Sunday, December 11, 2011

Art from Necessity

The above collage is the beginning of my Enso series. Enso represents the Japanese circle, and my search for completeness. There are also aspects of the placement of handmade papers (like setting stones in a Japanese garden) and Boro. My interpretation of Boro in my work involves hand-painted rice papers placed in a quilt-like fashion using my sense of balance, contrast and unity.

Recently, the Japanese Gardens in Portland Oregon hosted a show of Boro. They called the show MOTTAINAI which means 'waste nothing' in Japan. Many years ago, the very poorest people in Japan saved every scrap of cloth, thread, paper and patched or quilted 2nd hand cotton garments from city dwellers who traded for rice or vegetables. Two of the biggest collectors of Boro in the world sent samples of their Boro collection to the Portland exhibit.

One of the biggest collectors of Boro in the world has a gallery and showroom/shop in Kyoto on Teramachi Street. Her name is Kei Kawasaki and you can find her website here.

These very poor Japanese people in pre-industrial Japan would patch together bits of cloth out of necessity. Every small patch was like treasure to them.

the hands know,
the materials too,
quite apart from your imaginings,
less is more than your intentions -
following the pattern that emerges,
the story as it tells.
--- Jane Whitely

The other collector of Boro is Stephen Szczepanek, who also participated in the Portland exhibit.
This is his showroom in Brooklyn, NY. You can find his blog here. His website is called Sri and he is very well known in the Boro and Japanese Textile world.

In his showroom above, a workcoat called boro noragi, is patched with pieces of cloth as small as a postage stamp.

Here you can see an example of the intricate stitching used in Boro patching.

The Japanese people created these quilted clothing out of necessity. Of course they did not know that someday their old, patched and quilted items would become treasured and exhibited in galleries, showrooms and museum exhibits.

Above is some indigo dye... I read that the Japanese used indigo... especially firemen and their work jackets... because indigo fabric will not burn.

And finally, Sibella Court has a new book: NOMAD, A global approach to interior style. I have received my copy and it is wonderful with a beautiful chapter on Japan. The book is available at Amazon.com and Anthropologie.com.

There is nothing like returning
to a place that remains unchanged
to find ways in which
you yourself have altered.
--- Nelson Mandela

42 comments:

Valerianna said...

Lovely post.... I love Enso. Last year I had a Japanese student whose final project was a hand bound book with designs she made illustrating the different Japanese aesthetics. She did her Enso circle over many, many times before she was satisfied. I think it was a challenge for some of the 2-D students to really understand why! But I got it....

I've had that Nomad book in my Amazong wish list for a while, glad for the recommendation, now I feel like I can invest!

Leslie Avon Miller said...

I love those bundles...they pique my curiosity...whats in there, I wonder?

Your collage looks like there is an element of setting stones. Its very pleasing to my eye.

The patch work of boro is a treasure built up over time...as anything hand made, it tells its own story.

lyle baxter said...

As always, thank you for sharing photos of such wonderful things that give me much to think about. I will be back to stare and smile some more!

zendotstudio said...

yes collage and boro, a lovely connection. I love the wabi sabi quality of all these old pieces of cloth. there is a richness to it.

there is something so pleasing about the enso. your piece is a wonderful combo of enso and collage.

Jo Reimer said...

I spent a lovely afternoon viewing the Mottainai show at the Japanese Garden and intend to write a bit about it and post some photos on my own blog. It's so interesting to hear a bit about the collectors and to see your beautiful new work which references the Boro.
Years ago our local stitchery guild studied Shashiko stitching, a form of embroidery which developed from the darning stitches of Boro. It's fascinating to see what variety can be achieved with the simple running stitch. I've long loved the patched field clothing, mostly because of the stitching which is so like American quilting.
Thanks for this lovely post.

Ian Foster said...

Fascinating! Despite the Boro fabrics having been made out of necessity they do show an artistic appreciation of the placement of the colours and patterns.
Your collage is a great tribute to Enso and Boro. I think your brush drawn Enso is superb, a good circle but not quite regular, tapering from start to finish and the ends not quite meeting. A triumph.

Sea Angels said...

This is a fabulous post, and I too love the needlework of Japanese textiles silk of course was easily available but cotton was rare and expensive so they developed many ingenious and frugal ways of saving every scrap, a kind of' make do and mend' Eastern style.
I love the new book even the very smell of it is wonderful.
Your new work looks inspired and the colours are beautiful.
Lynn xxx

Linda Starr said...

I never knew about boro, at first the indigo fabrics reminded me of levi till you explained about the dye, and also remind me of scrap or crazy quilts. S Seeing your work along with the boro makes me appreciate the collage even more.

Jennifer said...

What a lovely post! Thank you for introducing me to boro...some time last year, I believe, in another post. I've become quite fascinated by it and the stories it must have to tell.

Sue said...

Wonderful post, Donna, with so many interesting details.

Your Enso collage is beautiful, very Zen-like and balanced. And the Boro exhibition and Boro shops must be overwhelming showing so many interesting items. The concept of recycling is very old, it seems - high time for us to rediscover it!

lyle baxter said...

Back again! feasting my eyes!the sacks fascinate me. is there a specific use for them or are they for everything like our so called purses? thanks again for a delicious post and for checking mine!

La Dolce Vita said...

adore boro... tiny stitches and the faded color, your new piece is wonderful, I know the series will be incredibly brilliant...

Cynthia Monica said...

