Beauty of Oshima-tsumugi 3: Pongee yet Not Pongee

Recently, I am really interested in the history of Oshima-tsumugi, and I read a book about it.

Since 1639, Japan had national isolation policy. But after abandonment of this policy, Japan had experienced dramatic change in policy and culture affected by Western countries. I was excited to know craftsmen accepted this change and created new techniques. It is interesting to learn the wisdom and techniques accumulated by predecessors.
I was shocked that one of the book told me Oshima-tsumugi is no more Tsumugi(pongee). The reason is that they did not use tsumugi yarn since Meiji-era.

In Edo-era, days of the Shogunate, they used tsumugi yarn which was made in Amami-O(―)shima and used Izaribata to make Oshima-tsumugi. Oshima-tsumugi was presented to Tokugawa Shogunate.
But, after new government was established in 1867, they did not need to present Oshima-tsumugi to Tokugawa Shogunate. And Oshima-tsumugi becomes popular among people. Oshima-tsumugi’s demand grew rapidly and it was hard to supply all of the demand. So, craftsmen decided to use Takahata instead of Izaribata.
Actually, Takahata is better than Izaribata in terms of productivity, but Takahata puts a heavy strain on tsumugi yarn. So, they had to change form tsumugi yarn to raw silk. However Oshima-tsumugi was already popular among people, so they continue to call Oshima-tsumugi. This change caused the loss of Oshima-tsumugi’s taste, but it created another taste which is very sophisticated and unique all over the world. I will talk you about this story next time.


Gentle beauty of marble sculptures

“Grant Winners Exhibition 2010” has been held at gallery located at Art Students League of New York. Eight artists who’s got grand prize presented their works. I had received an invitation of reception from Sculptor Minako.

Japanese kimono magazine “Gekkan Are-Kore” introduced Minako to me a month ago and I finally met with her at the reception.

I had interviewed by “Gekkan Are-Kore” last November and Minako also interviewed by the magazine because she is into kimono. I am grateful to appear in the same kimono magazine which Minako had appeared and happy to meet with her at NY.
When I saw Minako’s work I felt warm grace heart from her sculptures. They were really beautiful. This sculpture is called “Wind”. I felt winds when I saw her “Wind”.

This sculpture is called “Earth is in your hands”.

She plane marble stone 10 hours per day to make these sculptures. I was surprised to hear such passion. I thought artist needs huge passion to express something and their work recognized as art work. Her works are like draw out people’s warm heart from marble stone. I felt her spirits from her arts and they really attached me.
We can say same thing in Kitsuke-shi(professional kimono stylist) too. Kitsuke is not only to dress people beautifully but also draw out model’s own beautifulness. I was stimulated by Minako’s work.

Minako was talking in front of “Sakura-Kannon”.

I took photo with Minako in front of “Earth on your hands”.

Minako’s website http://www.minakoyoshino.com/
Grant Winners Exhibition 2010 website (in Art Students League of New York) http://www.theartstudentsleague.org/ExhibitionsLectures/GrantWinnersExhibition2010.aspx
Gekkann Are Kore website http://www.arecole.com/


Autumn in New York

Autumn colors in NY are also beautiful as in Japan.

Usually we cannot feel autumn because winter comes very quickly after summer. But the other day, temperatures hovered around 68 degrees. I felt like Japan’s autumn and comfortable day had continued.

One day I found British paper written about Kimono. The paper says “Kimono making in Japan is a dying art.” This article appeared in Oct. 24rd in “The Telegraph”.
The paper raises important problems about the aging and heirless of Kimono craftsmen.

I wonder how next generation take over Kimono making skills from craftsmen.

Since I moved to the United States, I made a workshop at two museums and made a speech at the Rotary club of Wall Street New York. I am thinking that it is important for Kimono to recognize as a world fashion.
I am not sure whether my work will become a solution for the above problems but I will continue to send Kimono to the world from NY.
This article reminds me of the book title which was written by UNIQLO’s founder Mr. Yanai.
“one win and 9 losses”
I was impressed that the person who has much of an achievement like him experienced 9 losses. I thought will work hard as if I will get one win and 99 loses.


Beauty of Oshima-tsumugi 2: Doro dyeing

Oshima-tusmugi's yarns are dyed with stain which includes rich tannin acid. Craftsmen need to immerse them in the stain and expose to air. They repeat this work a few dozen times with checking the color. While they dye the yearns, they put them into the calcic water in order to neutralize tannin acid and make the color stabilize.
In this process, yearns become red-brown, and the layer of the color becomes deeper.
After being died by Yeddo hawthorn, they dye with mud. That mud is fine and each grain is round (fine and round grain doesn’t damage yern) and has many irons because Amami-Oshima's stratum is old. Clay has many irons, so it looks red. When we dye the yarns with this clay, rich tannin acid included in the Yeddo hawthorn and clay's iron causes a chemical reactions and yarns become black. Also Doro-dyeing makes gloss and supple yarns and has effect to protect them from bugs, static and odor. It also protect them from color-dulling.
It is wonderful knowledge using nature power. Repeating this Yeddo hawthorn dying and Doro-dyeing makes color deeper.
Historically, Oshima-tsumugi pongee is already recorded in Nara-era (from 710 A.D. to 793 A.D.) as a "bistred –tsumugi which is came from south islands". This bistred-Tsumugi is considered to be Oshima-Tsumugi now. It is said that ancient dying techniques like Plum-dying and Peach-dying introduced into Amami-oshima Island. It is said that Bistred –tsumugi is original style of Ooshima-tsumugi. Ooshima-tsumugi is dyed with Yeddo hawthorn, Chin-tree and Fuku-tree which are indigenous at Amami-oshima Island.
Oshima-tsumugi utilize Amami-oshima's nature effectively. I am wondering what kind of reaction I can get from New Yorkers, when I wear Ooshima-tsumugi in NY.