Found a monkey bed in the mountains!! – 山で猿の寝どころ見つけた!

Check it out! This was surprising, took me a bit to figure out what we were looking at. I was really dumb-founded at first. For some reason, I was thinking deer (lots of deer pellets in the mountains all around my house recently – that’s a new development, new to the past few years)…..but then I would think, “no way deer could construct such an intricate thing”…..

So, I was walking up the slope with a friend the other day, observing stuff and havin’ fun, and we stumbled on this. A concave depression created of similar size branches, some soft bark, no doubt, a bed. A monkey bed!! Really well made, i was blown away by the mental process this entailed….really blown away….made the point that monkeys are really not far, or should I say we haven’t gone all as far as we seem to feel we have come, away from the animal monkey state……was kind of mind-blowing.monkey bed

monkey nest

What was also kind of funny was the fact that this monkey bed was surprisingly close to our own house, and even to the space where we ,as a family , sleep. Because we sleep on the 2nd floor, and this nest was just up on the slope from our house, in reality, fifty meters or so, and sort of at the same elevated level. Really sort of made it hit home in a different way. Not only are the monkeys sort of like us, eerily similar, but they are even sleeping in the same area!! Kind of like it’s the quiet area where all we animals gather to sleep. Helps one feel like maybe they are a bit more “beastly” than we would like to imagine…….

 

Hahahaha!!! Crazy monkeys……I wonder if they are there tonight, in th rain. I’m sure this nest helps them to stay elevated just enuf off the ground to stay a bit warm. I can imagine them all huddled and sleeping en mass…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Went up there again with my sons to show them. Here’s a goofy monkey I caught in the nest……

goofy monkey DSCF5218

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uh….adddy?…can I get out now?


the Difference

OK, here it is. I’ve found it. It’s the difference. The difference between Japan and the rest of the world…..at least the world that I came from…..the US. This is it. The difference. Distilled out. In it’s pure form…….

about Jr HS kids washing their desk and chair in the river

about Jr HS kids washing their desk and chair in the river

This is an article I cut from thje paper on january 20. (OK, a while ago…..). It portrays the 3rd year JrHS students of a local school dstrict taking thir desk and chair down to the river for a washing. These are the desk and chair which they themselves have used for three years, basically their homeroom desk. They are washing it and in doing so trying to show the desk their appreciation, their gratefulness. They are graduating this year, and so it’s a sort of  Thank you/goodbye thing……

Can you even imagine this in the states? Or anything similar? Somehow, I can’t………

Although I am sure there are plenty of good kids there, who would respond to this type of thing……..and see the point……not consider it an exercise in futility, nor think it old-fashioned………


diamond in the rough

Sometimes, we come across diamond in the rough……this time, I think I may have hit it again!

I go to antique shops, fairs….I’m incorridgeable!

Well, this is a set of pieces that I found at one said antique shop which I frequent, in Mino, the city next to ours, known for it’s old town and paper industry. The walls of the cafe section of the shop are lined with these printing blocks, and they were always intriguing.

Upon inquiring about them quite a ways back, I found that they were from an old napkin business in Gifu City, an hour downriver of here. And that there were more to be had! Gifu is a textile and paper area, so this made sense. This dealer had bought the whole lot, numbering in the hundreds. The company was printing personalized  napkins for restaurants in Europe, and some of the plates had wholes to insert and change names. You can see one such plate which i got below.

with holes for replaceable restaurant name

with holes for replaceable restaurant name

The plates were carved in the Meiji and Taisho eras and are well over 100 years old. One or two which still had the restaurant names left in had places from Spain inserted. Since the plates were used for printing, they all had printing inks left on them; some blue, some pink,evry color represented! But it just seems to make them more interesting, more bizarre and other-worldly.DSCF4047 DSCF4040

Each of these plates is remarkable on many levels, considering design, overall sculptural qualities and historical providence. Really something we may never have the chance to own again! (that’s right! You TOO could own one…squeeky wheel!) Please look at better photos of some of th plates at my Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.296260953835856.66910.211861492275803&type=1

Really, diamond in the rough….seed for wondering…..the beginning of a new episode in the life of an old object…..