Your collage beginning your Enso Series is so beautiful! And I shall have to return to click on the many wonderful references to boro, which I absolutely love. Thanks Donna for all your inspiring posts!

henrietta (aka ani aka zani) said...

donna i just received the exhibition catalog in the post and have been pouring through it with envy. such wonderful simplicity and sensitivity. the fact that these fabrics/garments still survive it a mark of the makers and endurance of man. we do what we have to to survive from the choices we make in our daily lives, how we live and function - this translates so well here. my only regret it that i couldn't see this for myself. i've been to the gardens before and such a peaceful place. how fortunate that you have it to experience. your work so this same measure of quality of endurance and peacefulness. visual inspiring and enjoyed. thank you.

collage whirl said...

I love this post-just learned about Enso on a yoga blog two days ago! and of course boro is endlessly fascinating... Thanks so much for your visit and compliments on my blog. I can't wait to go check out the Nomad book--great links!

Jann Gougeon said...

What a visual delight your artwork is . . and the beauty of imperfection . . stitch by stitch,

Now I now what enso means . . I had googled but didn't find . . me and circles!

Lisa said...

a stunning work Donna and a wonderful post on a favorite topic...i just purchased the MOTTAINAI book from Stephen as I could not resist..now i have to go check out NOMAD..

Velma said...

oh so much to look at. to think on. to ponder and ponder. thank you.

amyd said...

it is all so beautiful...and Nomad is on my christmas list...

Trudi Sissons said...

Beautiful post Donna. I love your latest collage as well. I'm familiar with the concept of "Boro" from an exhibit in NYC where they recreated an entire home of a Japanese woman who had saved everything.... if I find it online I will send you the link - it would make a nice add on to your already wonderful post. I didn't know indigo was fire retardant.

LauraX said...

donna these are lovely...so full of gratitude for the tiniest bits of loveliness...a metaphor for a life well lived, don't you think?

~Babs said...

I love your collaged interpretation of Boro. How perfect!

The Boro bag is especially intriguing to me.
The tiny, neat stiches make me think of my Grandmother's quilts, which also were art works of necessity.

I learn so much here, thank you!

eb said...

what a great post
thank you Donna
oh the boro
and the indigo variations
savoring each image...

xox - eb.

ArtPropelled said...

Donna I love to see your interpretation of Boro in your beautiful collages. The workcoat of tiny postage stamp patches intrigues. Are these pieces soft to the touch?

Glad you have your copy of Nomad. I've just been notified that there is a hold up so perhaps I won't get mine before Christmas. Off to follow Kei's link....

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

The lost art of patching and mending...these photos are so beautiful...art and words as well!

oneartistjournal said...

FASCINATING, I never knew anything about it till now here. Thank you for introducing so much beauty into my unassuming morning.

petras kunstblog said...

Hallo Donna,
Very interesting post. Thank you.
many greetings

Lindsay said...

I have enjoyed visiting your beautiful blog. This post is lovely and an inspiration

iNd!@nA said...

sorry to offer disillusionment...indigo dyed fabric does burn. at least, i never found any left in the ashes of our house after Ash Wednesday in 1983! it was also reputed to repel snakes, which would make it a most desirable thing to be wearing in Australia :)

lovely post - and thanks for all those beautiful images, especially of your work...

diane said...

Hi, Donna --

Another wonderful post on two of my favorite topics -- boro and enso. Thank you for the links to the boto collectors and the references to interesting books. Thanks to your posts, my library is growing exponentially -- and I've never been disappointed!

Magdalena said...

Hello Donna!

first I want to thank you for you very kind words...it means a lot to me to hear from you.
I love your idea of enso...your work fild with harmony and beautiful thougts...
Thank you for your art and inspiration.

sukipoet said...

wonderful collage and I recognize that black paper with little gold dots just like i have and am almost our of.

boro is just wonderful and i think my favorites are the bags too. the indigo is beautiful. i just got some indigo ink but havent used it yet.

thanks for sharing your equisite knowledge of all things Japanese.

nancy neva gagliano said...

OH! boro and blues .... love. indigo. never knew that the fabric wouldn't burn.
off to order my sibella NOMAD.....

Lynn said...

Beautiful collage.
Thoughtful post.
There's so much we can learn from the past.

Ingrid Dijkers said...

Fasinating post! I have enjoyed exploring your lovely blog and plan to return often.

Gloria Freshley Art and Design said...

As always . . . a lovely post! Thank you!

Hannah said...

Donna,

This post is timely--in the season of too much, your words and images point us to a world that valued the smallest bits of what life offered up. I'm intrigued by how different cultures come up with similar techniques; in this case the quilted jackets remind me of the Gee's Bend quilts created out of denim, all dyed with indigo.

Susan M said...

Enso is great!
Susan

I like the little bundle.
Don

Seth said...

So much to learn from this post...and so much beauty to see. When I saw the word "Brooklyn" I perked up and am off to see the website now!

mansuetude said...

fascinating that Indigo won't burn?

I wonder if a circle alters, or burns as we travel our spirals (inward)?

lovely collage work, as always.

Gaby Bee said...

Beautiful post, Donna... as always!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Creative New Year!

Hugs,
Gaby

Francesca said...

WOW, it's like having been to Japan! My husband is Japanese, I showed him these pictures and he was so impressed. I will come back later and follow you, for some reason I cannot follow you from this computer, I need to use mine. My daughter Sayaka (HungryCaramella) in the meantime is already following you. She loves everything about Japan, even though she half Sicilian. Happy New Year!