Because the clothing has been patched over and over, they look like wearable quilts. For a long time they were an embarrassment, due to the extreme poverty of the country people who created them. Now they are considered National treasures.
The book BORO: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koida and Kyoichi Tsuzuki is based on the tireless search by Chuzaburo Tanaka for these cultural folk craft. He trekked over mountains and seacoast for 40 years collecting these Boro pieces. You can find this book for a reasonable price at the Trocadero website here.
Without Tanaka's efforts we would never have known of the art and beauty of Boro. For the people who created them, each small scrap of cloth and thread was precious. You can find actual Boro items at Kimono Boy, srithreads, and Shibui Home.
Below is one of my paintings in which I used hand-painted rice papers as collage. My hope in creating these hand painted papers was to make them resemble pieces of fabric in the style of Boro. The title is Asian Quilt.
Between 1741 and 1760, more than 4000 babies were left at the Foundling Hospital in London, England. When these impoverished mothers left their babies, they also left a small token, which was usually a piece of fabric. The fabric was either provided by the mother or cut from the child's clothing by nurses.
This piece of fabric was attached to registration forms and bound up in ledgers, in order to 'identify' the baby and keep identifying records. The hope by both the mothers and the nurses was that they would be able to reclaim their baby when their lives improved.
These pieces of fabric represent the sad moments of parting. Below, the piece of fabric has been cut into the shape of a heart. These pieces of fabric also form the largest collection of every day textiles serving Britain from the 18th century. Earlier this year, the Foundling Museum in London showcased an exhibit called Threads of Feeling. You can find out more about this exhibit at the Foundling Museum website here.
Between his age of 80 to 95, for 15 years until his death, Kouzaki Hiromu spent his days creating small simple 'works of paper'. When asked, he would say that he was making envelopes. He cut up, folded and pasted pieces of found papers.
His granddaughter, Fujii Sakuko, put over 100 of these envelopes into a book simply titled
In his work, Hiromu created simple edge, line and surface texture.
Isn't it interesting how art imitates life, and life imitates art. Over time, these objects today take on qualities of collage, objects of history, and objects with life and soul.
Envelopes I found at a temple flea market in Kyoto in 2009.