Jacqueline Wein

Byobu

 

prov-e-nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\noun. the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Guest edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Perhaps the very essence of Japan can be found in the hand painted screens, called byobu, which have flourished as an art form in Japan since the 8th century. Byobu literally means “wind wall”  which gives a clear sense of their original purpose – to block drafts. Over time, their mobility and flexibility allowed them to be used almost anywhere, to block unsightly objects or repurpose a room, as well as serving as beautiful backdrops for tea ceremony, ikebana and visiting dignitaries. Ornate screens and those using gold and silver leaf helped proclaim the status of their owner. Like much of Japanese artwork, screens originated in China but were slowly but surely domesticated and changed in Japan, with a high point being the introduction of paper hinges, allowing the artist a single large canvas to create an image, rather than completely divided panels.

I considered writing on other subjects this month, but with my imminent departure from Tokyo, I realized that I had to cover something very near and dear to my heart. Add to that my discovery, at a big antiques fair earlier this month, a divine silver leaf byobu painted with naturalistic pine in the richest of greens and my topic was set.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Of course this beauty came home with me where I cannot stop admiring the finesse of the painter who implied mountains in the background with the merest hint of line. The silver leaf literally seems to glow as if lit from within.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

The period between the late 16th to the 17th century is considered the "golden age" of byobu painting, with daimyo and samurai leaders commissioning works of art on a large-scale, designed to decorate their castles and awe their constituents with their wealth and power. Screens from this period often continue to reflect a bold Chinese heritage and make free use of bold brushstrokes and Zen themes.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Prosperity under the Tokugawa shogunate from the early 17th century through the mid-19th century, encouraged painters of various schools to create screens in many different styles – not just for the samurai and aristocratic elites, but for wealthy farmers, artisans and merchants. The Kano school is perhaps the most well-known, being the dominant school style for nearly 400 years. The Kano family itself produced many great artists and many students of the school went on to take the Kano name. The Rinpa school, created in 17th century Kyoto, is one of the other most famous schools, known particularly for the work of brothers Ogata Korin and Ogata Kenzan. I have written about the Ogata Korin iris masterpieces before, and they continue to be some of my favorites.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Other schools include the Tosa school, whose subject matter and techniques derived from ancient Japanese art, as opposed to schools influenced by Chinese art, notably the Kano school. However, by the late 17th century divisions between schools had become less marked as the artists willingness to experiment broadened.

As the breadth of topics widened, so too did screen commissioning and ownership. Most common were pairs of full height 6 panel screens, but other shapes and sizes proliferated with specific names and uses. Topics such as the four seasons, flower studies and detailed works featuring the Tale of Genji and other stories were popular. I particularly enjoy some of the more casual screens showing everyday life - like this pair of tagasode screens - meaning "Whose Sleeves?" a common theme depicting beautiful kimonosdraped across a wooden rack. Generally unsigned, tagasode screens are thought to have been painted by local artists whose ready-made works were sold to buyers off the street, rather than being commissioned.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Today, screens are more likely to be hung on the wall rather than stood on the floor. They lose some of their visual movement that way, but it also enhances the viewers ability to encompass the painting directly. I love the parallel between the silver leaf grids in the screen and the Bennison fabric pattern in this room by Windsor Smith.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Finely detailed story screens like this 17th century byobu depicting the Genki Heike Battle between the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan may have had their heyday in that century, but feel just as relevant today when mixed with an antique Spanish refractory table and patchwork boro in Amy Katoh's riverfront home.

Provenance: Byobu | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Their detail or simplicity, their ever-changing response to light, their functionality and portability and their ability to work in any style decor, make byobu any decorator's best friend. For more images and information about these Japanese beauties, you can visit my blog Tokyo Jinja and my Byobu Board on Pinterest.

Have you used byobu in your home or a client project? We'd love to hear about it.

IMAGE CREDITS | All byobu screens via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, other credits as noted and linked to in the post above.

Toran

prov-e-nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\noun. the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

Guest edited by Jacqueline Wein, Tokyo Jinja IMAGE | Antique Toran via The Textile Museum of Canada

A number of years ago I spied a charming doorway textile at the home of a dear friend. Clearly Indian in origin, it was a rectangular banner with small fabric flaps hanging down and tiny mirrors embedded in the pattern. She told me it was a toran, a hand embroidered and embellished door hanging, traditionally made in Gujarat, on the coast of Northwestern India. My fascination with them grew and over the years I have continued to keep an eye out for them.

