating mix of everything from large-scale ceramics and furniture, to prints, clothing and some exquisite precious metalwork.
Unfortunately, we were making a long car journey up to Oxford that evening and so we were unable to wait for the official opening speeches or for the announcement of awards.
If you have a chance to visit the West Country, I heartily recommend that you find time to visit this great gallery and craft shop. “Reaching for Gold” runs until the 2nd of September.
We were preparing some work to go out to a gallery today which included taking our reference photographs. At the same time Alex took some more pics to share with you. Hope that you like them:
These pieces are headed for the shop at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, an excellent craft gallery to visit if you are in the South-West of England.
The Devon Guild Summer Show of members work (including a couple of my pieces), runs from June 30th to September 2nd (check out the Guild Facebook page.)