The Arimatsu Shibori Museum

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.

A historic textile warehouse on the little street that was once the great Tokaido

A historic textile warehouse on the little street that was once the great Tokaido

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.

Arimatsu Shibori dyed fabrics on sale in a craft shop

Arimatsu Shibori dyed fabrics on sale in a craft shop

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.

A craftswoman tyeing Shibori knots using dots printed in fugitive ink as a guide

A craftswoman tieing Shibori knots using dots printed in fugitive ink as a guide

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.

Craftswomen demonstrating at the Arimatsu Shibori Museum

Craftswomen demonstrating at the Arimatsu Shibori Museum

This woman is using a hook tied to a post to help control the complex knotting process

This woman is using a hook tied to a post to help control the complex knotting process

A section of knotted fabric. When the entire bolt of cloth is completed it will be sent for dyeing

A section of knotted fabric. When the entire bolt of cloth is completed it will be sent for dyeing

Pieces of knotted fabric. The completed material beneath shows the final pattern

Pieces of knotted fabric. The completed material beneath shows the final pattern

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.

Examples of just a few of the many classic Arimatsu Shibori patterns

Examples of just a few of the many classic Arimatsu Shibori patterns

Each sample shows every stage from blank white cloth through to finished pattern

Each sample shows every stage from blank white cloth through to finished pattern

A close up showing the different stages

A close up showing the different stages in producing one design

There is also a display area showing Kimono and other items created from Arimatsu Shibori fabric.

Gallery display showing Kimono with Shibori designs

Gallery display showing Kimono with Shibori designs

A famous Kimono with Hokusai's "Great Wave"

A famous Kimono with Hokusai’s “Great Wave”

A contemporary Shibori wall hanging

A contemporary Shibori wall hanging

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.

Japan 5 – Hida no Sato

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 old buildings have been re-erected as a small village in a rural landscape

The old buildings have been re-erected as a small village in a rural landscape

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.

The "gassho-zukuri" farmhouses were built with steep thatched roofs

The “gassho-zukuri” farmhouses were built with steep thatched roofs

Other buildings have shallow-pitched roofs where snow could be easily cleared

Other buildings have shallow-pitched roofs where snow could be easily cleared

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.

The houses are packed with many original artifacts

The houses are packed with many original artifacts

This building displayed many looms and other fabric processing equipment

This building displayed many examples of looms and other fabric processing equipment

Models are also used to show house construction techniques and such things as farm layouts.

A model showing the construction of a "gassho-zukuri" house

A model showing the construction of a “gassho-zukuri” house

The immense size of many buildings is very impressive. Large extended families would have all lived together under one roof.

Many of the farmhouses are very large spaces

Many of the farmhouses are very large spaces

Most buildings also feature space for the domestic animals

Buildings also feature space for the domestic animals alongside the people

Hido no Sato even features an original village well that has been painstakingly reconstructed on the site.

A village well

A village well

A view down the well showing the handmade wooden buckets

A view down the well showing the handmade wooden buckets

A fascinating old phot showing one of the buildings before it was moved

A fascinating old photo showing one of the buildings before it was moved

Hida no Sato is a very peacefull and picturesque place to visit

Hida no Sato is a very peaceful and picturesque place to visit

Some old thatched roofs have developed into interesting little ecosystems

Some old thatched roofs have developed into interesting little ecosystems

The village has a couple of little rice paddies that were developing a nice crop when we visited

The village even has a couple of little rice paddies that were developing a nice crop when we visited

Developing rice

Developing rice

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.

The doll is called "Sarubobo" and is a symbol of Takayama

The doll is called “Sarubobo” and is a traditional symbol of Takayama

 

Some New jewellery Work

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.

A cuff bracelet

A cuff bracelet

Matching textile necklace

Matching textile necklace

Another, distinctly assymetric necklace

Another, distinctly asymmetric necklace

Brooches are not the fastest sellers but are still my favourite objects

Brooches are not the fastest sellers but are still my favourite objects

And this winter I have been making a lot of earrings!

And this winter I have been making a lot of earrings!

More earrings

More earrings

Yet more earrings!

Yet more earrings!

Just a few samples of my recent earrings

I have made many more – It has been a long (wet) winter!

Devon Guild Summer Show

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.

Neckpiece and bracelet at Devon Guild

Neckpiece and bracelet at Devon Guild

Devon Guild of Craftsmen

Devon Guild of Craftsmen

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.

The beautiful, historic Riverside Mill

The beautiful, historic Riverside Mill

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.

Jubilee gallery - Reaching for Gold

Jubilee gallery – Reaching for Gold

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.

Some New Textile Jewellery

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:
New Jewellery group
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.)

Related posts: My Love for EarringsMy Jewellery; Early Textile Jewellery; A Clockwork Orange; Neckpiece and Earrings; A Frilly Pendant; Textile Neckpiece.