The word toran (or torana) itself originally referred to sacred gateways in Indian architecture, with roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, like this pair of 12th century sandstone ones in Vadnagar, Gujarat. It is easy to see the connection between the embroidery of the fabric hangings and the detailed stone carvings, as well as in their function to welcome both the gods and people. Decorative toran also play a role in holidays like Diwali and Holi or at weddings and celebrations as they are believed to be auspicious and lucky. The doorway blesses every person that walks under it, showering them with an abundance of love, prosperity, health and happiness. While the heavily embroidered ones tend to be regional to Gujarat, toran in other forms are popular throughout India. In the south, green mango tree leaves are threaded together and hung across the door. In Northern India, marigold flowers are strung together and used the same way. The small flaps that hang from the fabric versions are meant to represent dangling leaves and flowers.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGES | Torana Arch via Vadnagar, An Ancient City & Marigold Garland via Mitai and Marigolds

Often times toran are used in spaces other than actual doors to represent a passageway. This welcoming example from Sibella Court's Nomad book beckons one to enter and cozy up for a restful nap.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | via Nomad: A Global Approach to Interior Style by Sibella Court

The Kutch region of Gujarat is particularly well known for its embroidery techniques, with specific tribes and communities having their own particular style. Shisha, which is the Indian word for little glass or mirror, is the most distinctive technique in which small mirrors decorate the textile, being held in place by a framework of overlaid embroidery stitches.  No glue is used and the mirror is not threaded through or attached in any other way. It was believed that the mirrors had the power to ward off evil spirits by trapping or confusing the evil eye. While many of the other decorative stitches, such as the chain stitch, are universal, shisha work is unique to the Indian subcontinent. It comes as no surprise to me that women are solely responsible for these creations and that motif and patterns are not copied or written down, but instead passed along orally.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Antique Kutch Embroidery Toran from NovaHaat.com

Base fabrics and threadwork include cotton and silk and pieces over 50 years old may also have beadwork in addition to shisha work. Motifs are varied, from very naturalistic animals to very stylized patterns and geometrics. Mismatched patchwork is also part of their charm. Museum collections have toran from the late 19th century, but most of the older pieces available on today's market are mid-20th century. Invariably, the vintage pieces have some damage - in my mind, patina - and there are also many newly made toran available as well, although the details and quality of the silks doesn't match that of the older pieces. The decorative possibilities, in particular for children's rooms, are obvious. They make charming valances or would be perfect fronting a bed canopy.  Some toran are as long as 30 feet and I have seen them draping the edges of party tents as festive adornment.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Antique Kutch Rabari Banjara Toran via EthnicIndianArt

In modern-day interior decor, toran can be used in a quite literal context to embellish the threshold, as in this rituously joyful, over the top Indian themed space that was featured in Marie Claire Maison.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGES | Bollywood Boudoir via Marie Claire Maison & Vintage Toran via IndianBeautifulArt.com

But they are also incredibly sweet when taken completely out of context and used in ways you might not expect like here, hanging over a kitchen nook in floral designer Nicolette Camille's Brooklyn apartment. This toran also defines and elevates what would normally be a rather simple kitchen.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Nicolette Camille's Brooklyn, NY home via Design*Sponge

Perhaps best of all is when toran are part of a truly global design aesthetic. In Maryam Montague's Marrakech master bedroom, featured in Elle Decor, this toran-like textile used as a window valence mixes happily with decorative items from many nations, including France, Mali, and Morocco.

Provenance: Toran | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein | CLOTH & KIND

IMAGE | Maryam Montague's Marrakech master bedroom via Elle Decor

Have you used a festive toran as decoration in your home, or do you have something else to share with us on this topic? If so, we'd love to hear all about it. Please leave a comment below or email us at info(at)clothandkind(dot)com.

ABOUT PROVENANCE | Provenance offers a scholarly nod to the history of iconic styles in textile & design and is guest edited by Jacqueline Wein of the blog Tokyo Jinja. Previous Provenance topics include: Kasuri & Kuba Cloth.

Kasuri

The idea for this Provenance column has been in my mind for a couple of years, yet I've never quite had the wherewithal to make it happen in the substantive way in which I imagined it. For this reason, I am thrilled beyond words to have someone here now who is perfectly suited to pen this column because of her unique background  as a design historian and also because of our shared appreciation for a global sense of style that often times comes from  the use of age old techniques. Please welcome CLOTH & KIND's newest guest editor, Jacqueline Wein of the wonderful blog Tokyo Jinja. Jacqueline is an antiques dealer, design historian and “trailing spouse” living in Tokyo, Japan with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Tokyo Jinja (jinja means shrine in Japanese) tells the story of her travels throughout Asia and elsewhere looking at decorative and fine arts as well as chronicling her interior design projects. Always able to spot the proverbial needle in a haystack and sort the valuable from the junk, she combs Tokyo flea markets, better known as shrine sales, for treasures each week for clients around the world.  Porcelains, textiles, woodblock prints, baskets, vintage fishing floats, and katagami stencils are just some of the finds that come her way. And there is nothing she likes better than imagining and researching an object’s past and finding a modern day use for it. She cut her teeth at the 26th Street flea markets in New York and Les Puces in Paris, and honed her Asian expertise along Hollywood Road in Hong Kong. Jacqueline's incomparable background makes her the most natural guest editor to author this column, which offers a scholarly nod to the history of iconic styles in textile & design. KRISTA

prov-e-nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\ noun. the place of origin or earliest known history of something.

