Japanese Prints from the Collection of David Button
Old and New Sakiori Textiles from Mingei Australia
Ceramics by Prue Venables
Exhibition 21 October to 21 November 2015
Cotton, not being cultivated in Japan until the 1750s, was a precious commodity and unavailable to the people of the far north, Tohoku, where the climate is particularly harsh and cold. People in such areas had to subsist wearing clothes made of fabric hand woven from grasses, hemp, wisteria, elm, nettle, paper mulberry.
The only cottons available to these people were secondhand cotton cloths and clothing transported from Osaka via the Japan Sea on the barges of the Kitamaesen.
Bags of rags would arrive on these barges and be traded for commodities such as tea and seaweed. They would then be sold to the public who used every scrap of cloth. The most useful way was to unpick clothing, tear the pieces into fine 5mm strips, wind them into small balls; these strips would then form the weft for a warp of hemp.
Looms were backstrap floor looms, with the heddle tied to one’s foot. The outcome was a tough product that could be used for vests, obi belts, kotatsu warm table covers, aprons, carry bags.
Sakiori today is alive and well, especially with the conservation groups that exist for this purpose. The warp is generally a strong indigo cotton and both the weaving method and the loom are much the same. Dashes of red are often woven into the cloth, a reminder of brightening a former cold, dark existence .
The work in this exhibition has been organised by Mary Taguchi, twice visiting sakiori weavers and working with them to collect indigo cottons to recycle, to weave, to make tableware; some of these recycled cloths have come from Mary’s own collection – cloths that would otherwise have sat in boxes for a long, long time.
Additionally there are well-used old obi that Mary collects to make wonderful table runners, as displayed here.