Expansion, Absorption

DSCF2541

Fabric is incredible. Never ceases to amaze me, teach me, tell me stories.

One of today’s revelation began with this hemp, purple kasuri (ikat) hemp from a very old kimono.

I have been pulling a lot of stuff out recently in a never ending attempt to pare down, get rid of some of the stuff I have accumulatd over the years. There is a lot of fabric. I was photographing and measuring this piece, etc etc , to eventually get it up on Etsy when I noticed something very interesting.

I have had lots of these machine-woven kasuri-like fabrics. Kasuri, also known as ikat in Indonesia, is a painstaking process of dyeing the threads b4hand so as to affect patterns and motifs in the woven fabric. Just found out on wikipedia that kasuri (Japanese-style ikat) is weft ikat. The weft is resist dyed first to create the pattern (in other versions, the warp is resist dyed).

Well, i assumed that this was more of the same, fake ikat. But then I got to looking closer. At first, I noticed by looking at the “coins” in the pattern, and the chords, that the pattern was minutely different in each coin or chord. When they are printed or woven using programs, every minute detail in the repeating pattern is identical. These ones were highly variable.

Then I got to looking at the selvidge, the edges of the fabric. Completely uneven, as you can see in the photo below. And then my inkling started coming to light. No, it couldn’t be….Looked closely at the weaving in the fabric. Not exactly delicate, almost deliberate….Is that a tie-off? Looks like where the string broke and they added a new string in there…..has the fatness of two strings just for a bit there….nubby hemp….but a stable, seasoned hand, for sure…no lack of skill….

But, I got to thinking about where the fabric came from, the old inn, a place which I salvaged in the spring. And remembered how all the fabrics which came out of there were of the utmost quality. (this lady had TASTE and these people had YEN!) And my inkling grew to a feeling!

This is handloomed~! This is homespun!! This is incredible!!

I look at the fabric and think, there’s no WAY I could ever pull something like this off! It must have driven the weaver plumb batty! And there is a whole kimonos worth, altogether over 10 meters. I sat and thought. Imagine weaving a whole bolt of this stuff!!

There’s no way. If I were to weave the bolt and had to put a price on it, the thing would be about $100,000! There’s no way a “modern person” (in their right mind) would even consider…yes, I know, some folks still do weave….but it’s hard to imagine, to putr a face to it and imagine someone doing this as a menas to make a kimono, let alone as a means to make money.

Have we changed that much in the 100 or so years since this fabric was woven? I’m afraid that we really have……and it could be dismaying…..but I’m sure we’re not completely beyond repair. I am quite sure of that!

At first, the objects seem quite mundane, quite one-dimensional. Fabric. So what? How much fabric do we have in the world? It’s become too commonplace, somewhat trite almost. So easy to disregard, like it’s a given part of the landscape.

But look a little deeper and things seem to expand, grow dimensionally, in stature and in import. What was once a point is now a plane, next a cosmos! Did something come from nothing?! Or was it the change in viewpoint, change of perspective, change in merely the attitude of the observer,which seems to have changed the very object itself?

DSCF2545DSCF2543Can see both uneven edges and the sort of “approximate” placement of the rows of color for the pattern.

 

 

 

 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/119095177/old-homespun-japanese-hemp-kasuri-fabric

There’s a link to ths fabric being sold on Etsy!! Go get it b4 someone does first!


old Indigo-dyed felt blanket

Found somethging else which has me intrigued at that old ryokan. It’s an indigo-dye felt blanket. Not synthetic felt, but real, steam-shrunk wool felt. Dyed a deep indigo blue. I have never seen something similar before…..

OK, it’s completely moth-eaten. You can imagine how it was folded. I found it in an old storage tansu full of mosquito nets (kaya), way down on the bottom. I have heard b4 that indigo imbues the dyed cloth with some amount of bug protection. I guess wool is wool though, yummy to certain moths despite the indigo!