Guest edited by Jacqueline Wein.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

These days, ikat has become a household word, extending well beyond those in the textile world. Kasuri, on the other hand, is not, although it is the Japanese form of ikat, in which the weft and/or the warp threads are tie and resist dyed before being woven. That simply means that very tight binding threads are wrapped around all the places that are not meant to take the colored dye. Traditionally, kasuri was made from hand spun durable cotton using natural indigo and patterns were white against the blue, created by those areas left uncolored by the binding threads. Like many other indigo cottons, these were everyday fabrics worn by the common people. Aptly so, as indigo is credited with having the ability to strengthen fabric, making it more durable, as well as being able to repel bugs and insects which makes it ideal for the clothes of those working in the fields. Even as late as the early 1970s, most rural workers in Japan were wearing kasuri garments and Amy Katoh, author and owner of the iconic Blue & White store in Tokyo remembers the gardeners around the Imperial Palace wearing it through the 1960s.

Over time, additional pigments and modern designs were added to the mix. Occasionally, I stumble across an unusual two-tone piece that is not blue, like this madder colored one, although these tend to be more recent examples. But most kasuri still has an indigo base, even the modern machine-produced ones.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

The complexity of the kasuri technique lies in having to plan where the pattern will go, not just before weaving, but as the thread itself is dyed. The charm of the technique lies in the slight blurring at the edges of the patterns and images, giving the fabric a soft sense of movement. Most ikat is designed with patterns laid out on the warp – the stationary threads on the loom – which is much easier to produce. Kasuri tends to be weft ikat, which allows the weaver more control in varying the piece as they go, but is also harder to plan and create. The paler wispy white areas in these examples are woven that way. Solid white areas in kasuri are actually double ikat, meaning they have patterns placed across both the warp and the weft, which is very technically demanding. Interestingly, while there is a tradition of ikat in almost all world cultures, only three countries - Japan, India and Indonesia - produce double ikat. Kurume kasuri, as shown below, is a regional geometric form that highlights this double ikat very well.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

The areas of single and double kasuri are also easily distinguished from each other in the traditional length of fabric sourced by designer Maja Lithander Smith and I in Kyoto, which she had made into this beautiful bolster pillow. And I love the textile play with the more common Uzbek-style ikat on the pillow behind and the Japanese classic asa-no-ho (hemp pattern) on the vintage geisha pillow on the side table shelf.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Much kasuri is comprised of small repetitive geometric shapes, but it is also possible to create images and scenes with the technique. Pictorial kasuri is referred to as e-gasuri and the variety of patterns is endless - from literal patterns like this butterfly, to allegorical ones like this thunderstorm dragon pattern. Debate rages about where from and when ikat techniques were introduced to Japan, and some even believe it was invented independently at the end of the 18th century, but either way, this distinctive e-gasuri is Japan's own.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Kasuri is width limited by the narrow loom size prevalent here, being approximately 12-14 inches wide. Weaving was and is devoted to making kimono and other garments, which are constructed of vertical strips of cloth sewn together.  A single tan, or bolt of cloth measures approximately 9-11 meters long as that is what is needed to construct a kimono. While it’s not unusual to visit antique markets and shrine sales in Japan with their racks of vintage kimono, it’s less common to come across great varieties of old kasuri ones, although I occasionally do. It’s eminently possible to take a kimono apart and re-use the fabric for other projects. Small vintage pieces perfect for modern day uses as pillows, table runners and accent fabrics are often found this way.

kasuri-home-pillow.jpg

Larger items such as futon covers and furoshiki (wrapping cloths) were made by sewing strips of kasuri together. This early futon cover is made from hand-spun cotton and features both a realistic camelia and a stylized floral diamond called a hana bishi. It has aged and faded over time, adding to its charm and now displays beautifully as a throw over the back of a sofa.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Modern developments in weaving after WWII meant that yarn was no longer necessarily handspun and much of the dyeing process changed. Different kasuri stencil techniques emerged wherein the fabric was loosely woven first, stenciled with color and pattern, only to be tightly rewoven again. This sped up production and allowed for additional complexity in designs. Foreign influences and more varied coloration became common. Today, the word kasuri is often thrown around incorrectly referring to other kinds of Japanese textiles that use an ikat-like technique such as Meisen, Omeshi and Tsumugi silks, which were extremely popular from the art deco era through the post-war period.  Their designs were the height of modernity at the time, and still feel extremely fresh today.

Provenance: Kasuri | Guest Edited by Jacqueline Wein of Tokyo Jinja | CLOTH & KIND

Unlike the craze for colored ikat, kasuri hasn’t been commonly copied out in the mainstream textile market.  For larger upholstery projects Donghia makes a few kasuri inspired fabrics, including Yumihama, with its box well pattern and Kurume, a finely pebbled traditional pattern.

Donghia-Yumihama-and-Kurume.jpg

I am always hunting for vintage kasuri in good condition. If you are seeking Japanese textiles, including kasuri, shibori, katazome, tsutsugaki, silks, patchwork boro or anything else interesting please don't hesitate to reach out to me at jacquelinewein(at)yahoo(dot)com. And if you have any examples of kasuri in your home, please do share with us at info(at)clothandkind(dot)com.