Why did I take it, you ask? Something in such condition could have no value, you probably think. But to me, not only is this worthwhile for studying the history of textiles and indigo dyeing here in Japan.

But also, I am presently working together with a man named Ritarou who specializes in sashiko, or the reinforcement of fabric using stitches. I have a feeling he will be very happy about my find. And that a winter vest or coat at least can be salvaged from even this bug eaten mess.

First I have to wash and air it , though….

More photos….There’s a tag in the corner. Can’t make out what’s written….

And the edge of the back side is interesting. Have a feeling this is a clue to how it’s made. Almost looks like three layers subsequently deposited one over the other, maybe on a large screen-like sieve….


Homespun kimono silks and piecing together the history–”内織り”絹で歴史が繋がっていく

I have been intrigued recently by apeice of the puzzle which I wasn’t sure about. I know that the local farmers used to grow silk coccoons every year as a “crop” and an important source of yearly income. I have found a good many of the artifacts involved and been able to somewhat peice the process, the story, together. Recently, I had even found this (see photo). It is a giant washi sack used to collect up all the coccoons in for transport from farm to factory. This one has the mark of the Gunze company, a popular underwear company herein Japan even today. The back side says “Ooi Factory”. It is bound for Ooi in Kyushu.

And I had often heard of the country folk using the lower quality, badly formed or otherwise unsellable coccoons to spin string, weave silk and create their own clothing. Basically, homespun and home woven. And so I figured a certain amount of the silk which I was acquiring was said “homespun ” silk. I would find rolls with very uneven selvidges or with more imperfections than most commercially machine-woven fabrics tend to have. And i would wonder….Are these the homespun fabrics?

Today, I had a chance to check while talking with a friend in Mino City nearby. She is an older woman who deals with old fabrics and remakes old kimonos into modern “Western” clothing, and she is where I go to get answers when I overflow with questions.

I brought with me one of the rolls I suspected, and asked her. And sure enuf, she told me it is “uchi-ori”, or home-woven. Slowly , but surely, the whole picture becomes easier to see, easier to imagine. because it is really not so far gone at all, here in Japan, especially here in the country. It’s right underneath the surface, and takes but a scratch to become exposed.

This green, red and white fabric is a recent acquisition from a very old ryokan, or “inn”. The place is over 200 years olsd! The fabric is in two parts, the first part being 720 cms long (that’s like over 8 yards!). A very open plaid pattern, I love the play between the colors in the warp and the weft and the way the overall effect makes it look quite different than just green, red and white.

For more photos of this peice, I will refer you to Etsy, where this peice will eventually be for sale.

I will upload photos of one more homespun fabric I have, a dissembled, laundered and never re-assembled kimono. Ths was the first fabric to get me wondering and suspicious that the homespuns were right there, all around me! Notice that these fabrics usually have simple patterns, stripes and plaids that even the unsophisticated home- weaver can acheive. I love the flavor, the warmth and approachability of the rustic textiles!

Oh, BTW, the green red white silk is for sale over on Etsy. http://www.etsy.com/listing/96750568/homespun-silk-kimono-fabric-over-7


Greedy mandala, desire mandala….欲張りまんだら欲まんだら

Tried to make this 12 point out to 24 point mandala work. I had this super thin, super fine fabric which I had wanted to try for a while. Tied up a mandala yesterday and went for it. This is what I got. Kind of not what I had hoped for, a fail , in my eyes. Dye penetration sucks. Yeah, I ain’t gonna throw it away but….

First lesson: sometimes you push too hard and don’t get it exactly right.

One thing I found kinda ironic , though. The part which constitutes the fail, the areas of lighter color throughout the mandala, which radiate out from the center, actually look interesting , in a way, like light shining thru the mandala. Basically, the fail is the success….

Second lesson: same thing looked at from a different perspective looks very different, like a different object altogether.